Monday, December 27, 2010

Merry Christmas...oh and Happy New Year

Monday, December 27, 2010 0
MERRY CHRISTMAS & HAPPY NEW YEAR...well not yet the New Years part. But we can celebrate right now since I wont be on the computer that day. Anyways I hope that the Christmas spirit was with all of you this fine weekend. It was great to be in the service of the Lord while celebrating the greatest event that has happened on this planet. I'm so thankful for His life and sacrifice so that we can return to live with our Heavenly Father. There is no greater gift that we can give than the gift of gratitude that we can show both of them in our prayers and in our actions. I'm just really thankful to be living during this time of the year. It was amazing to see everyone on Christmas Eve and Christmas having a smile on their face and everything was a little slower. We all need to smile, always, and to take a break once in awhile.


During this Christmas season I haven't really taken much thought to the normal things that many ponder about during this time. Such as: presents, shopping, dinner, and so on. It has been an interesting Christmas this year, where it seems like it's another day on the mission. Now I know some may say well that is a wrong mindset but as I have been reading the scriptures and pondering as to why, I'm thankful. Thankful to finally be in a position to be truly converted, in a sense, to the Lord and His work. To me everyday is Christmas, especially those days when people come closer to their Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ through baptism, a saving ordinance. We read in the book of 3 Nephi of how converted these people were, so converted in fact that the Savior, himself, said, "So great faith have I never seen among all the Jews; wherefore I could not show unto them so great miracles, because of their unbelief. Verily I say unto you, there are none of them that have seen so great things as ye have seen; neither have they heard so great thing as ye have heard." (3 Nephi 19:35-36). I have been so blessed on my mission and I'm thankful for each and every blessing that I have received, especially that of increase of faith. In the case of the Nephites they had such great faith that the Savior showed himself unto them, just as He did with the people of Israel. How great it is to know that He is the same with everyone and that He gives everyone the same opportunity to receive a witness of His divinity. In the last days, as Isaiah described, the church will be established and one of the counseling scriptures from Isaiah 54 says, "Fear not, for thou shalt not be ashamed; neither be thou confounded, for thou shalt not be put to shame; for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy youth..." As missionaries on the streets every day it is sometimes difficult to put of those who persist to mock but I know that they will receive their reward. How great the atonement is to all, both the righteous and those who have yet received that Heavenly gift. There is no greater power, nor feeling, than that of the atonement of Jesus Christ.


At the Christmas mission conference.

Christmas Eve dinner.

Making fire. Awesome.

Sister Parra and me.

Elder Hancock. The greatest Senior Missionary ever.


As far as everyone else, Walter and Cathalina are now official members of the Church. I had the opportunity to confirm them and do all that jazz. Other than that no one else is really progressing. Our area is really dead. We had to drop everyone since they were not progressing anywhere, so with a little bit of faith and patience I know that the Lord will provide us with more people that are ready to hear this everlasting gospel. I'm nervous though, not going to lie, since we will have to keep busy the entire day and can't tract. Come of find out that tracting is a blessing and I regret not taking advantage of it earlier. But luckily the works always goes on and never ceases so pray for us to find new people, somehow! But on Christmas, we went to the Millets and enjoyed Christmas with all the other ASL missionaries. It was great. We ate a lot, probably too much but that is ok. We made some blankets for the homeless children in the community as our community service project, too a long time but hey, it's Christmas.


I hope that you all have a safe and wonderful new year. Till next week.

Elder Leavell

Monday, December 20, 2010

Rain or Shine

Monday, December 20, 2010 0
Well it's raining over here and I mean raining. It's been raining for the last couple days. We almost died come down from the mission home but everything is fine don't worry. It's amazing to witness the power of singing and prayer when in times of danger. I started singing (since my companion can't) and everything calmed down and I felt like everything would be ok. I love this gospel so much and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Despite the rain we have been so blessed and I think that this Christmas has been the greatest Christmas that I have ever had. I think that I have realized even more that this isn't about me but about you! There is great joy in serving and I don't think when the time gets closer that I will want to give this up.

On Tuesday Walter and Cathalina asked us to go to the court to get their marriage license. First off I didn't know you needed one to get married, so they found it very comical that I didn't know. After awhile I found it pretty comical but until then I was like, hey come on how should I know that? Haha. It took a long time so we were there talking and resolving some concerns that they had. On Wednesday we took Walter and Cathalina to the Visitor's Center where we heard the Calderons perform a concert. It was great. They did two languages at the same time, Spanish and ASL (they had an interpreter). After the concert we took a bunch of Christmas pictures next to all the lights and Nativity scene. It was awesome. It was like being a little kid in a candy store. Then the funniest thing happened, Annabel will kill me in a couple of years when she reads this, if she does, but hopefully by then she will find it comical. As we were taking pictures all of the sudden Annabel said she had to go to the bathroom and unfortunately the bathroom isn't that close to where we were. Yes, you can make the assumption and yes you are right. She didn't make it and what made things worse is that it wasn't number 1 but number 2. So that made everything very interesting but luckily it was a perfect time (if there could ever be such) since we had to leave. Haha Cathalina was a little mad at the situation but you can't get, just laugh at the things that happen to us in our daily lives. Yet again I wasn't the one who had to change her so who am I? On Friday I went on splits with Elder Cordy and we had a good time getting reacquainted. We finally contacted Juan Puentas, but we caught him at an awkward time. He was going to his son's funeral so we said hello and gave our condolences. But I think that the best part of the day was tracting. My goodness was it good to go out tracting and what made it better was that it was raining. Since we are in a car all day it was good to be outside and talk to people. Don't take talking for granted, it is a wonderful blessing. The people might have thought that I was a little over barring but it was totally out of excitement, I promise. But I think I will have to give the gold star to the weekend not the week days this week. We had to the wonderful opportunity to go to Walter and Cathalina's wedding. It was my first wedding on the mission so it made everything better. I'm so proud of them. The wedding was at Walter's aunts house and it was outside. It was pouring when we got their and we were a little worried but they had an awning and a blue tarp in the back. It was quaint. It was awesome I don't think that I could say anything else. Here are some pictures.


THE WEDDING!

Then the very next day it topped everything off with a cherry on top, it was their baptism! This is why I think that this is the very best Christmas that I have had ever. It was great to witness and perform the baptism, Juan Sr. baptized Cathalina. It was great. I'm so happy right now it's not even funny. For reals.
THE BAPTISM!

I hope that you all have a safe and wonderful Christmas. May the Lord bless you all with great joy and peace. Remember why we celebrate this wonderful season and you will be blessed. Living the gospel is more important than learning it. I know that to be very true. We must live what we teach. I hope that you all look to the Savior and have a wonderful Christmas. Oh thanks Mom and Dad for the hugge box that you sent. I haven't opened it yet, but I'm way excited. Love you and miss you all.

Elder Leavell

Monday, December 13, 2010

We Be Ballin & Recycling

Monday, December 13, 2010 0
Another great opportunity all of you have to listen, well read, what I have to say. It's awesome huh? Haha. Anyways enough with the gloating, this week has been a good week for the most part but I think I'm even more excited for the week to come. There are going to be some many firsts this next week, so stay tuned till next week. Hope you are all doing well and that you are all enjoying life. Remember to smile, always.

