Monday, January 3, 2011

Welcome to Malibu

Monday, January 3, 2011
As you can tell from the title I got transferred. My goodness I hit the jackpot area. Malibu is where it is at. I have only been in the area for a couple of days but I think I can safely say that it is the best area that I have been so far. All the scenery and all the people are way cool. It really does remind of me of home: the people, the area, everything. I'm so thankful to our Heavenly Father for the opportunity to serve with these people and try to make a difference in their lives. The other cool thing is that we are serving in the UCLA Student Ward. I have never had the opportunity to serve in a ward like that so it was really cool to see, and I guess remember, how it felt to be at BYU. What amazes me the most is how strong their testimonies are, especially not being at a school where it is predominately members of the Church. All their testimonies were filled with passion and vigor for the gospel. I, as a missionary, am so blessed to be able to serve where I am serving and I hope that I don't lose my gratitude for it.

Even though I have only been in the area for a couple of days there have been many things that have happened. On the first day I arrived we went to the Visitor's Center with the Sanchez family. They are awesome! Sister Sanchez has a nephew who isn't a member of the church and has been investigating for a couple of weeks. In fact, he is going to be baptized this coming week, so it will be amazing to see progress right when I get here. They are from Guatemala and they clean houses for a living, so it is way sick to still have some contact with some Latins. The coolest thing about them, well it isn't really about them, is that they live with someone famous. Well for my era, not so famous but for my parents and their era she is famous. The Sanchez live with Tania Tucker. I don't know who she is but I've heard a lot about her and when I get back from the mission I'll have to listen to some of her tunes. For reals. They are a really cool family. Unfortunately, Carlos is going back to Guatemala at the end of the month since his visa is going to expire. Buzz kill I know but I do know that everything happens for a reason, so there is no need to fear. Man I'm so excited about this area. Everyone is so nice and is so much like the people back home and the dinners are DELICIOUS. They are true English food, of which I haven't had in forever. The other great news is that two days before Sunday we received a referral from the Visitor's Center Sisters for this guy named Mike. We didn't have any time to contact him throughout the week but we managed getting a hold of him on Saturday and he was excited to go to church the next day. We decided to meet at the Visitor's Center and walk over to the Westwood building which is on the same temple grounds. When we got there he was waiting for us, along with a Sister from the Visitor's Center. I think that was the first time that I have ever had someone come to church that easy and the cool thing was that the entire UCLA Student Ward was wanting to talk to them. After all, they are all return missionaries but it was amazing to see how fast they were to welcome him into the ward and make him feel comfortable. Mike, is not the hippest guy around the block; sort of geeky, and it was cool to witness how many were able to connect. It was really a testimony grower to see how strong the students in the ward were, in fellow shipping and in welcoming us as well, since we are both new in the ward. I love the area, for sure. I really hope that I die in this area (mission term) and am able to really serve at the best of my capabilities, even though they are not that influencing. On New Years we had a mission conference to start off the new year by reviewing Standards of Excellence that President Baker has established for the mission in the year to come. He was extremely excited, if I could say: a little too excited, about the year to come. The California Los Angeles Mission has been witnessing many miracles over the past year. We have witnessed 751 people come closer to our Heavenly Father through the ordinance of baptism, way more the Standards of Excellence had established for the past year. Thanks to our Heavenly Father our joy is full and we have put the cherry, which is meaningless, on the Hot Fudge Sunday. But I think the more important part of the New Years Conference was that of how we shared our testimonies of the Book of Mormon after accomplishing the goal that President Baker had asked us to do. I finished about 11PM the night before but I saved the best for last. The book of Moroni is such a powerful book when we think of what was going through his mind at the time he was writing such a Holy writ. I cannot imagine how difficult it was for him to come up with such powerful words to describe his desire to help those who would read upon its pages for generations to come. One of the scriptures that really impacted me was verses 32 and 33 from the last chapter in the Book of Mormon. It says:

"Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot."

These scriptures have given me great hope to know that I can become the same as my Heavenly Father: unspotted. I know that his grace is sufficient for those who earnestly seek after the thing that God has established here on the earth. There is great difference between love and law as Elder Oaks explained with such precision. The Book of Mormon is the word of God. I know it and I know that God does know His holy words, and I know more importantly that I cannot deny it. I hope that we start this upcoming year that we can really focous on the things that matter most and apply them in our lives. There is no greater call and no greater joy found in serving the Lord in His kingdom here on the earth.

I miss you all and love you too. Till next week.
Elder Leavell

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