Monday, April 26, 2010

Ships Never Sent Out Never Come In

Monday, April 26, 2010 0
Hey everyone,
Things here have been good this past week, nothing too extraordinary, or should I say different from every other week, but none the less things were good. Wed had a lot of lessons with Lucinda, who is progressing little by little. We went up to the temple with her this past Saturday and she had a great time watching the Joseph Smith: A Prophet of the Restoration movie. A little story behind that was how it all turned out. To get up to the temple we had to borrow our district leaders car and as we almost arrived she called and said that she wouldn't be able to make it. Typical. Anyways we convinced her to come to the later showing at 7:30 but we didn't have enough time to go back to our area and get back up to the temple. As we were thinking of what we could do, Sister Blackburn came out of the mission home and we got talking haha. This is where it gets funny. She told us that she would give us permission to stay in the area by the mission home but we had to go swimming (she was saying it sarcastically because President is the one who has to give the OK). Then, of course, me being me, I had to ask her if she had a preference, pool or ocean. She told me "Ocean and while you are at it, get a surf board." WOO HOO! Haha Then President came out and Sister Blackburn filled him in and he said "I don't see the problem in that." Haha I love them. To make the story short we went to eat and we went back to watch the movie. I guess I missed my only opportunity to go swimming in the ocean. Oh well. BUT the story doesn't stop there. As we were waiting and waiting for Lucinda we started thinking that she wasn't going to come. BUT then we saw her car! WOO HOO! And, of course, she pulled a 81 year old moment, and turned. So we had to chase after her haha. Man those couple hours were eventful. As I said she really enjoyed the movie and I know that it helped her learn more of about the Prophet Joseph Smith. I know that because while the movie was playing the spirit was soooo strong. I know she'll be ready to get baptized on the 9th of May.

So as I have been told before by countless return missionaries, every missionary will find a family and/or person that they will fall in love with. I think I can say that I have found the family. Tracy, Dalton, and Alisha are my family. I absolutely love them and I know that the Lord put them in our path because they are sooo prepared. Everything we teach them and commit them to do, they accept and do. It's crazy. This past weekend they were not able to make it to church because they decided to go on a camping trip as a family. They said that it had been a long time since they have gone and it was now the time to do it. I'm glad that they are taking the time to become a closer family. It's really refreshing. Other than that nothing else really happened. OH wait one more thing happened that was awesome. The ASL Elders have been teaching a kid named Johnny, who is in our area, but they cant talk to the parents because they speak Spanish. On Saturday we decided to go visit with her and get to know her. Apparently, she had talked to other missionaries before but nothing turned from it. We then started talking about how our Heavenly Father has blessed us with our families. But then she asked a question "Who is Joseph Smith?" It was awesome. We then started going through the entire restoration lesson with her and the spirit was once again sooo strong, you could almost cut it with a knife. She sat there-silent. I told her that we all know that the spirit is here and that we must act upon it and not deny it, just a Joseph Smith and the Savior did when they were going through their difficult times and persecutions. We then commit ed her to be baptized on the 23rd of May. She accepted. AWESOMENESS! Gotta to love the spirit.

Anyways onto my spiritual thought that I had the other day when we passed by a local church. They had a billboard that changes every week and this week it said "Ships Never Sent Out Never Come In." That got me thinking of the scripture Matthew 11:30, it says "My yoke is easy and my burden is light." Relating that to the quote from the local church, I thought of the necessity of trust. I would like to change the quote a little to make this a little clearer. "Trust Never Sent Out Never Comes In" At the end of the Savior's life, just before he entered Gethsemane, he reminded his apostles of one great truth-trust. When the apostles were sent out to teach the people they were given neither purse nor scrip. Then Jesus asked them: "When I sent up without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing." In other words, they lacked nothing. Jesus gave us a solution to when we are burdened with sin and the difficulties of life. He said "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in hear: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." In this scripture we can take 4 things from it: (1) Come unto me, or in other words trust me, (2) Take my yoke upon you, it's easy, (3) Learn of me, (4) and find rest. Trust, as far as I've seen, is the major problem that everyone has. Sin shows a lack of trust. When we sin, we are shooting for something short of our potential because we don't trust that we can make it. Alma, a Book of Mormon prophet, was one of the worst sinners in the land. But then when he came face to face with an angel where he repented and the Lord forgave him. He, then, devoted himself to the Lord's work, which required a lifetime of sacrifice and service. Surely that would be more burden wouldn't it? No. Alma said that despite all the trials that he went through, as a prophet, were much less than the burdens of sin that he had carried alone. President Howard W. Hunter said, "Why face life's burdens alone, Christ asks, or why face them with temporal support that will quickly falter. To the havey laden it is Christ's yoke, it is the power and peace of standing side by side with a God that will provide the support, balance, and strength to meet our challengs and endure our tasks here in the hardpan field of mortality." When I think of all the struggles that I'm going through, as a missionary, and I think that it is unfair or I start complaining, one question goes through my head: Am I better than He? Jesus Christ went below us all and if that isn't enough tangible evidence think of Job. This prophet went through terrible trials, he lost everything. But he still answered and said, "I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me. I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee." How amazing is that? I know that when we dedicate our lives to the Lord, his burden and yoke is light. I have felt it. I have experienced it. Missionary work is not a walk in the park, their are trials, we are still human, but when we Come Unto Christ I know that everything will be well. I ditto Alma's testimony and say "I have been supported under trials and troubles of every kind, yea, and in all manner of afflictions; yea, God has delivered me from prison, and from bonds, and from death; yea, and I do put my trust in him, and he will still deliver me." We MUST trust in the Lord to receive relief. We cannot wait for it to, simply, come. We must work. We must have faith in the only Begotten of the Father, who through him we can receive relief.

