Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Happy Easter

Wednesday, April 27, 2011 0
I'm so thankful to be on a mission. We just got done with the temple today and it was one of the best sessions that I have been in. Don't know what was the difference because it is the same but it has made me so thankful for all the things that I have been blessed with. There was this old little lady in a wheel chair and to see her struggle lifting her arm (had to lift it up with her other arm) was something that I don't think I will forget. It's cool how the Lord answers our prayers and how he usually answers them through others so that it can cause many to strive for charity to fulfill the needs of His children. There is nothing like a tender mercy from the Lord. I'm so thankful that, we as missionaries, can be those tender mercy messengers to the world wherever we are serving. I hope that you all are striving to do the same and look for the opportunities to serve another person. When we look at others the way that our Heavenly Father does, everything changes and it makes the world look a lot better. I hope all of you are doing well and are safe and sound.

On Tuesday I went with Elder Thiriot on splits and it was an awesome time talking with him again about the times we have served together. Granted we see each other every day but it was a little different when we were together for the day. We had an awesome lesson with the Odians and it was a different lesson. That morning she called me and asked if we could go on a hike and talk on the way up and down. It was funny because I didn't know what to say since I didn't even know if we could do that but I told her we would think about it. When we got there, she was all ready and her kids were all dressed up ready to go on the hike so we went up part of the hill that was behind her house and talked about the things that she believed and why she believed what she believed. It was a good conversation I think that ended up being pretty effective since it made a comfortable environment for her. It was cool to hear some of her beliefs. I have noticed here in Malibu that most of the people who don't go to church still have some sort of spirituality and try to be at peace at oneself, which usually ends up being somewhere in nature. She seemed to have a lot of answers to the questions that we asked her but one of them stumped her. She said that the purpose of her life was to be at peace and be a good person. We then asked why? what would be the point of that if it doesn't go anywhere? She thought about it for awhile and she that is something that I have never thought about. We then went on to explain some of the teachings that the Savior taught when he was over in Israel saying that of all the things that he taught he taught two things that we should remember: first, how we should be as a person and second, he taught us why we should be like Him. After talking about those things she was a ton more humble and willing to commit to have us over to teach her and her family what we know to be true because she feels that it would be extremely important for them to be involved in a religious organization. I'm so thankful that we were able to ask questions that inspire thought and that we were lead by the spirit to discern and to ask questions that would cause her to change her view on what we do and why we do it. I can't think of any better way to teach than by the spirit, for there is none. Later that day we had a good time trying to contact some less actives that are in the area and it was great to see some of the area that I haven't seen in awhile. We had dinner with the Andersons that night and it went great. They made us Paella (sorry Mom & Dad I don't know how to spell it) and it was awesome. You could tell that she put in a lot of time and effort to prepare that meal for us. There house is so cool. It's on the beach and so we got to see the beach AND the water up front and personal. Didn't touch it but we almost could which was awesome. But beside them being able to afford a house like that it was awesome to see how humble they were and how devoted they were to their family. I can't seem to get beside the fact that almost all of them are so humble. They would do anything for anyone. It is awesome. Sister Anderson is from Las Vegas and knows a bunch of people for the stake so it was good to talk about them. Their kids were awesome too. I forgot my camera but I put up some pictures next week. Splits day was an awesome day. We did our weekly service at the Retirement home and I had the opportunity to push a lady named Lorane. She is famous amongst the missionaries because she is super nice and fun to be around, plus she buys you a pastry whether you like it or not. Haha. Even the people know at the pastry stand that if we don't accept her gift that she gets mad haha. It was really delicious if I might add. Anyways it is always a pleasure to push them and to talk with them. It's cool to see the peoples reaction too. It's either, what are you doing? or wow. On Saturday we had the opportunity to see Josh Eastland's baptism, one of the Eastland kids. I think that is one of the best parts that is outside of the temple. It's so awesome to see how children, despite their young age, are humble and filled with the spirit to choose what is right. The best part is seeing how excited they are. Even the kids who aren't old enough almost jumped in the font with Josh haha. It was awesome. They had a little luncheon afterwards at their home and it was good to talk to some of the members of the ward and meet some new people who aren't members of the Church. Then Easter Sunday. It was awesome. I'm so thankful that we get to go to two wards every Sunday. It was awesome to feel of the spirit, especially on this Easter Sunday. At the Pacific Palisades Ward the Andersons gave talks and they were awesome. Plus the Primary sang a couple of songs and once again the spirit rushes into the room. Works like a charm. Recently, I have been writing down some quotes that I really like from what people say. It helps me focus more. Anyways Brother Anderson had a good one, hopefully I can give some background otherwise it probably won't make too much sense. He told of a time when he went down to Haiti with a medical team to help those who couldn't afford medical care. He said that it was an experience that he would never forget even though he said that he had been witnessing similar circumstances on a daily basis. He said after a long day of work trying to help everyone, they began to drive home, exhausted and while they were driving they saw a man pushing a wheelbarrow with a little girl inside. They stopped the car and saw that the little girl had been hurt. So they all got out and drove them back the long distance to the hospital. He said that the little girl had been hurt by a brick that fell on her arm and crushed the bone. Fortunately they were able to save her life, despite the loss of blood but they were not able to save the arm. Then the experience that he will never forget. Brother Anderson went to talk with the Father of the girl and he said that the Father said, "If I could only take her pain away." Brother Anderson in his talk explained that happened to our Heavenly Father when His only Begotten was suffering the atonement for all of us. He further explained that God wasn't able to take the pain away from His Son but he was able to take the pain away from us, just as the girl couldn't save her arm and we should take great hope in that. I definitely won't forget that story. The best part about it is that in the UCLA Ward we also had a great line that came from Brother Lattin, he said, "The message of the resurrection is the message of the restoration. That He lives and still speaks to us today." Both of those lines go hand in hand. I know that Jesus Christ suffered for our sins and that our Heavenly Father called Him to bare that burden for us. I'm so thankful that we know that we can return to live with them through the Savior's atoning sacrifice, that we can be made whole, having a perfected body that can last the eternities. There is great joy to be found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. That because of the restoration we know for a fact that we will all be resurrected and that the pain is taken away from us. The only thing that we need to do is be humble and follow the Savior in His footsteps. They are not ours but they are His. I'm so thankful that we as His representatives are able to carry this glad message to everyone and were able to share the Easter message with many and it is always amazing to see how the light of Christ comes into them to witness to them that these things are true.