Walter and Cathalina are doing great still. They are still on to get married on the 18th and baptized the next day, the 19th. We are all really excited for them and are hoping that everything goes smoothly that they can really enjoy a new life, per say at the commence of a new year. It is pretty noticeable that they are really nervous trying to get everything ready for this upcoming weekend, so we are trying to help as best as we can but we can only do so much. But I think the greatest news about them is not really about them but about their daughter, Janelle. She is almost 1 1/2 and so being away from mom during the rest of church hasn't been the easiest for her, but that finally changed this last Sunday. Noted, she did cry for about 15 minutes when her Mom dropped her off at the Nursery but it stopped, maybe she was just tired by then haha. Either way she started to enjoy it and then Mom and Dad stopped by the Nursery and once again she started crying. Luckily it was almost time to go by then but it was a great step forward for the little one. She does cry a lot, I must say. Oh and some other news. We have been collecting water bottles, cans, and glass bottles, over the past few months hoping to make some money for the wedding of Walter and Cathalina. We stuffed the trunk of our car, proud like no other only to be disappointed. We though for sure we would get at least $20 and we didn't even get half of it. Just $8. Haha. It was a first for me, never done that before. But I have to make one comment- To all of you who do that for a living, props, don't know how you do it haha. Seriously. Apart from that we don't really have any new investigators. It's really hard trying to find new investigators in the ASL program but I know that if we remain diligent and faithful that the Lord will supply us with more blessings and we will be more able to receive those blessings since we will be even more on the same page as Him. It has been a little difficult just driving around all day compared when I was on my bike and busy all day, every day. Makes me wish I hadn't taken that opportunity for granted and even more I never would have thought that I would love to go back on my bike. That is for sure. Jesus and Gilberto came to church again. Gilberto left right before we could talk with him, it was strange. Jesus is doing great. We took him to the Visitor's Center on Saturday. It was an adventure trying to find him, took about 30 minutes walking through The Grove which is a shopping center since there is about 5 Starbucks in a 1 mile square radius. Rediculous. The Visitor's Center went great. There were a ton of people there. Probably around 500 to 600 and there was a great feeling there. One of peace and love for one another. I had to interpret for Jesus and Elder Tritsch and we were there for about 3 hours. My head was hurting so bad after, it was hard for me to think. It was funny because everyone was staring at me since I had be infront and right next to Sisters translating but it was a really good experience for me, it showed me that I'm not that incapable anymore. Thanks to Elder Tritsch being deaf, it has put me in a position to sign and really practice. I'm very thankful for him. We haven't been able to get a hold of Juan Puentas after the funeral. We are pretty worried for him, especially since this is the second death in his family and he is a gangster. He has come a long way and the last thing that we need to happen is that he goes to the same place where his wife is, jail. I can't imagine how hard that would be to lose a child but I do know that we can receive healing through the atonement of Jesus Christ. Elder Kearon, Of the Seventy, said it best, "Not one of you has thrown away your last chance. You can change, you can come back, you can claim mercy. Come unto the only One who can heal, and you will find peace." I know that the atonement is real and that it can heal. I have seen and have felt the mercy and peace one finds after feeling a weight upon ones shoulders. It's awful and so not worth it. Satan has the knack to make sin look good but it is baloney. It is just like the scriptures say-hallow, burdensome, evil, brings chains upon us, and any other word like it. I have seen more and more how Heavenly Father looks at me when I make a mistake and veer off the path. It is so disappointing. Every time I think of making a mistake and even more when I make a mistake I think of the sorrow and sadness and especially the guilt that I have caused others to feel. It is terribly. I wish I could be like the Lamanites, from the Book of Mormon, who were converted by Alma and resist evil to the point that they had disposition to do no evil and "they buried their weapons of war" even when the Lamanites came to destroy them because of their faith. That is my wish for everyone, as it is my wish to become the same as they were, for they were truly Christ-like.

I want you all to know that I love being a missionary, I love sharing the wonderful gospel of Jesus Christ with all those who live in the city of Los Angeles. We are "the angels" sent from our Heavenly Father to bring about His work "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" and all who hearken unto the message that we bear will receive blessings, even blessings that go into the eternities. I love the Holy Bible and the Book of Mormon. I know that they both testify of the divinity of the Savior, our all, and they witness unto us that He is the Christ. They have much power to bring the lives of others unto Christ, even us as missionaries. I know that there is a living prophet on the earth today. He is chosen by God to be a type of mouthpiece for the Almighty, another way that we, His children, may communicate and receive guidance for our lives. They witness of the divine as well. I know it for I have heard it. There is no greater joy that I have received than knowing, not only believing, that the atonement is real. His mercy and grace make us whole, when we exercise faith unto repentance and by diligently obeying the commandments to the best of our abilities. Our Heavenly Father has promised and bestowed much upon our individual heads to grant us all the gifts to walk through this mortal life and all we must do is look unto Him, just as the Jews did with the golden serpent. It truly is that simple, we must not be fooled to think that more is required.

I love you all, friends, family, and all those who may read this. I miss you all as well and hope nothing but the best for you. May the Lord guide you and remember to smile everyday and look at the glass half full not half empty. Till next week.

Elder Leavell

Monday, December 6, 2010

Gratitude is a Thankful Attitude

Monday, December 6, 2010 0
Howdy there everyone? How has life been treating you? I hope that all you, whoever you may be who read this, are doing well and that you are seeing that the Lord is blessing all of you and will always bless you. This week we I have seen the Lord bless everyone we come in contact with and has allowed us to help those come closer unto Him through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Since transfers had happened it has been a little difficult for me to get acquainted with the people in our area, especially since we had barely done it last transfer. But we have managed to find a few more investigators and it has been great. Walter and Cathalina are doing awesome right now. They have FINALLY committed to get married on the 18th and baptized on the 19th. It was be sick! I'm so excited for them. We had the opportunity to have a FHE with them, along with the Calderons, and it went great. We had a lesson of family unity and it was great to see how even the married couple of many years struggled with some of the questions that should be known amongst each other. Here are the questions we asked them (see if you can get them all right):

Your companions:
  1. Favorite color?
  2. Birthday? Day, Month, Year
  3. Favorite food?
  4. Favorite kind of music?
  5. Most embarassing moment?
  6. Favorite sport?
  7. Pet peeve?
  8. Geekiest thing ever done?
  9. Nasty habbit?
  10. Favorite season?
  11. Favorite basketball team?
  12. Foundest childhood memory?
  13. Biggest goal in life?
  14. Thing they cherish most?
  15. If could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?
  16. Favorite sport?
  17. If could have anything (material), what would it be?
  18. Favorite kind of shoes?
  19. Favorite clothing store?
  20. Favorite grocery store?

The funny thing was that it created some debate and some contention but after talking it through it really proved to each couple that there is much work to do. We later played eating a brownie with no hands. It was hilarious and the best part is that I got it on video! Haha. They are doing great. A little overwhelmed right now since they have to plan a wedding but I know that they will be able to do it and it will be great. Now onto some more serious news. We went over to Juan Puentas house, an investigator that has been investigating for awhile now, and their house was packed when we pulled up. We walked up and everyone was wearing black, but that is how they are normally dressed, but it was for an actual reason this time. Juan's son got shot twice the day before. It was such a surprise to us. We had no idea what to say other than "sorry" and "I know that he is in a better place." I'm so thankful for the plan of salvation that has been revealed by our Heavenly Father and that everyone will get a fair opportunity to accpet or deny the gospel. There are so many things to worry about in this world and I'm so thankful that that doesn't have to be one of them. Of course, we have all encountered this event that happens to all of us but it really hits home when its someone that you knew from before.

Sorry this is short. Didn't have a lot of time this week. Hope all is well.

Elder Leavell

Monday, November 29, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Monday, November 29, 2010 0
I think I will have to say that this Thanksgiving was one of much thanksgiving. It was great to be with one of the families in our branch for Thanksgiving and the best part was that we had the opportunity to eat with all the other missionaries in the branch. The interesting thing was that transfers happened the day before Thanksgiving but from what I just said I kind of gave it away. Oh well. I'm still in the ASL program with Elder Tritsch. There is a difference though and that is that we now have 3 areas in the program and they brought Elder Cordy back for the rest of his mission, I would suppose.

Anywho...the week went by really slow. We didn't really make much progress with anyone, except for Walter and Cathalina who are still kicking, which is a good thing. They are still doing great, continuing to read the Book of Mormon, as well as the Bible. But I think that this week I think it finally sank in that they were breaking a commandment. I had asked them to read Alma 5, which talks about how "heaven is at hand" and all that jazz. They didn't read it. So, unfortunately, I had to give a strong lesson about how urgent the message we have for the world to share. I shared a story from the Old Testament, specifically the book of Numbers 13 and 14, and of course it had to be about the Jews. Well to make the story short, at this point the Jews had seen countless miracles, the Red Sea being split, the plagues, the magical bread that appeared, the rock spouting water, and had heard the voice of the Lord numerous times. One would only think that by this time they would finally get the picture that whatever Moses had told them was from the Lord himself. Sadly, they hadn't. Because of the position that Moses held, being a prophet, many filled with pride decided along the way to continuous create a ruckus to make the work of Moses even more difficult. In Numbers 13, the journey in the wilderness could have been over, if and only, they would have trusted the words that Moses spoke to them that were from the Lord. The Lord had revealed to him that the land of Canaan would be theirs and that it would bear much fruit, in fact, 12 men from the 12 different tribes would be the first to attest to that being they were commanded to go search the land. What amazes me the most is that they had been given everything, literally everything that they needed, to prosper and were given power from on high to conquer any obstacle to was set before them. The Lord tested them in this certain aspect, seeing that the land of Canaan was ruled by the Canaanites, who had developed a great city at this point in time. Instead of rallying up the troops, they whimpered, complained, and even tried to kick out the presiding authority, Moses and Aaron, because they felt it would be better for them to go back to Egypt. That is when Moses and Aaron did one of the most selfless things that they could do, they cried unto their Heavenly Father and offered a prayer, even a mighty prayer, to obtain mercy from the Lord because of their stubbornness and unwillingness to do and accept. The Lord did reveal His mercy unto the people but faced some certain circumstances, of which would leave them in the wilderness for a longer time. In fact, everyone above the age of 20 would not see the land of promise and the Lord swallowed up the 10 of the 12 of the search party for claiming that the Canaanites were great and mighty, instead of telling the truth. I'm so thankful for the scriptures and the many lessons it contains. I'm so thankful that the Lord finds mercy on us, His children to partake of the heavenly gift of eternal life, upon our faithfulness. Grace is a wonderful that all the prophets of old and new testify and witness, for they, along with us have experienced it and will continually to feel is bounteous hand. But what I'm most thankful for is that we have a living prophet today, of whom we, as representatives of Jesus Christ, testify of because, just as in times of old, there are prophets here on the earth that guide the way back to our Heavenly Father. It is not relying on his hand that we rely on, for that would be most abominable of all; for flesh is corrupt, but we trust the One on High because He continually guides us the same way in the times of old, for He never changes. Prophets are part of His plan, I know that to be true. They are witnesses of the only Begotten and the Father we beseech continually all day and ever day, even our Father in Heaven. I know that He exhorts us to ask for such knowledge, for it is true, but just as the Jews were unwilling, the unwilling will not ask as well and will not receive such knowledge because they have no contrite spirit or broken heart. Only the meek and the humble received the message of the Savior and that still remains true today. Satan would want us to think that prayer will not help but that is a lie. We are always worthy to communicate with our Heavenly Father. I'm so thankful, especially during this Thanksgiving week for the blessing of knowing, not just believing, that He lives and that He is real. There is no greater power or feeling that can be received when we feel of the atonement of the Only Begotten.