I love you and miss you all. I wish nothing but the best for you. Hope to hear from all of you soon. Take care.

Elder Leavell

Monday, April 19, 2010

Getting Wet is Awesome!

Monday, April 19, 2010 0
Well hello there how are you all doing? Hopefully everything is going well over there in Vegas and wherever you are. Once again we are being blessed soooo much that it is difficult some days to accomplish everything that we need to do but the blessings, most certainly, outweigh the tiredness. It is truly amazing (I know I saw that a lot but I really mean it) how the Lord blesses us in our hard work and diligence.

Thinking back on everything that we have gone through this past week I'm reminded of a quote by Henry Ford, it says "Unless a man undertakes more than he can possibly do, he will never do all that he can do." I believe that the Lord is really showing my potential, as a missionary, but I know I can do more, I just have to commit to do it. On Tuesday everything went wrong, like always. Our phone and my companion's bike broke down, so we spent most of the day trying to get everything fixed. Luckily we did some street contacting along the way in search for the one that the Lord would have us talk to since last time that happened we found Tracy and her kids. We didn't find anyone but we know, at least, that we planted some seeds for the future. Finally after everything was situated enough we went to go visit a referral. The person wasn't there but we taught the Aunt who seemed to be a little intrigued, which usually means that they are not going to be willing to keeps the commandments, but we will see what happens with her. Never give up huh? As the day went on our appointment with Tracy and her kids came. One word can describe them: SOLID. They are all soooo ready, they are all looking for more, looking for something that they can lay their foundation upon and they have finally found it. Tracy, the mom, growing up was a Jehovah's Witness because of her parents. She said that because of all the mandatory meetings they had to go to it prevented her from doing the things she wanted to do, so because of that she stopped going to church so that her kids wouldn't have to go through the same thing. Funny thing is that now the kids are to the other extreme-too busy and they are always running around all over the place. Which leads to the kids. She has two kids, Alisha and Dalton, who are 15 and 10. Alisha is a typical teenager-stubborn and thinks she is the center of the world because she knows everything, but she is humble enough to recognize there needs to be a change. Dalton, on the other hand, is a stud. He plays soccer and loves the show 24...remind you of anyone? haha...but even at the age of 10 he is so eager to learn. The moment we gave him something to read, he started. Gosh I already love this family, too bad when church rolled around it was super awkward because it was Ward Conference, it was terrible. But there is one thing that I love about them, they're honest and genuine. Elder Isaacson asked them why she told us to come back and she said "There was something different about the both of you. A sort of glow that caught my eye." I wish I could count how many times I have heard that. It's almost rediculous how amazing they are.