Out of all the things that in the world, there is one thing that I hold most dear and that is my testimony that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ live so much so that they talk to us just as they did in times past. That they appeared to the prophet Joseph Smith in the grove and professed to him the things that they would have us do. I know that as we are humble and earnestly seek Him that we will find Him. That is the purpose of the message of the restoration. It is another witness that He lives. I'm so thankful that I was able and humble enough to receive it and now I'm so thankful that I'm able to share the same gift that I have received with all. As I invite all the people I come in contact here in Los Angeles to read the Book of Mormon, I do so with all of you. May you pray for a humble heart and contrite spirit to listen to the promptings of the spirit and, in turn, pray to know that these things are true. I know they are and I'm thankful that I know they are. I love you all and wish you the best. May the Lord bless you and guide all of you in the way that He would wish to have you follow. I hope that you all had a wonderful Easter and had a great time visiting with family and friends.

Elder Leavell

Oh and Elder Hodell came back to visit. He is here for another week. I didn't know how to react haha. He came over to the Kellers for Easter dinner with us. It was awesome getting to know his family and seeing him again.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Beach Pictures

Monday, April 18, 2011 0

Stories Galour

Hello hello. It's been a week with a bunch of crazy events that have happened one day after the next. What's even more crazy is how another week has flown by. The weeks are getting faster and faster every time. I hope all of you are doing well and are enjoying what you are doing. It's great being here on the mission and serving others, there is truly no other thing that brings this much joy even though it is a lot of work. I'm glad that I decided to go on a mission and help others come unto Christ and help them build a relationship with Him to increase their joy.

We met a new family this last week, the Odians. They are a part member family that have been taught for awhile and have gone through a bunch of missionaries. Turns out that the husband is the member and has always been less active, the wife said "jack" but less active sounds better, more hopeful I would say. They like the church but because the wife nor the kids have grown up as a church-going people they have never felt or had the desire to go to Church. We had a nice conversation trying to get to know them and it was good seeing how the gospel has blessed them with a light that they probably don't see. They love tennis and the outdoors so Malibu is perfect for them haha. Anyways we talked about prayer and how that is the driving force that leads the members to do what they do. They liked the idea of receiving an answer through their prayer and said to come back the following week. Way excited to teach them and see their faith grow. Hopefully they will progress and be able to partake of all the blessings of the gospel and see their lives change. There is really nothing greater than being obedient and, in turn, being blessed. The funny thing is that you would think that is the opposite but it totally is not. Love the scripture that takes about the first being last and the last being first. And to the society today that seems to be contrary. But it is so true. Being selfless, as a missionary, has brought more joy into my life despite I do nothing for me. It is the best cure for anything. I wish I could have discovered that at the beginning of my mission when most missionaries struggle because they are out of the norm. But I'm glad I have noticed it now. We also visited with Ruth and had a good time with her. We had a good lesson on how agency is based upon knowledge. Related it to the gospel in the sense that one of these days she is going to have to teach her children the same things that the church stands for and hopefully it wouldn't be too late for her. Don't know how she felt about the lesson but I know that it made her think about how she wants to raise her children and who she wants them to become. I'm so thankful for my parents and having them take me to church those countless times that I didn't want to go. There are true principles in gospel living and those principles are only founded on the teachings of Jesus Christ. After all He is the only perfect person to walk to earth, I know of that because I know that as I have strived to follow His footsteps that it has brought forth many blessings that are good. There are so many good things in the world we just got to know where to find them. Chino also came back this last week. So it was good meeting with him on Sunday. Oh and I almost forgot that we met up with the Aldens this last week. It is always fun to meet up with them. They are those kind of people who are down to earth and help you relax somehow. Brother Alden told us a story about fireworks when he was younger. He said that when we was younger he shot off some bottle rockets with his friends up in the air, not really thinking about the consequences of doing that. Now the consequence in this case is definitely not one that you would expect in any case haha. He said that there were bats in his city and one time he shot one up in the air and the bat swooped down and caught it thinking that it was a bug. Of course, the bottle rocket blew up and the bat came spiraling down dead. I think that this is one of those stories that you have to hear but it was funny haha. He invited us to share that story with someone and relate it to the gospel. Haven't had the chance to but I'm determined. There are so many things that can relate to the gospel in that story. If any of you have any ideas let me know I would love to hear them!