The good thing was that Walter and Cathalina finally read by the next time we visited them and the more amazing part is that when we were discussing Alma 5, Walter was thinking a ton and said "We need to get married and baptized." I know that the Spirit of the Lord came upon him and testified to him that these things are real and are of great importance. I know that it wasn't my words but the words of the Lord that brought forth a mighty change of heart. We also had the opportunity to take them to the Visitor's Center to watch the Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration movie and they loved it. I know that when Walter's mom comes into town tomorrow that they will make the necessary decisions to do what is right. I pray that they will. Other than that we don't have anyone that we are working with.

I hope that all of you had a splendid Thanksgiving week and that you counted all your blessings. I love you all and miss you too. I'll try and send some pictures soon.

Elder Leavell

Monday, November 22, 2010

Three Languages in One Lesson...IT CAN BE DONE!

Monday, November 22, 2010 0
Howdy there partners? How has life been treating all of you? Over here in California we have lovely blue skies (just like Vegas skies without the heat) with little to no clouds. But for some greater news, we had some football action in our mission's Turkey Bowl today. It was fun getting to see everyone from the other zones but it was even funner feeling the intensity of a football game. Our Zone won both of the games making us the champions of the Turkey Bowl in our region, so we be ballin. Anyways there isn't too much to report since I was on the computer just this last Wednesday but some interesting things have happened in this short period of time.


Once again we had a Mission Training on Friday from 9AM to 3PM and every time we go to those meetings they kill me. But it was still none the less a good meeting where I learned how to better help the people of Los Angeles. Unfortunately, it takes up the whole day pretty much so not a whole lot can happen on those days. Anyways we went to go visit Vitaly, a recent convert, that got baptized before I got in the area. He's great. Very funny and outgoing for a deaf person. The only bad party is where he lives, West Hollywood. As we were leaving we went down Santa Monica Blvd and that is where Sodom and Gomorrah is pretty well established. Saw some gay clubs and that was, well, not cool. But that is why we are here to help people come to know that there is a greater happiness found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Glad to know what my purpose is-to help people be better. The cool thing about that day though wasn't even the lessons we taught but the progression that was made with two of the coolest investigators that we are teaching right now, Walter and Cathalina. I think that I fell more in love with Walter and Cathalina that day. Since they wanted postpone their wedding till after the New Year, we took the opportunity to invite them to fast so that they could receive a testimony that it works. We told them that we would fast lunch and dinner on Friday and that we would all get on our knees at 12 (noon) on the dot so that we could start the fast. I called them to remind them about the fast and they told me that they were "pigging out" before so that Cathalina could make "milk" (Walter's comment haha) to feed the kids. So then we started. Later on that night the text us, "Elder Leavell we r sorry but we cant keep up with the fasting cuzz we are really hungry is it possible that we could close the fasting." After talking things through they then said, "By the time we end please have something for us to eat will stay strong." At this point I was pretty content and left things at that then suddenly I got a text saying "No!!! "I'm hungry"' haha so I called them to see what was up and that is when they told me the coolest thing ever. They said that they were driving when it hit noon and that they remembered the commitment they had made, so they pulled over and kneeled inside the car and offered a prayer to start the fast! How cool is that?! I was so excited and proud of them for taking the courage to test the law of fasting so they could receive an answer to their prayers and concerns for themselves. I know that if we were to all show this great amount of faith that the gates of heaven will open and I know that they have been opened for them because of their faithfulness. It was so awesome to hear that and I know that when a missionary hears those words that it makes their day. Then the next day before the Thanksgiving party with the Deaf Branch, Elder Western and I took the opportunity to teach them and share our thoughts about what had happened the day before. It went really well, despite the lack of planning and how we are not companions. We listened to the talk given by President Monson (you should all listen to it!) during General Conference called "The Three R's of Choice." After listening to the talk we asked them what they had felt during the fast and what they feel they should do about the wedding date. Ending up saying that they still didn't know but I felt like they did. So I told them, just like from the story from that talk, "Why are you so worried? You already know what the answer is." They looked at each other and said that they felt that Walter's mother should be there. Wish they would have told me that before but I'm glad that it came out. We committed them to ask her when she would be back and so forth, they agreed. The Thanksgiving party went great, about 70 people showed up. I was hanging out with Walter and Cathalina the entire time and we had a good time. We ate so much! At least I did, but I think that the food tasted a whole lot better since I had fasted for a full day. So worth it though.

Then for the mother load of all lessons. The reason for the title. On Saturday we went to go visit Olswando and his family. They are so awesome but OH MY GOODNESS was my head hurting after the lesson. The parents speak Spanish, the kids understand English better, and Olswando is hard-of-hearing. It was the awesomeist lesson ever though! We taught them about the Restoration and the Dad was crying by the end and said that he would do everything in his power to get his family to church the following Sunday, since he had prior arrangements this Sunday. They are so great! At the beginning they were saying how they were Catholic but then when the spirit came into the room everything changed. I know that we are representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ and that we bear the Holy message that would wish to bestow to all. I love serving a mission and I wish I could do this forever, but I can't.

The coolest thing happened at Church though. Two new people that we had never seen walked into church and sat down. Gilberto and Jesus. They are so awesome, partially because they are Latin but, also, because they just walked in. It's amazing how the Lord blesses us because of our work and obedience, but most of all because of our faith that He will provide. I'm so amazed at how this is a true principle in the gospel of Jesus Christ of whom the Bible and the Book of Mormon testify of. It's so amazing to see all the references to the Savior, the Redeemer, and the Almighty in Holy writ. I know with all my heart that those books witness of the Savior, Jesus Christ, and profess to the world, as do we, that the only that we can return to live with our Heavenly Father, of whom the Savior has fulfilled His will, is through Jesus Christ and His atonement for all mankind. That is the gospel of Jesus Christ, a message of hope to all. I love this gospel and I love that I have the blessed opportunity to serve Him, the Almighty. May the Lord bless you all and all your endeavors. I love and miss you all. Till Next week.

Elder Leavell

P.S. Thanks for all the letters everyone. Keep the coming!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Roller Coaster is my Favorite Ride

Wednesday, November 17, 2010 0
As missionaries, we get used to many things-getting yelled at to our face everyday, cursed at, people missing appointments, but I think that one of the things that I still haven't been able to get used to is when investigators drop us. It stinks and is so frustrating! And I really do think that I will never be able to get used to it. But I'm so glad to be doing what I'm doing, I think I have really gotten to understand how Heavenly Father feels of me when I make the silly mistakes that I know are wrong and yet I still do them. It is always a joy to be in the service of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and when we have investigators that are progressing it makes things even better. WAY BETTER! I hope that all of you are doing mighty fine on this wonderful Wednesday, over here in California it's warm and in some place it's sunny, so I would say that it is a might fine day.

A lot has happened over the past week, we had Zone Conference and we had our mission trainings all in the same week. It was a killer but I have learned so much. The Zone Conference that we had was mainly based on improving ourselves so that we can improve the work and being devoted with the "heart." Unfortunately I didn't get much out of it because I had to translate most of the thing, so my brain didn't really have time or the strength to really captivate what was really happening but I was informed later that there was some big changes in the mission. One of them was that the "Greenie Binder" or however we called it is out the window. The only book of rules that we have is the "White Handbook," which puts a little more pressure on us since we will have to use our discretion of what is truly OK or what is not, but I think that it will help us grow as missionaries so that we can have the ultimate goal of being exactingly obedient. Also, all the missionaries are getting texting, WOO WOO! Yeah I already had that since I can't really get in contact with the people we are working with by calling them. None the less, I did feel the spirit, despite the extra task that I had to do, during Zone Conference. It was great getting to see some of the old missionaries that I knew and seeing how they have been doing. Oh and I almost forgot, the best part! We have another mission challenge to read the Book of Mormon before the end of the New Year. Not going to lie, I was sort of bummed (at first) because I had already started it and was in 2 Nephi but as I really humbled myself and thought of it as a great opportunity, my joy and diligence to read has increased so much. I'm already caught up to where I was in about 7 days. But I would like to extend that challenge to all of you, as well. I know that if we really read, ponder, and pray about the words that it contains that we will find joy in rejoicing and find a greater faith that can help us, especially during these troublesome times that are affecting many at this time. And I have total confidence that all of you can do it, you have way more time than us, missionaries, to read, since we only get about an hour a day to read. It will be a cinch for all of you!