Anyways on Wednesday I went on spits with Elder Gardner, my zone leader, and that turned into an interesting day. Around 11:15AM we received a phone call from some missionaries in the zone who were having some problems getting along. Mom listen to this part you will like it. At that point Elder Gardner started worrying about everything and we still hadn't eaten, so while he was trying to figure everything out, I was in the kitchen cooking beans, quesadillas, chicken, and answering the phone ALL AT THE SAME TIME! It was crazy! I'm so thankful for everything that my mom does even more now because I don't think that I could do that everyday. Even Elder Gardner said that it sounded like a mom was in the kitchen haha. Good times. I ended up going on splits with Elder Archibald for a little (more like 4 hours) and somehow went out of the zone haha we both didn't know the area, oops! Apart from the
chaos that happened most of the day the end of the day make it all better. Elder Gardner has an investigator named Melisa. She has been worked with by a couple of missionaries that go back a year (hope that makes sense). When I got in I didn't know any of that, I thought she was less active since I had seen her kid at church a lot. As we were teaching I found out she wasn't going to church and I asked why. At first she didn't want to answer but I got it out of her. She told me that she wasn't going because she was mad that God took her mother and her brother away. I then bore my testimony to her that anger has caused so much pain in my life and that it doesn't just affect her but everyone around her. I told her that she has the responsibility and duty to live so righteously so that she could go to the temple just as I have the responsibility to live so righteously so that I can receive the blessings that my patriarchal blessing has bestowed on me. I continued and said "Melisa at least you have the opportunity to do it but you can take it or leave it-silence. I'm not a member. The lesson continued to baptism on May 9th-Mother's day. The gospel is so incr
edible. We can all be at different places in our lives, young or old, believing or not, but as soon as we make those covenants with our Heavenly Father we all become equal because we promise to keep the commandments to the best of our abilities. Once again I'm reminded of a quote from The Continuous Atonement it says "Jesus already bought the whole bike. The few coins He asks from me are not so much to help pay for the bike, but rather to help me appreciate it, value it, and use it correctly." Teaching Melisa was a wonderful experience, it testified to me, even more, that every missionary has been called to teach certain people but more importantly it has taught me that everything I have gone through was for the benefit of others.

Alright now back to our area. Elder Isaacson during splits found an African-American lady that seemed promising so we decided to meet her on Thursday. Her name is Laucinda and she is a hoot. Of course that would mean that she is a typical African-American lady-boisterous haha. She is way awesome. We taught her of the Plan of Salvation that our Heavenly Father has for each of us, as his children. With reluctance she accepted to be baptized on May 9th, as well! The way cool part was that a friend of hers, who is a member, came to visit for the week. They both came to church and love it. Gosh we are being so blessed.

Now the moment you have all been waiting for, Sunday. I can safely say that it was the best day ever! Skip was finally baptized and w hat made it even better was that I got to baptize him. Let me say, getting wet is awesome! I'm not going to lie I was sooo nervous because I was afraid that no one was going to show up but also that I had never baptized someone before. Luckily we have a ward that is really supportive of the missionaries, despite their age, and people showed up and the baptism went great. At first I was waiting for the feeling that every
missionaries talks about and it didn't come, I felt the same. But then it hit me when the musical number came around. A brother had volunteered at the last minute to sing and he decided to sing Be Still my Soul and while he was singing it became clear since anything that is peaceful or comforting is of God, and it was so. I
love how everything works out. I know that
everything happens for a reason and I'm so glad that I'm learning that now because I know that it come in handy in the future when things get tough.

I love you all and miss you, as well. Know that I'm having the time of my life and I wouldn't replace it for the world. Till next time.

Elder Leavell

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Booming Area

Monday, April 12, 2010 0
The transfer is starting to pick up and everything is going by much faster. I can't believe that it's almost half way through the month already. Anyways how are all of you doing? Tell everyone I say hello for me.
Any far as updates of our area, here they are:
  1. Tony decided to be a bucket this week and not show up to his interview (TWICE I might add), so we had to postpone his baptism. It actually turned out really well because Elder Isaacson and I decided that talking to his parents would be the best so that they could show up to his baptism...surprisingly they were way supportive and said that they would most likely show up. WOO HOO! He is scheduled to be baptized on the 25th.
  2. Skip is doing soooo well, it is amazing to see all the progress he has made in the last couple months. He went from not interested to being extremely excited for his baptism. It's amazing to see his willingness and acceptance of everything that the Lord has asked us to do, for example, tithing. During this weeks lesson we decided to review the interview questions with him to make sure he knew everything he needed to know. Then the subject of tithing came up. He expressed his concern of how it would not only be hard for him but also his family, since they are going through some financial struggles right now. As we taught and shared the blessings of tithing, he still expressed these concerns and that is when the word "weight" came into my mind. At first I understood it to be "wait" but as it kept coming to my mind it became more clear-the weight on the floor. We told him to carry the weight (more like a dumbbell but whatever), arms out, for as long as he could (luckily he isn't the strongest person ever haha). Then after he could do it no more we told his family to join in and help and that's when the message finally came across. Once again the Lord showed me that He really does have His hand in the work and He prompts us to do His will and all we have to do is listen. Skip finally accepted the law of tithing and passed the interview. He is going to baptized on the 18th.
  3. Karl has finally accepted a baptismal date, but that is when we found out that he is on probation for a felony for a year and a half. LAME! I know that someday he will be baptized, I just might not be able to see it. So because of this bump in the road we decided to read him and the Ayoso family the book The Continuous Atonement. There is a lot of issues in the family because of the burden of having their daughter having her own child at the age of 18 and Karl is living with them. So I think that all of us could learn to use the atonement a little better in our lives. I mean who couldn't?
  4. Perez/Hernandez Family is freakin legit. So we found this family tracting and I'm pretty sure that I wrote this last week but oh well. Ivan and Isabel are a young couple with two daughters, unfortunately they aren't married. They had talked with the Jehovah's Witnesses for awhile but it didn't make much sense to them and when they saw us they knew their was something different. I wasn't there for this lesson but I'm going to explain what Elder Isaacson said. He said that when they taught them they started by teaching the daughter about the Savior and that's when the mom started to participate, in fact teaching part of it. He then commited her to come to church, to read the Book of Mormon, and then be baptized on the 25th. She said yes. Ya baby! And it doesn't stop there. I guess while they were talking about baptism she mentioned that she wouldn't let her husband not get baptized because this is something that they had both been looking for. I'm so excited for them to get married and then to be baptized.