As a pre-disclosure, I'm OK, everything is OK and so there is nothing to worry about. On Tuesday we went to the Odian's house, a part member family that the Bishop asked us to go visit. On our way there we saw two horses walk out of a driveway and we kept looking to see if there was someone following them. Turns out that there was no one home and the horses got loose. Dad I think they were quarter horses but I could be wrong, you probably would have liked to see them. Anyways since a bunch of members over here in Malibu have some horses I knew that two horses by themselves is not a good thing so we called some members that lived down the street and they literally dropped everything (he was on the phone for a job interview) and came to help us with the horses. Funny thing was that by the time they had gotten there, which couldn't have been more than 3 minutes, 3 or 4 cars pulled up asking us who's horses they were and if everything was OK. Luckily we saw what driveway they came from and got them put back to where they belong. The cool thing was that they were really tame and with my "horse training" that I learned from the members I approached them calmly and got something to tie around their neck and they were perfectly fine with it. Feel a great sense of accomplishment if I saw so myself. Haha. Of course this would only happen in Malibu but I still feel blessed for the opportunity to serve in various way on my mission. Alright the other thing was pretty scary, not really, just something that you don't necessarily want to happen, especially when you want to go home because you are tired. As we were driving down our road to get to our apartment we saw a bunch of cop cars blocking the way with their cars and tap and it so happened to be in front of our apartment. We tried to go the back way and still they had it blocked off so we were stranded trying to figure out what we were going to do for the night. Turns out that in the apartment right next to us (this is everything that the neighbours have told us; didn't want to know too much but they told us none the less), an ex-boyfriend of a girl who recently moved in got way mad because she had a new boyfriend in a new apartment. He got mad and started attacking the girl with a knife. The boyfriend ran off to go and try to get some help but the neighbour beat him to it. She called the police and the police came over and shot him since he didn't put the weapon down. Sad story. We don't really know what happened to the girl, we think that she is in the hospital and so yeah. Bummer. They eventually let us into our apartments, probably because they figured out who we were and weren't going to do anything that would do any harm to the crime scene. None the less, it was an eventful night with a lot of noise and lights the entire night. No worries everything is OK. I don't live in the ghetto actually, every member that knows where we live think that is a good area to live in. Just a freak event in the area.

Well sorry for the short email. Always busy. Hope all is well. Love you so much and miss you too. Peace

Elder Leavell

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Let The Magic Begin

Tuesday, April 5, 2011 0
Hello hello everyone. It's been a great week over here in the Boo. Transfers were the other day and I'm staying in Malibu for another transfer so it should be another great transfer. There are so many things that I'm excited for and this weekend was one of those things that I can't wait for. General Conference was great! I learned so much from everyone who spoke and the messages were amazing and very applicable to the times we live in now. Service is one of the main things that they focused on and how true is the principle of service in the healing process of loss and distress. I hope that you all enjoyed conference as much as I did and if you didn't have the opportunity to hear it I would highly recommend that you watch it. There is no better counsel that we can receive and we are so very blessed to be able to hear it.