For the bad news, Noe dropped us yesterday. We were going to take him to the Visitor's Center to show him everything that we believe in a visual manner. He didn't want to go and didn't really want to talk to us, it was weird. He said that he had been reading from the Book of Mormon and that he had felt good when he had read. Said that it pretty much has the same things in the Bible, just with different people (well...yeah). I got really excited and asked him how his prayer went. He didn't pray. Then the weirdest thing happened, the mood of the conversation just changed. He started getting mad when I was asking what he was going to do for his day off and about how his week went, when normally he is pretty open about that. We ended up dropping him because he said he didn't want us to come back next week. I know that something happened and I don't know what but I know that he knows that he was doing the right thing. He might not be ready right now, but I know that someday he will. He had already received so many blessings since the time he had started talk with us. He got two jobs that he had been praying for to support his family and he noticed that his stress level had decreased a lot. I know that the only thing that can do that is our Heavenly Father and that he was watching him and blessing him to see that what he was doing was of good worth. I know it to be so true, it always happens when we first start talking to people but just as in the times of old, many lose sight of why they receive those blessings and fall away because they feel they have done enough. It is totally the opposite, it just is telling us of how many more blessings are to come if they are willing to accept and walk in the footsteps of the wonderful Master, Jesus Christ. Walter and Cathalina, on the other hand, were doing great but since of yesterday we hit another road block. We took them to the Visitor's Center with the Calderons (the spanish missionaires in the Branch) and the Juan Guzman Sr. and Jr. It went great! I love that place. It's awesome, their is a great and powerful spirit there when people are ready. We talked about how important the temple was but, even more, how important the Savior is in everything since everything in this Church is centered on Him. Without Him the temple would be of no worth and families would have no way to sealed for time and all eternity. They were asking a lot of questions, as to why and how and the Sister who helped us did a wonderful job explaining and really helping to them to understand. There is a reason why Sisters serve in Visitor's Centers and not Elders. We sat down in one of the small rooms and watched some videos and then commited them to married. It was one of the most powerful lessons of the week. They sat there and said yes, the 27th sounds great for married and the 5th for baptism. We can do it. I was so pumped that day. I couldn't fall asleep just like a boy in a candy store. For reals. Probably had the biggest smile too. Ha. Funny thing happened at the Visitor's Center, their little daughter was running away, trying to get out of the room and ran straight into the glass wall, fell on the ground, waited 5 seconds and then started screaming. I felt bad for laughing but it was the cutest and funniest thing. Like one of those things that happens on American's Funniest Home Videos haha. Anyways. Then Tuesday came. I asked them how their prayers had gone and if they had felt that they had received an answer. They smiled like I hadn't seen them before, especially Walter, and said yes. But then I later found out that they had changed their minds and said that they wanted to wait for Walter's mom to get back from out of town and that she wanted a dress. The interesting thing was that we had planned a lesson on sacrifice for that day and it went perfectly together. We read them the story from President Monson's General Conference talk about the family who was grateful for thanksgiving. They loved it and got really excited about what some of the things that they could give up to be better and serve the Lord. At first they didn't get it but we decided that would fast on Friday to really know if that was the decision that our Heavenly Father would approve of. They are just great. Pray for them if you get the time.

Today we had the great opportunity to go to the temple. It was great. I love that place, there is nothing like it. I wish I could honestly live there. I'm so glad we have the opportunity to go as missionaries. It is a true blessing.

I love you all and hope that everything is going well with all of you. Miss you tons too! Till next week!

Elder Leavell

Monday, November 8, 2010

An Attitude of Prayer

Monday, November 8, 2010 0
On this mighty fine day in California you all have the opportunity to hear from me! What a great opportunity huh? Haha. It have been a pretty good week. Had some great lessons with a ton of Spanish people, yes I know it should be with the deaf but hey I can't do both at the same time. How are all of you doing though? I got a ton of mail this week, it was legit! Thanks everyone, all I want to say is: Keep it coming! It was great to hear from all of you and I will for sure make some time to respond so no worries.

Well, where do I start? We had another Missionary Training Meeting that lasted forever. Those meetings go from 9AM to 3PM and they can be so long sometimes but I'm so thankful for them. I think they are helping me become better than they are helping me help others. I have learned so much about where I can improve and that is a blessings since it sometimes always seems like a daunting task. During the trainings we learned of the importance of prayer and the Book of Mormon. It was mainly focused on how we can help others to come to the same knowledge that we have obtained and how we can help them help themselves, but that is when President Baker pointed out something that was very interesting. As we were discussing how to encourage people to pray, we came to the conclusion that we hadn't really been teaching them the importance of it (that being one of the main purposes of the trainings); therefore, they had no "pull" per say to get on their knees and pray. Then President Baker made one shore comment, he said "They don't do it because we don't know the importance." I think that comment hit us all pretty hard because their was a silence in the room and, at least for me, I was thinking about how true that was in my life. We all committed to do better. Then the second half of the meeting was about the Book of Mormon. The First Presidency has asked all of us, being all missionaries, to go through these trainings to help the work progress faster, and we have already seen the fruits of the call. Our mission last year, so October 2008 to October 2009, baptized around 350 people, then this year, so October 2009 to October 2010, our mission has baptized over 650 people. The Mission Presidents were counseled to give us tid bits of these trainings before but now we are diving into them and they are a great blessing. Just as with prayer, I have learned the great importance of reading the scriptures and how we can truly receive personal revelation to our problems and find answers that our from our Heavenly Father through such sources. I have seen that so much on our mission but I think I have learned it in a higher degree and I'm hopeful that we, as missionaries, will be able to share our knowledge and testimony because of the great importance it has on our lives and convey it to others so that they may receive such witness as well. I'm excited, even though we have already had these meetings before, for the ones in the upcoming weeks. They are long but worth it in my point of view. It's not just training us for the now but for the future as well and there isn't a price tag to that.

As far as the lessons have gone, we have only had a few good ones. I'm too hard on myself. Haha. I invited Elder Franson, our District Leader, and Elder Myers, his companion, to a lesson with Noe. He still hadn't read what we had given him and it was rather disappointing. I was so excited for him and it sort of killed it when he chose not to. We then taught a lesson on prayer. I think that was one of the best lessons I had been in about prayer. We did not speak about anything more or less, just the principle of prayer. We invited him to give the opening prayer, he accepted. We then asked him why he didn't do what we had invited him to do and he said that "I only believe in the Bible." He then said that he has always relied on its consoling power and has found great comfort that. And that is when I remembered on of the scriptures from the Book of Mormon. It says: "And now, my beloved brethren, I perceive that ye ponder still in your hearts; and it grieveth me that I must speak concerning this thing. For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray. But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul." (2 Nephi 32:8-9). We focused on the part where it says that "the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray." How true is that? I know that our Heavenly Father would prefer us to ask a wrong question than to not ask Him at all. He is all-knowing, omnipotent, the almighty, and never-changing. He has said many times in the scriptures to pray daily and to hearken unto His word, therefore, he will always tell us to pray, no matter if we are asking a question that should not be asked. We expressed this to Noe and told him that our Heavenly Father will never get mad for asking if something were of His, infact, he would bless us. Afterall, the only condition is if we ask in faith as it says in James 1:5. He accepted to read and pray and hopefully he will do it this time.

On Saturday, I had the wonderful opportunity to go to the temple and do the work for a deceased person. It has been awhile since I had last been but the same calm, peaceful spirit was definitely the same one that I remember. I know that it is His house and that it's a house of prayer. I would wish that everyone could walk on these sacred grounds to feel of that edifying spirit. I have found great guidance in just sitting and thinking of nothing but the things that the Lord would want me to do. I'm so thankful for those tender mercies that have come through the temple and I'm so thankful to have them here on the earth to be a beacon of light to look forward to. On that same day, I had the opportunity to go to Francisca's baptism. It was great! I can't believe that the whole family is baptized, except for the older siblings. It will be such a great miracle to see them go through the temple to be sealed for time and all eternity. It was great seeing the old ward I had served in, it's always great to see familiar faces.

I want to let you all know that I love you all. You are all such a great support, especially you Mom & Dad. I know I couldn't have done this without you. The way you raised me and the way you have supported me along the way. I love you all so much and miss you a lot. I hope that the Lord may encircle you with all His tender mercies. Till next week.

Elder Leavell

Monday, November 1, 2010

Could I say "Happy Halloween"?

Monday, November 1, 2010 0
Well I hope that all of you had a splendid time this week, as well, as enjoying all the festivities that come along with the wonderful holiday of Halloween. It is always nice to be a missionary on these holidays, I mean who wouldn't want to stay at home all night, having consistent knocks at the door with trick or treaters? I know I would haha. NOT. It was all good though. We entertained ourselves for sure haha.