Yesterday was a really special day for me. As a mission we are only allowed to go to the beach ONCE a year. Insane! Right? That is the best part about California because after all the smog over here can cut 5 YEARS off your life, so the beach is refreshing (literally) over here. The Beach was awesome. It's just the same as when I went last time. We were all worried that it was going to be raining because in the morning it was all cloudy and such but we decided to pray as a zone and it worked. So yeah I love it. But I think I learned why we aren't allowed to go every week. At the end of the day we were coming back from church and other meetings and dinner when Elder Isaacson's bike broke. He tried and tried to fix it so that we could make to it our last appointment on time. Finally, we had to go and walked to our appointment. That is when we ran into a lady named Tracy. She was raised Jehovah's Witness but when she left the home she went inactive. She said it wasn't for her. We talked about what we believed and she said "I knew there was something different about you. You can just see it." I know that we were meant to talk to her at that moment. If Elder Isaacons bike had not broken and we had not been obedient and continued working we would have missed the opportunity to teach her and her family. I know that the Lord really has a hand in this work. Without it this work, I know, would stop and because of that I don't think I will want to come back home when the moment has come. It's too special to leave and it's really humbling to see all the daily miracles that we see. I know the Church is true.

Love and miss ya,

Elder Leavell

P.S. Here are some pictures from the beach :)

Monday, April 5, 2010

This is really the Lord's Church

Monday, April 5, 2010 0
Well after two conferences I think I can safely say that I have received enough training for the transfer haha. In all honesty, both with the zone conference and general conference have been some of the best conferences that I have ever been in. I've learned so much and I'm so thankful that I received this opportunity to serve.

So after the 4 flat tires from this past week and Elder Isaacson's mishap with his brakes we thought that this week would be different. We ended up being wrong. Monday our phone, somehow, was dropped from the system so when we tried to make a phone call it connected us to a collect call network. The worst part wasn't that, it was that we hadn't gotten in contact with our dinner appointment for the day - and let me tell you there is nothing more awkward than going to someone's house and there is no food prepared. For reals. All the problems don't end there sadly, we ended up getting locked out of our apartment (my fault) once again. Yeah luckily life moves on. Haha. Tuesday was a little but more calm. We decided to meet with Paul Yost, a former investigator, and see how he was doing. Turns out he knows it's true! But he doesn't want to commit to anything. Lame sauce. Anyways the rest of the week after that we didn't really work too much because of all the conferences we had, BUT once again the Lord blessed us for our diligent and obedient work. On friday as we were knocking doors we decided to knock on a door we had knocked before. The people who we had talked to before ended not being there but we talked to some other people in the house. Again that didn't really to much so we decided to tract the rest of the street. No one was interested and/or home but as we walked back towards our bikes (passing by the house we had knocked before) the people we had talked with the previous week drove up and they told us to come over. We started talking and they said they wanted to come to church (which literally never happens). Then the most amazing part happened, everyone in the house started coming out to listen to what we were sharing with the rest of the family. It was so amazing, it was so evident that the Lord was truly touching them and us with the spirit. I know that the Lord does have His hand in this work and that was only strengthened during that experience.