There were some interesting things that happened this week and the cool thing is that they aren't very common. Because Elder Hodell went home this last week I didn't have a companion, so I had the opportunity to stay at the mission home all day with Elder Kenny. It was funny because every time I left to go do something I told Elder Hodell "well it was fun" and then I saw him again later on in the day. Probably did that about 5 times so it was nice. It was also nice being with all the missionaries that were going home and seeing how very close the same will happen to me. I can't believe that I have 11 weeks left! That is crazy. I for sure don't want to go home yet and I am not looking forward to it. None the less it was a good experience seeing how the mission has changed them from when I first met them. Being at the mission home also made me notice one thing: work is a pleasure. Since I didn't have anything to do and sat there all day it made me realize how blessed I am to work out in the field and not be stuck in an office. Haha. I remember at the beginning of my mission I was praying to be put in the office so that I wouldn't be out in the field in the rain, heat, and all those hard things; which aren't really hard at all. We hung out at the Visitor Center most of the day and as people walked I wanted to give them a tour and talk to them. The Sisters said that I could never get a referral from them and/or they would think that I was awkward or something I don't know so I took the challenge of giving a tour with the hope of getting a referral from someone. That is where the magic of being an Elder comes in. This family came in, trying to spend some time before going into a session at the temple one of which had served a mission. The mom didn't really want to talk, was more interested in the video clips that were all over the place, but the daughter and I got talking about her mission and all the cool experiences that she had over in Thailand. It was cool seeing how the mission blessed her life and the lives of all the people that she served. After awhile, after asking some questions to the mom, the mom started getting in on the conversation and seemed to be having a good time. At this point all the Sisters were laughing as they watched me work my magic and so I was a little more determined to show them that Elders can work in the Visitor Center. The amazing thing was that I got a referral. After sharing some experiences that I have had out in the field and explaining to them how important it was for the recent converts to receive the gospel they gave me a referral for one of their neighbours. I was so happy to know that the spirit guided the conversation in such a way that it would compel someone to take a huge leap of faith with a friendship of theirs and to express their love for them by giving the missionaries a referral. Whether or not the people would accept the missionaries is another story but I know that because of the effort they showed, in giving a referral, they will be blessed. So I was a Elder Visitor Center missionary for the day and it ended up being a cool day. The next day Elder Wilcox came in as my new companion. He is from Florida and is pretty different from Elder Hodell but I have hopes that it will still be a good transfer. Anyways we didn't get too much done during the week because of meetings and preparations for the zone but it was still a good week. We visited Ruth and had a great lesson with her about the baptismal covenant. We went over it with her and explained the promises that she made at baptism. It was amazing to see how her countenance began to glow as we explained the promises that she made would bring her certain blessings. It was almost as if she had seen the light at the end of the tunnel but I don't think that she took it that way. As we invited her to watch General Conference she gave the usual response that she would try. After the lesson it made me think of how personal revelation works, or in other words how we receive answers to our prayers. Over my mission I have learned that we must do everything that we can, meaning studying, praying, fasting, the usual church answers and make the decision. THEN we ask if that is OK with the intent of following through with the decision we have made. It is so hard for me because I hate thinking that what I might do is wrong and worrying if it will affect someone else but that is how the Lord works. I've thought about most of the recent converts that I have seen on my mission have come because they made the decision to be baptized and after they make the decision they receive the wonderful confirmation from our Heavenly Father. It was certainly the case with me. The main dilemma with this is that it relinquishes control and puts us in a vulnerable place where most are not comfortable but it also puts us in a position where we can receive the most blessings. We also had the opportunity to talk with some less actives that we hadn't been able to contact so we are hopeful that we will be able to find some new people to teach.

The General Conference was amazing. It never ceases to surprise me how inspired they are in giving counsel for our times. Despite a lot of people going through some difficult times the message of service is the perfect remedy for that. I have found that to be true on my mission. When we get down that there are not a lot of people to teach or we go through some difficult times in our persoanl life, the more we work/give service the weight of the burdens becomes light. This is something that the Savior taught, 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 heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matt.11:28-30) Needless to say this is pretty difficult to do because it doesn't sound logical but the rewards are better than we can ever imagine. Anyways it's funny how much we look ofrward to conference and then how fast it goes by. There were so many rad quotes from the conference, here are some that I remember:

-"Often answers come, not as we are on our knees, but as we are on our feet." President Uctdorf
-"We testify to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, that God not only lives, but that He speaks. That for our time and in our day the counsel you have heard [in General Conference] is under the direction of the Holy Spirit - the will of the Lord, the word of the Lord, the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation." "If we teach by the Spirit...and you listen by the Spirit, someone of us will touch on your circumstance, sending a personal little prophetic epistle just to you." Elder Holland
-"One cannot give a crust to the Lord with out receiving a loaf in return." President Erying

Conference is awsome. Can't wait for the next one in 6 months! Too bad I won't be on my mission for that one but I know that either way there is needed guidance to be received during these special weekends. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to watch this last General Conference and am thankful that the Church is doing so much to help the people where there is much suffering. I know that I couldn't do it on my own but that is the cool thing, the Church Welfare Program is a force of 14 million aiding those who are in need of comfort.

I hope that you all have a wonderful week and that you seek after opportunities to help others. There will be blessings on both sides when we do. Hope all is well.

Elder Leavell

Oh and Johnathan went to the Conference Center in Salt Lake so we are excited to see how he liked it.
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