This week was an interesting week because we had a bunch of meetings. Remember when I had those two weeks of just meetings the entire day? Well they are back again but luckily this time they are a little more spread out and so it's not as hard on the brain, if you know what I mean. That leads me to an interesting story. So on Friday we had the meeting and our car had to be taken to PepBoyz (never go there by the way) to get the brakes changed. We had the bright idea to leave it there before the meeting, which started at 9AM, since they always seem to take forever doing something. Well when the meeting was finally over, around 3PM, and we headed back to where we lived, we stopped by PepBoyz, around 4PM, and well the statement still stands "they take forever to do something." We got there and the car was still lifted with the wheels off the car and they told me that they couldn't find anything and asked me if I could find something. I told them "well, if my companion, who is deaf, can feel that the brakes are having a problem, I think that it would be safe to say that there is a big problem." True story. Anyways, we took it for a test drive where they magically discovered the problem, since a car has a mind of it's own. I didn't get mad but it was WAY frustrating. We left and that was that. The manager found out and said that if we went back on Thursday that he would do it himself and change the whole thing with the brakes. If I could have any complaints with having a car that would be one of them-PepBoyz runs. As far as our investigators go. They are moving, slowly, but moving. We had an amazing lesson with Noe last Tuesday. We talked to him about the restoration and how it can bless our lives. He had a bunch of questions but he was excited to hear what we had to say. He was surprised that we had a lot in common and that we had the same basic beliefs-Jesus Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of the world, the Bible is the word of God, and that our goal here in life is to learn to become better. It's amazing how things work out huh? The best part is that we finally contacted his neighbor, Lilia, who is deaf! I was so happy when we finally got a hold of her! She is soooo nice and so willing to come to church if she didn't have to work. It's really a bummer living in the economic times since it is really a big issue for some people who can't survive if they don't work. But I think that there have always been ways that have tested the faith of many, even members to continue following the commandments of our Heavenly Father. It's only a matter of, will we do it or will we not? That is where agency comes in and that is what I hate because I know that following the commandments of our Heavenly Father ALWAYS will bring happiness and I wish I could force people to do it so that they can experience it. But yet again that is what Satan did and look how he ended up...I'll pass haha. Enough with the ranting. The Guzman family came to church yesterday and so did Johnathon. It was awesome. We missed the first half of sacrament meeting, since we had to go pick him up but he seemed to enjoy it because he was participating and talking a bunch. It was sick. Walter and Cathalina didn't go to church so we will have to go talk to them about that. Tisk tisk haha. Oh and we contacted another deaf person that hadn't had any luck with yet. His name is Moises, so Moses in English. He is hard of hearing and way cool. He goes to the same high school as Juan Jr. so hopefully we will be able to get his whole family to church as well. Gets really distracted though. Yet again so do all of the deaf people. Well I'm wrong. They just tune out after awhile and go into their own world. Sometimes I have wondered what is like. Random ahh I'm turning into them! :)

So for Halloween we celebrated it twice. On Saturday we had a tri-ward "Trunk or Treat" it was awesome. The best part was seeing Tracy, Dalton, Alysha. Forgot how much I missed them. They are doing well and being them cool-selves. Can't complain. We were there for a couple of hours. My companion went trick or treating at the "Trunk or Treat" and all the members came up to me asking why he was doing it and simply said "I don't know, he is Elder Tritsch" haha. We would call it a deaf-ism. They are pretty funny. We helped set up and do all that jazz. It was freaking cold though. I thought I was going to die but after awhile I didn't feel it, probably because I was numb. Oh well. I'm not sick so that is good. Then on Sunday we went to the ASL South apartment for dinner. It was legit. Elder Hadlock blessed us with his cooking skills so we ate well. It was fun being with all of them since we are always together anyways haha.

The gang with Alysha's boy

Elder Western, Elder Van Dam (who likes mustard), Elder Hadlock, & Elder Tritsch

Well this week has been fun. I'm glad that I have the blessed opportunity to serve a mission. It is a true blessing from my Heavenly Father. It's weird to think that it's right around the corner when I go home. I love you all and miss you too! SEND ME SOME LETTERS! and I will love you more! For reals though. Letters are awesome. If you read this I expect a letter ;) Alright well hope you have an awesome week next week and may the blessings of the Lord be in abundance.

Elder Leavell

Monday, October 25, 2010

Lady from Switzerland

Monday, October 25, 2010 0
Greetings from the city of Los Angeles! How are you all doing? Hope life has been just splendid and not as eventful as our past week has been. Amazing how things turn out in the mission field. I'm pretty sure I won't have the same experiences that I will have here, granted I know that I will do my very best not to live in the Los Angeles County, but, in general, things here are out of the ordinary.

Where do I begin...well as you all know I'm in the ASL program again and that means teaching deaf people. That is not so, in my case. I have been blessed with the wonderful opportunity to have an additional calling, within my calling, and that is to teach in Spanish. It's awesome. Since many of the deaf live with their families who are hearing, the branch has the responsibility to care for them as well, and being in Los Angeles the likelihood of having them be Latin is about 99.9% haha. It makes an interesting chemistry between my companion and I because I don't end up signing with the deaf, but instead I talk with the family members and help them come closer to our Savior, Jesus Christ. It has been taking some time to be getting used to, and it is still a work in progress, because we both feel the burden since I can't help him a lot and he can't either, but I know that the Lord will bless us with the ability to create a system where we can be patient and willing to serve the Lord with everything we have. Interestingly enough, five out the seven progressing investigators that we have are hearing, so I feel for Elder Tritsch since he doesn't know what is going on. Pray for him that he may gain that addition strength to endure. Alright, as far as the investigators go I would like to first start off with this guy we found trying to contact this deaf lady, Lilia. His name is Noe and is from El Salvador. He is way legit and it was interesting how we found him. As we were trying to contact the deaf lady, who ended not being home, this kid started talking with us saying that he was a member but hadn't gone to church in awhile. As we were talking, Noe showed up and the kid told us that he was the husband of Lilia's cousin so maybe he could help us contact them because we heard the tv. We asked him to help us out, so he went through the back way and got a hold of them. We talked to Lilia's husband and found out that she wasn't home, so we left. As we were leaving, I felt really strongly that I had to go back and talk with Noe. It was weird, but I knew that I had to. We talked to him and set up a return appointment for the next week. Next week came around and he opened up, and started talking about everything that he believed and everything that he had gone through, it was cool, said that he was a prankster back in the day but when he found the gopsel he changed. We walked around to a restaurant and got a drink (never done that before) and started talking about the church and it was a really good lesson. We left him a Restoration pamphlet and Book of Mormon, he called us a couple days ago saying "I have been reading and I like it." I told him that he needed to pray because that is the only way that we can know that this is true and the only way that we can follow what our Heavenly Father wants, otherwise, we won't make it in the long run. Something simple when all the sudden he said "I haven't been baptized, I probably should do that huh?" That took me back but I told him that he first needed his answer and we would go from there. I'm so excited for him. Hopefully he will do whatever is necessary, only thing is that he works on Sunday. The other investigators we have are members of the Guzman family. It's Juan Sr.'s daughter, Cathalina, and her boyfriend, Walter, that have baptismal dates for the 28th. They came to church this past Sunday and it was cool to see them there. They were absorbing everything and luckily we have the privalege to teach them now, since the Zone Leaders gave them to us since I speak spanish. We haven't had a lesson with them yet but they are investigators of ours, so I'm excited for their progress. Other than that there aren't a lot of people. For some reason we haven't been able to contact anyone and it really has been a major bummer. None of the deaf people are ever home when they are usually always home. Goodness. Sometimes I wish agency wasn't a part of the picture but thank God for it! It's alright, it how we learn and progress. It's still a bummer sometimes. Haha.

Now you are all probably wondering about the title that I put and how it pertains to anything in missionary work. Well here is your answer. We were visiting a recent convert, Vitaly, in West Hollywood and couldn't go home for dinner since it was heck of far way so we ate at Chipotle. Thanks Mom & Dad. Well as we were leaving the parking lot, waiting to for the security, this lady in a Mini Cooper ran into us! Not only did she do that but she still was putting the medal to the pedal and moving our car towards the other car. Luckily, we didn't (we were about an inch away from the other car) but now the whole back of the car is messed up. She ended up being from Switzerland, here visiting, but she looked like she had one too many plastic surgeries. To imagine her face, put your hands on the side of your face and pull. Yeah that bad. It was rediculous. Freak. I was pretty mad. Never been in an accident on my mission and I promised myself I wouldn't! Luckily no one was hurt, except for my pride, maybe.

I would like to end with an experience that I was blessed to witness, for I know that it was truly a miracle. We couldn't get into this apartment complex where a member lives and we really needed to get a hold of him, so we decided to pray. Never really done that because well, yeah don't know I guess I was stupid but I know that there is no excuse now. We prayed, outside the door, that someone would come to help open the door for us so we could contact the member and as we were saying (signing) "in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen" a man walked up to the door and let us in. I was really in shock, don't know why, but now looking back I'm so very thankful for my Heavenly Father and everything that he has given me to know that this is the Church, the Church that is His and that he blesses us through our obedience to the commandments and are willingness to serve. I'm so thankful that He answers prayers and that He has taken the responsibility to do so and given everything else to His son Jesus Christ to tend to, so that he can focus on our prayers. It truly is a tender mercy of His. I know that it is true and that it works, I know we will get an answer either way. I love it.