Since we didn't get that much time to actually work in our own areas, the other investigators that we are working with didn't really progress. They came to church for general conference so that was good. Anyways, during our zone conference it mostly a training on how to become better but I would like to share something that Sister Blackburn shared with us that really showed me how to love everyone with charity. She read the verse in 1 Corinthians about charity and expressed the importance and the responsibility that we have as missionaries so show Christ-like love. She then proceeded to take apart the verse and went through every characteristic of charity. These are some of the impressions I got:
  1. Suffereth long: having patience while enduring & asking what can I learn from this experience instead of asking why.
  2. is Kind: small and simple acts of kindness can make great things of kindness.
  3. Envieth not: being selfless.
  4. Vaunteth not: being humble.
  5. Not Puffed Up: not saying "I" but "we."
  6. Doth not Behave Unseemly: obtaining quiet dignity.
  7. Seeketh not Her Own: sacrifice.
  8. Not Easily Provoked: being peaceful during turbulent times.
  9. Thinketh no Evil: becoming what we think.
  10. Rejoiceth not in Iniquity: being temple worthy.
  11. Beareth All Things: trust.
  12. Hopeth All Things: faithful.
  13. Endureth All Things: "I think I can, I think I can..."
  14. Charity Never Faileth: just as the Savior will not.

Isn't charity amazing? I think that the interesting part is that they go back to one common characteristic: trust, which is something that the Prophet spoke of this last general conference. When we trust, we have no fear of the opposition. When we have no fear, we run away from temptation and we live up to the standards of the Lord. Interesting huh? As missionaries we try our hardest to be like He was, we try our hardest to be His hands, His eyes, His instrument because that is our gospel. During this last general conference, Elder Uchtdorf said that our church's symbol is not tangible but instead is our faith. As we know faith is our actions because it leads to it. Without action comes no progress; therefore, comes no knowledge, which influences our agency. This has come to lead me to believe that this Church is true. The Book of Mormon is also true because I know that it is the word of God. A friend fo mine gave me this article so I thought I would share it with all of you.

The Challenge the Book of Mormon Makes to The World

  1. Write a history of ancient people covering a period from 2200 B.C. to 400 A.D.
  2. Include the history of two distinct, separate nations along with histories of different contemporary nations or groups of people.
  3. Describe their religious, economic, social and political cultures and institutions.
  4. Weave into their history the story of Jesus Christ and the pattern of Christian religion.
  5. Consider yourself 23 years of age and without formal school education.
  6. Write this record on about 520 pages, with 500 words per page.
  7. You must never make any absurd, impossible or contradiction statements.
  8. You must finish this record within 90 days and make no changes in the text. The first edition must last forever.
  9. You must proclaim that this narrative is not fiction but true sacred history.
  10. You must invite the ablest scholars and experts to examine the text with care, to expose any flaws.
  11. You must write this history on the basis of what you now know.
  12. You must publish it in every nation, to every kindred, tongue and people, declaring it to be the word of God.
  13. You must include within the record a marvelous and unique promise; a way to prove the truthfulness of the book. (Moroni 10:4)
  14. This record must fulfill bible prophecies; even to the exact manner in which it shall come forth, to whom it shall be given and its purpose and accomplishments.
  15. The cultures of these peoples are not known when you bring forth the record.
  16. Many of the facts, ideas and statements given as true in you record must be entirely inconsistent and in direct opposition to the prevailing beliefs of the world.
  17. Through investigation, scientific evidence and archeological discoveries for the next 150 years must verify its claims and prove its truthfulness even to the most minute detail.
  18. After 150 years of extensive analysis, no claim or statement in the book is disproven, but all are vindicated. All theories and ideas opposing it's origin rise only to fall, leaving your own claim as the only possible or plausible one.
  19. Internal and external evidence and prophecies must be confirmed and fulfilled during the next 150 years.
  20. Fair, honest and credible witness must testify to the whole world that an angel from heaven appeared to them and showed them the records. That they handled the records and felt the engravings thereon.
  21. You must cause the voice of the Redeemer to call out from Heaven to declare to these men that the record is true and for them to declare its truthfulness and message to the world, and cause these witnesses to do it.
  22. They must bear this testimony, not for personal gain, but at great personal sacrifice and though persecution, even to death.
  23. Thousands of great scholars and intellectuals must subscribe discipleship to this record and its movements even to the point of laying down their lives.
  24. Millions must bear testimony that it is true because they have put the promise to the test and received a testimony to its truthfulness. (Moroni 10:4).
  25. After 20 years of revilement and persecution, you must then be ready to give your own life as a testimony that the record is divine and true, and that its message of truth is from God.

Best wishes,

Elder Leavell

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