I love you all and wish the greatest amount of blessings upon all of you. May the Lord bless you with gratitude for everything you have, I know that it is the greatest virtue of them all. Love and miss you.

Elder Leavell

Monday, October 18, 2010

Another Round

Monday, October 18, 2010 0
How are all of you doing on this marvelous evening? It's been great hearing from all of you, well from some of you. I think that my mailbox has been a little empty. So if you could fill it up for me that would be great! Anyways things have been going great, you are probably wondering where I got transferred to so I'll let you know where I went with a clue...it's somewhere that I have been before...I have a big area...and a car...it's the ASL program. Haha that was fun. Yeah I'm back and my new companion is Elder Tritch. He is from Las Vegas, well Henderson, so not really and he is deaf. It's been quiet over the past few days and I'm not going to lie, I'm not quite used to it but I'm sure I will over time by going insane haha. That is what Elder Franco told me, and the District Leader has told me that too, that Elder Franco was going insane and having weird experiences like talking to himself. Gosh I hope that doesn't happen to me haha. Elder Tritch is pretty cool so I can't complain.

Anyways moving onto some other things. My last day in the area was a really "bucket" meaning lazy, unproductive, and whatever the words that go along with those lines. It was like that because I wanted to go say goodbye to all of the families that I was really close with and so that took up the entire day. It was way fun. I wish that all days could be like that, but if that happened the work wouldn't go anywhere and we would only be visitng them because there wouldn't be any new members haha. So this weekly email is going to be a little different. I'm going to put up some pictures and then talk about them for a little. Hope that is ok.
Bishop Alvarez and his family. One of the most centered families, even with all the chaos.
Anthony Martinez. Solid convert. Enough said.

The Morales family. Love them. They are going to do great.

The Diaz family.

The Camachos. Crazy! They are all about the parties. For reals. If there
But I think that the most amazing experience that I think I will ever have on my mission, happened on Friday. I had the opportunity to go to the Visitor Center Dedication with the Morales family. OH MY GOSH! Elder Nelson came down to dedicate the building and it was awesome. I had to translate for Elder Tritch but it was all good, I wasn't too distracted because I could still feel the spirit like no other, it was WAY strong there. Reverend Jackson came to represent the City of Los Angeles and he was an interesting speaker, to say the least. The other cool thing was that some Monks came and some Islamic people came, not to sound racist here (that is not what I mean by what I'm going to day) but their clothing was the only way that I could tell. When Elder Nelson was dedicating the Visitor Center, as I said, the spirit was so strong, it was nuts. His prayer was amazing and you could just tell he was one that had authority from our Heavenly Father. In other words, you could just tell and feel that he is an apostle of the Lord. Afterwards, he stayed for awhile and was talking with everyone, so naturally I went up. I shook his hand AND took a picture with him! Yeah you know you are jealous! If not, well don't know what to tell you. It was a great experience, one that I will never forget. It only solidified my testimony, even more, that this church is the Church of Jesus Christ and that I'm doing the right thing.

As far as the ASL program, I'm a little overwhelmed. It's changed a lot since I was last in the program but I'm thankful for the opportunity to serve wherever the President needs me. It's a wonderful blessing. Everyone is joking around here saying that I need to learn Korean so that I can go to any program in the mission haha. PSYCH! We have a lot of work but what I have learned from the times that I have "flushed" an area is that I can't take everyone in at the same time, otherwise, I'll end up loosing everyone. It was interesting still seeing all the people that I knew in the Gardena Ward. It was a little bad because they kept walking into the sacrament meeting and so I had to walk out and talk with all of them. All, in all, it was a great to see all of them. The program is growing so that is good but the work is still the same: driving all day, that's a bummer sometimes.

I love you all. Send me some letters. That would be great. Hope that you are all doing well and are enjoying what you are doing. That is key. Take care and hope to hear from you soon.
Elder Leavell

Monday, October 11, 2010

Never Look Back

Monday, October 11, 2010 0
The wonders of the mission never cease to surprise me. I can't believe that another transfer has gone by and that I'm that much closer to the end of my mission. Everyone is rubbing in how much time I don't have left and well...I still have 8 months left, members are always funny haha. Anyways hope that you all have enjoyed this past week and have found hidden blessings in your lives. I have done that and it has helped me get through some of the difficult times that occur on the mission.

The week started off a little slow, didn't have much to do because everyone that we had visited had been visited often last week. We did some tracting and found a guy named Carlos. He seemed to be promising when we first met him. He likes Joel Osteen a lot, says that he watches him on TV more than he goes to church. We set up an appointment with him for the following day to do some service for him, he ended up not being there. It was WAY discouraging because that summarizes Pen Zone and it really has been really hard to get anything going in my area. Luckily, we had some good appointments the rest of the day with the Camachos and the Morales. The Camachos are always the same, rowdy and wild. It's fun to be with them because y make it feel like I'm at home even though I'm not. Then the Morales are the same. Home. It's so great to see how much they have progressed as a family. I guess from what Moro had told me, Gerardo has been helping around the house a lot and has been motivating his wife to get baptized. It's really amazing to see how the gospel does change lives and it impacts people in such a way that it is almost instantaneous. Last Sunday, I forgot to mention, he said that it was all because the example of his son and how he changed his life for the better and didn't end up like his cousins who are now cholos and doing drugs everyday. I'm so proud of him and I hope that they know that I love them all so much and I'm very grateful to see that example, it really has helped me remember what I'm here for. Funny story/amazing story: on Sunday, of course, was the confirmation of Gerardo, he came in a suit for the very first time and was looking like any of the other members (everyone was saying afterwards, that they confused him for someone who was a leader in the church haha how sick is that?). He sat down and you could tell he was way nervous but he did just fine. I told him, after he asked what he had to do, was to sit down and listen-listen to the spirit and listen to the words of the confirmation. The funny thing was that I didn't think that I was going to do and after some debate on the stand the Bishop told me that he couldn't and that I was going to do it. I was so scared! I had never confirmed someone into the church and I didn't remember all the words that I had to say but the coolest thing happened. Literally, the words were put in my mouth. I think that it was the first time that I have ever experienced that, at least me noticing. I'm so thankful for my Heavenly Father for blessing me with that blessing, I know that I hadn't covered anything of the manner and I knew I couldn't do it without his help. Gosh, it's amazing to see the gospel in action, even though we are not always worthy, feel worthy, to be a representative of Jesus Christ. I'm truly in aww still and am so happy. Anyways, the rest of the week we helped with homework. Think I did two English essays, of which were college level, and apparently the professors loved them. So I'm pretty proud of myself. Then I did some math homework with the Andrades. Boy do I need some help with that when I get home. Haha. I tried and I couldn't get it. I feel bad for the Andrades. Their parents don't really care what's happening with them. All they are interested in is having other people take care of their kids and helping them manage. Daniel is failing two classes and I got mad at him like a parent would so I told him to tell his parents and he did. His parents said "too bad." People these days really need to step up their game. I can't believe that people would be able to get away with that. It really frustrates me when I find people like that. Some other service that we did was for this band teacher that we got a referral for. He is disabled so he can't really get around a lot. So we cleaned his house. It was pretty bad. Really bad. We almost threw up. But all in a normal mission day huh?

Well sorry for the short email. I got to get going to do normal pday stuff. I'll see if I can add some things later on. Alright take care. Love you all. Church is true!

Elder Leavell

The Delgado Family. Awesome family.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Spiritually Nourished

Monday, October 4, 2010 0
Ahhhh another preparation day to update all of you on the most wonderful week I have had, what a privilege this is for all of you haha. But really. This week has been, if I say so myself, especially the weekend because it was GENERAL CONFERENCE! Hopefully all of you had the opportunity to see conference, it was great and hopefully all of you are doing well and are enjoying life.

I want to take a moment and shout out: HAPPY BIRTHDAY DREW! Hope it's the best one yet.

Alright now back to business, our area is slowly picking up speed and our teaching pool is getting bigger. As we have been going through the ward directory and trying to establish contact with all the members in our area, we came across a family (I probably mentioned them last week but oh well). We finally were able to meet with them and they are great! They remind me so much of you Mom and Dad, it's crazy. We were there for about 2 hours getting to know them and waiting since they wanted to stuff us. I'm gaining weight by the way. We were talking with them, enjoying a normal conversation and then they switched the topic to the church. Usually that doesn't happen even though they know why we are there. Turns out that the wife and the kids are not members and the interesting part is that they are both adopted like me. The daughter is struggling a bit with the idea that she is adopted and the Mom was so happy to know that I was too, she said, "I know someone would come along and you are no coincidence." Unfortunately, the daughter wasn't there but hopefully in the coming week we will have the opportunity to talk and get to know each other. Back to when church came up. The wife is Catholic but is a bit concerned about how much the church has changed since she was a little girl. She told us (this blew our minds by the way) that the Catholic church is now discouraging infant baptisms and is doing baptism by immersion, that they are also discouraging "rosar"-ing, forgot the word in English, but are teaching the members to pray like us, as Christians, also, they are having Bible Studies and telling members to have scripture study everyday just like us, and finally, they are making every youth thing, like first communion etc, like Personal Progress and Duty to God. It's was really weird because as they were describing everything it was almost as if it were our church...thought that was interesting. Anyways she said she was concerned because of all of this but was really happy to see her husband go from less active and now is starting to open up the scriptures. We invited them to come to General Conference and they said they would go and were excited to hear what the leaders had to say. Sadly they didn't come. The other person that we have established contact with is Otto. Yes, that is a familiar name, he was investigating the church a couple of months ago and we finally got a hold of him. He is doing well. We ended up talking with him for awhile and he said that his main concern with the church isn't a concern, but is himself. He said that because he isn't a religious person he doesn't want to do anything. We told him that he should go to the singles ward to try to meet people his age, he said he would. The cool thing is that the Chacon's have been talking with his parents and in the near future we will be able to talk to them and see where things go. They seem like a really nice family. Apparently, Otto's mom likes me a lot because she thinks that I'm a serious goof like she is. Haha the funny thing is that I haven't even talked to her once, just said hello haha.

That is everything about the area, Conference was great though. Gerardo Jr. came along with us for most of them. He fell asleep but, at least, his is showing an example to his peers and his parents. His Dad came for the Priesthood session and unfortunately he fell asleep too. What makes things worse is that his mom never went to any of them! Freak. People these days are very interesting, they want something but then do nothing about it. The main things that I took from conference were (1) follow the prophet because he is the mouthpiece of our Lord and Master and won't lead us astray, (2) be better, (3) be thankful for everything, but don't inhale it (President Uchtdorf), (4) being 100% obedient is easier than 98%, and (5) never look back. It was a different feeling during conference this time around. I loved how President Uchtdorf talked about a tree and then said "now you are all probably wondering how this has to deal with a plan...let me explain" haha. That was classic. I'm glad that our leaders know to be actual people. It makes it more personal and for me, makes me feel like I could obtain the same. I'm so thankful that we have a living prophet today that speaks to God face to face. It is a wonderful blessing especially with all these confusing and misguiding ideas of what we should believe and not believe. I know that everything can be answered through prayer and that I have prayed to know if it is true and I know I received such an answer. I know Thomas S. Monson is God's prophet that he is lead by the Savior Jesus Christ and that the 12 apostles are helpers for the cause of the Lord. Even if we are not members we can take things from the things that were spoken at this last conference and apply them in our lives and we will become better for they are true words.

I love you all and I'm hopeful for the future. I know that it will bring many blessings for all of us. May the Lord be with you family and friends, as well as all who read this. Till next week.

Elder Leavell

Monday, September 27, 2010

Like Father Like Son

Monday, September 27, 2010 0
Man oh man this week has flown by. If this keeps up the next few months won't seem like a long time haha. Hopefully all of you have had a wonderful time and have enjoyed some cooler weather compared to over here. It's in the 100s now and it's freaking rediculous.

To be honest we didn't do much teaching this week but we had a ton of service opportunities that have helped us find some new people. It's way excited. Plus we have been working with a bunch of less actives and part member families, so we are on our way to building the area back up again. But the most grandest news that I want to talk about is the baptism that we were blessed to witness of Gerardo Morales. It was so great to see him enter the waters of baptism. It was one of the more interesting baptisms that I've seen, apart from the ASL baptisms, which are inevitably different. First the font wasn't filled on time so we delayed it by 15 minutes, along with President Baker and the Stake Presidency showing up, putting a ton of pressure on us to make sure everything went according to plan. Sadly it didn't. We had asked Hermana Camacho to give the talk on baptism and ended showing up late because she forgot her camera of all things haha. It's funny how things end up. Also Francisca, Gerardo's wife, showed up late and we had to wait for her because of all the people who were there she needed it the most. We have been trying to get her to a baptism for awhile now and who better to see than her husband huh? The thing that was the most interesting was the few minutes before the baptism. Gerardo asked me to baptize him a couple of days before and I went along with it, knowing that things would not end up that way because, of course, his son-Moro/Burrito-was going to baptize him. Haha. So when were getting our clothes I still played along with it and explained how things were going to down and right before we were going to change I said, "wait I have to go get something" and that is when Moro walked in and had the big surprise. It was so awesome to have his son baptize him. That is any part member families wish, to baptize others who have committed to following the gospel of Jesus Christ until the end. Moro was almost crying when it was all done, partially because he was WAY nervous (i.e. he messed up the prayer like 5 times), I would be the same in that situation. We had a party afterwards and a bunch of the family came to, hopefully, show there support. I ended up talking to a few of them, they mostly had questions and it was great to have the opportunity to explain things to them. Who knows maybe the rest of the family will tag along?! That would be way legit.

The rest of the week we did a bunch of service for the Delgado family. We had a whole day with them from 9 to 9. We did some wood flooring for them and then went up to the visitors center with them, the Morales, and the Andrades. It was way cool to have a group that big. It was also just fun to be with a family the entire day. It felt weird sometimes, probably because it reminded me of my family (miss you!) We also had President's interviews, which are always an experience. They were short but to the point. Oh and we also had a huge FHE with the youth of the ward. It was fun. We taught the lesson and had a good time afterwards. Sorry fot the short email, my head hurts. Hope all is well. Love ya all!

Elder Leavell

Gerardo's Baptism
P-day Activity: Hiking in 102 weather-not a good idea.

A not so friendly Peacock at a dinner.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Break from the Normal

Monday, September 20, 2010 0
Another week in the mission and another opportunity to be on the computer to talk with all of you. What a great day it is! Ha. Well this week has been a long week for me and I don't imagine that it is going to get any faster. Luckily I had some enjoyable times with some other missionaries and I got to think about how I have really enjoyed my mission thus far. It has truly been a blessing to be out here and learn everything that I have learned and hopefully I will continue to grow and become a better servant and representative of our Savior, Jesus Christ. How have all you been doing? I know I ask that every time but it was great to hear from all of you.

Anyways moving onto the week. Wednesday and Saturday I went on splits with Elder Apo and Elder Sung. It's crazy to think that Elder Sung is my District Leader again, just like good old times in Gardena. But before that we had the wonderful opportunity to somewhat take a break and do service for Anthony and Jenni. Since they are going to get married soon, their mom was kind and divided her house and is going to give it to them, meaning a lot of service hours for us! Woo Hoo! Love service. We painted, filled in holes, and did all the jazz, but the best thing was that I had to cook lunch for everyone one of those days. Now my parents know me well enough to know that I can't cook so whoever ended up deciding that I was going to be the cook, it back fired on them. Haha. It wasn't that bad though. I made some mashed potatoes (out of the box, of course) and cooked some fried chicken and made some orangeade (does anyone know what the difference between orangeade and orange juice is?). Later that Tuesday we had the opportunity to teach the Morales family and it was awesome! It ended up being only with the Dad but I think that in the long run it ended up being better that it was by himself so that the spirit could really testify to him that this is real and this is it. We started off by reading Mosiah 27, which is the conversion story of Alma and we didn't get that far into it when we started talking about the differences between all the churches. He said that he didn't really notice any difference between the Catholic, Christian, and LDS faith, except that the LDS faith really focuses on family relationships and unity within the church. He then asked us what we thought. As we responded, we mentioned that the main difference is that we know we have a modern day prophet and that he guides and leads His church and the entire world. We went forth sharing scriptures in the Bible, such as Acts 10, and in the Book of Mormon to explain that prophets are needed for the reason of unity. It reminded me of Ephesians 4 where it states the positions of the Church of Jesus Christ and says that it will remain until the unity of faith. We then asked him to pray right there and then to know if Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God and he did. We waited for him to say something, letting the spirit touch him and then he said the coolest thing ever, "I know he is a prophet because without Jesus Christ we wouldn't have the church and everything that the church talks about is good." We were all really excited and he said that he couldn't wait for the 26th to get baptized. Gosh the spirit is amazing. It tells people things that we can't do, even as true representatives of Jesus Christ. Ahh good stuff right there. The next day was the first day that I went on splits. Not much happened, other than we walked all day looking for less actives in the Carson ward. It was really hot that day but it was good, had a lot of time to talk with Elder Apo. He is way cool, what's even funnier is that he is in the Samoan Ward now and he is related to almost half the ward haha. Friday we had a Morales day, had Posole at their house and it was really delicious. Then we reviewed the baptismal questions with him, he passed with us, unfortunately Francisca was not in the room the entire time so she didn't get to hear all of it. I don't think that she is going to get baptized this Sunday but I do know that with time she will be prepared and the Lord will reveal unto her that she knows enough and she is ready. Then onto the next day of splits. Gosh that was a terrible day, not really just wait. We had 3 dinners that day, of which 2 of them were planned and on bikes, making it the first time since I have been moved to Peninsula Zone. The first one was unexpected. We ended up going to a Samoan less active and they were preparing food, so the entire time I was trying to get out of there but Elder Sung just kept talking and we ended up having a plate set in front of us. 20 minutes later we ate dinner with the Holt family. It was great! Sister Holt is Japanese and she made us a ton of vegetable tempura with miso soup. We killed about half of it and we were stuffed but then she took out a bomb cheese cake. I had forgotten how good that stuff is, since I have been eating tortillas for most of my mission haha. Then 20 minutes after that we went to this Filipino home and ate another dinner and by this time I couldn't move. It was ridiculous. I told myself I would never do this again but now look at me. I felt so bad for the lady because we had gotten there about an hour late and she was mad, then we didn't even eat that much because, well, we were full to the max. I only had one plate and Elder Sung stuffed his face and went to the bathroom, meaning he spit it out in the bathroom. MISSIONARIES NEVER DO THAT THOUGH ;) The Sister ended up lightening up when her son, who is a return missionary, came out and we all had a great conversation. By then it was around 8:30PM and we couldn't move so we went home and made phone calls to get our peeps to church. The Morales family showed up and Francisca went to Relief Society finally. Hopefully she liked it, I didn't get the chance to talk to her about it but I know she will. Then we had a General Priesthood meeting for the stake. Gerardo came and he enjoyed it a lot. The Stake Presidency said that they would go to his baptism too! I guess Gerardo Jr. is good friends with them. Unfortunately that means we have to bring our "A" game for the baptism. No worries with the Lord on my side, I got this!

That is my week. It was great and slow at the same time, sadly. I hope that your weeks have been going well and that school isn't going to rough. Don't even want to think about that. I love you all and I hope that the Lord blesses all of you abundantly and you notice the blessings that He gives us daily. Miss you all too!

Elder Leavell

Monday, September 13, 2010

What Can I Say

Monday, September 13, 2010 0
Well I don't got much time to write all of you on this fine evening, but I have to, at least, give you all some update. Hopefully all of you are doing mighty fine because the sun is shining bright over here! Got to love California weather. Summer has past and it didn't ever feel like summer, but that could mean that it's going to be a cold winter. Not cool. At least we can wear more layers.

Once again not much was accomplished but this time it wasn't because of meetings, that randomly came up, but because of some ordeals between some that are close to me. No worries everything is fine, we just had to be up at the mission home with President Baker all of Friday and Sunday. On Tuesday, everything was closed (as I mentioned before) so we did some extra errands with Bryan Camacho, a youth from our ward. He got to see a side of missionary work that is not normally seen by members, so I'm sure that was an interesting experience for him. Haha we didn't do anything with him-work wise. Oops. Then Wednesday, we went up to the mission home to turn our car in to get the other one fixed. Another interesting story about that. Elder Hancock, the car guy, wasn't there when we got there so we went out to eat around the mission home and came back. We took an hour to give him enough time to do his things and when we returned he still wasn't there. My companion got a little frustrated but things happen like that all the time so we waited and 10 minutes later we were on our way back to the wonderful city of Wilmington. We got back around 3, right in time for an appointment with Franci. We had Stephanie meet up with us for the appointment to see if that would resolve her concern for not going up to the Visitor's Center, turns out that concern was just a cover up because she wasn't that interested as we for saw. She said that she saw us as more of a friendship and didn't want to do anything. It was sort of awkward having to drop her with Stephanie there, never done that before, but it ended well and she said that she would give us a call after her wedding, of which she invited us to. Cool huh? It's in November so we will see if I'm still here in Wilmington. Then we took some time to make a Plan of Salvation chart for the Morales, which leads me the only main lesson that we had this week. We taught the Morales family the first half of the Plan of Salvation and they enjoyed it. They were happy to know where they came from and why the fall of Adam and Eve was so important for the plan. We commited Francisca, the wife of Gerardo, to baptism on the same day as him, she accepted with the condition that we would bring more visions and teach her some more. I'm so thankful for the plan that our Heavenly Father has given us, it really helps understand the scriptures more, especially when it comes to the certain circumstances in the scriptures where things get sketchy. We should be teaching them the rest of the Plan of Salvation this coming week and I know that it will be an answer to their prayers. Then comes Thursday, meaning weekly planning day. We did it at the beach this time and I'm not going to lie I wasn't that into it because, hey, I was at the beach and it sunny this time. PLUS there were whales and dolphins popping up like crazy and spouting water up every 2 minutes. It was sick. So I got distracted. It happens sometimes, give me a break. Sadly that was my entire week. NOTHING. As missionaries we wish for these types of weeks that are laid back but let me tell everyone who is serving their missinoright now: it ain't worth it, it's not fun. I really do mean that. There is nothing worse than nothing. It's weird that I'm saying this but I guess that means that I have learned something right?

Once again sorry for the short message, got to tighten some loose ends and finish some things that need to be taken care of. Love you all and miss you bunches. For reals.

Elder Leavell

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

BAM!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010 0
Well hello there everyone. It's been a might fine week this past week. Sorry I didn't let all of you know that it was labor day yesterday. Wish I could have had a day off. Haha. Nah we sort of did since it was our P-day. Hope you are doing mighty fine and that you see the Lord's blessings in your lives. Aren't they the greatest?

As far as the past week, I'll start on the big news that most of you are waiting for. I stayed. Guess the city of Wilmington still needs me haha. Can't see why. Haha. But really. Anyways I'll be here in Wilmington for another 6 weeks so we will see what progress will occur for the time being. Now for the investigators. Bad news and good news, as usual. Robert, the guy, who Elder Bennett found isn't that golden as we thought. We went over there a couple of times over the past week and he wasn't there, but one time his daughter, Vanessa, was home so we taught her lesson 1. She wasn't all that interested but, none the less, she listened to what we had to say. Sunday came and Robert didn't come to church. Ended up his wife stayed home from work and so he decided to stay at home the entire day, as well. He told us that he hadn't been reading much of what we had given him but that he would read it in the coming week until he went to church. Cool. Not. He later then told us that he didn't want us to come over until he went to church to see if it is something that he wants to get into. Oh well. Hopefully he will keep his word, since he said he promisd this coming sunday that he would. Then with Franci, things haven't been moving with her, she has read but hasn't committed to anything else. We invited her to come to the Visitor's Center and she threw a huge curve ball at us and said that the reason why she doesn't want to come is because of a trust issue. I have no idea what she meant by that till this day. I have a feeling that we are going to have to drop her pretty soon since she isn't willing to come to church and see all the blessings that coming to church will give her. Also, the Zayes family didn't come to church, no surprise there because we had set up early morning appointments and he wasn't there for any of them. Over the past few weeks I think that things have really started to sink in and/or I'm starting to really understand the importance of the gospel and how much of an impact that it has had and will continue to have in my life. Yeah it might not be easy, in fact, it's way hard; but I know that as things move on and we learn from all the things that we go through that we will be made strong enough for the things to come and that we will be able to maintain our spirits high and in order. It's great how the gospel does that sometimes. Just enlightens oneself at the most random times and somehow it is when you most need it. I guess that is all the "bad" news that I have for the time being. Onto the good news. The Morales family is doing great! I can't believe how far they have progressed and how strong they are becoming. It's amazing to see the progression in them and the desire they have now to do the things that the Lord would have them do. We had the most amazing lesson to the other day and the best part is we didn't teach anything at all, the spirit did. On Sunday we went over there to check up on how church went for them. Gerardo was the only one home and he really liked it and was really surprised how quiet the kids were that particular service, since over the past few weeks that have been way loud (got to admit). We then asked him how his prayers have been going and seeing if he had prayed to know if Joseph Smith was a prophet of the God. He said he had and then he went describing how he felt. He said that as he was praying he felt calm and not worried about anything else, like work, which he is normally always worried about; and that he felt good that there was a prophet on the earth today. At this point I was smiling like no other. He continued to describe how a particular face came into head while he was praying, the face of his cousin, who had fallen off the path at one point of his life. He went on for 10 minutes explaining the entire situation on how his cousin was in Mexico and was selling drugs and got caught but now is on the right path. We then asked him "why do you think he came into your head?" We waited there for awhile as he thought of why and he said so that we could learn from others mistakes. My smile was even bigger now. We then testified of how the good feelings that he was feeling and the peace and burning that was within him was the answer that he was looking for and that he needed to follow it. No lie we waited there for 10 minutes and waited for it to sink in that he himself had received an answer, it was so cool because the spirit was soooo strong and you could hardly move. He said ok, where do we go now? We commited him to be baptized on the 26th and he agreed. I'm so happy that I can count on the spirit to do the things that I, myself, cannot do. The best part is that we are going to be having a baptism in the coming weeks, I'm so excited for him. Even though we haven't been able to talk with the wife yet, we know that she will also commit to baptism, all she needs to do is to realize that she has received her answer, as well. It's great to see how hard work pays off with patience.

Sorry for the short email. I don't have much time. I'm so excited to be here and be a part of this great work, even that of Jesus Christ. I'm so proud and humbled to be a representative of Him and to be able to be a messanger to His children. It's truly an honor. I love you all and I know that if we look for the blessings we will find them. May the Lord be with you all. Till next week.

Elder Leavell
 
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