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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

6/26/2017: Week 37 Woah...Weeklies Only a Week Apart...

What a concept! Haha I'm just proving that no, not all missionaries stop writing emails, although I may still not be very good at it. I'm just a work in progress and aren't we all? oh well, I'll get there eventually I guess. Honestly this really hasn't been the most exciting of weeks. It almost feels like we haven't done much at all, even though I'm sure we did. I guess you all can decide.

Monday last week you already heard about, and Tuesday as well. The biggest highlights were catching a fish (a fish almost identical to the first fish I ever caught in my life [cue to include that picture of me with my first fish, mom (which I will find eventually)] Which means I don't have to include a picture the fish is the spitting image of the fish in this is picture, haha) 

Wednesday is always fun. That's our day to go perform at the nursing home and have a great singing time with all the residents, it's really a very uplifting experience for both us and them. That's also the day we have lunch with the senior missionary couple in our stake, the Salings. I can't remember if I mentioned this in my last email, but a well or two ago we had a zone conference where zone changes happened, including, as I'm sure I mentioned, the changes to the zone names. If I ended up leaving that out, somebody tell me and I'll explain. Anyway, a part of those changes was a new agenda of sorts for our seniors lunch meetings. This ended up being our first chance to really implement that new deal, and it turned out being essentially what we always did anyway, just more structured. It was good though and we had some good discussions as usual. I had been studying the revelations concerning the kingdoms of glory and baptism for the dead and such things in the doctrine and convenants and it made for some very insightful and enlightening conversation. I'd be happy to share that with anyone who's interested as well, but be warned, it's some deep stuff. We then had a very interesting lesson with some staunch bible only believers and came away... not hopeful to say the least. Since then however, some inspiration has come and we're ready to see them again in a couple days. The rest of the day went fairly smoothly, dinner with the Whittles, and a lesson with J and I to round out the night. 

Thursday was a good day as well... President Interviews! Probably one of my favorite things about each new transfer, another interview with president Hodgman. Prior to my entering the mission, they had been having Zone Conferences and interviews every other transfer, if that frequently, then after my first transfer, they decided to make it every transfer, so I've actually never not had one in a transfer. Anyway, president Interviews went super well. I love being able to discuss things with President Hodgman, and feel of his spirit and inspiration. It's sad, when I first entered the field, all the missionaries around me seemed to dread interviews, and I just couldn't understand it. Now I think I understand better and luckily the missionaries I'm serving around now tend to have a better attitude. However, if you're hiding things, or not doing as you should on your mission, the accountability that comes, and the opportunity to be the focus, personally, of a very inspired man, with Priesthood keys to direct your work, could be an intimidating prospect indeed. But anyway, it was really good, and I feel good about where I am. Always leading up to interviews, whatever failings I have, or mistakes I've made, times I wasn't as obedient as I could've or should've been, they all come to mind, and a little bit like the time before the sacrament, I'm given an opportunity to think about what I've done and what I should be doing. Then in my interview is the time to take care of any of those things and make sure I am clear of conscience and heart. Sometimes, things that I think I'm going to have to talk to him about, failings and inconsistencies, the spirit tells me I've done enough when I get there, that I’ve been forgiven and that there is no need. It's an incredible experience, I know which things we may need to talk about, and I know when I am clean and just ready to progress and improve. It's a powerful experience every time. Following interviews and district training meeting, I got to have a rather unique experience. We had received a call the day before from Ungermans Meat Market that our order was ready. So we went to go pick it up. A little background, one of our Zone Leaders, Elder Redmond, is from the south and is a master BBQer. We were talking on exchanges a couple months ago and discussed having a big Zone BBQ the next transfer (this transfer) as we were discussing it, he mentioned how he would love it if he could make pig head for us. It just so happened that I had met a man just days before who worked as a butcher at Ungermans. I told him I'd talk to him about it. It turns out, you need an extra permit and more inspections in order to keep and sell certain parts of the pigs and other animals. That include seperate freezers, processing etc. Ungermans doesn't go to such expense, but you can get some of those parts from a freshly butchered animal for free because they just throw them away anyway. So we put in an order for a pig head next time they butchered one. A week or two later Elder Redmond also requested a liver, so we went in for an order for that as well. So anyway, the call came and we picked up a styrofoam cooler from Walmart, and headed to Ungermans. Much to our surprise we discovered, not only a pig head and liver, but an additional head and liver, and two hearts to go with them. In very large clear plastic bags with much gore and blood splashing around. Haha my companion just about lost it. He didn't really know I'd been making these preparations... and he wasn't prepared at all for what came. Then we just surreptitiously left them in our Zone Leaders freezers and that was that. That was really most of the day right there, then we had to practice a musical number for the Blue Hills Wards Youth Conference the next day, and rounded out the night with a great lesson with S who should be getting baptized in the middle of next month. 

Friday. Oh Friday. A very long Friday. We had some emergency laundry to do, and rotated between that, weekly planning, and preparing a new song for the youth conference which was that night because we decided the song we had been working on just wasn't ready yet and needed more time. So we started a new one from scratch. Maybe not the wisest thing I've ever done... but it was fun ;p so basically all day was spent that way, with lunch and studies and my companion working on my plan. Then the youth conference itself included service, dinner, and then a fireside at which we both spoke, and then performed. It was a crazy, crazy day. We had to perform outdoors at a pavilion with a ramshackle mic and speaker array, and I was playing a dinky keyboard that didn't have enough keys, but I hoped it turned out alright anyway.

Saturday was another one of those days... we had a lot of plans but it ended up being very simple. I'm not sure exactly what happened...but let's just say that J. and I. got a lot of attention this week. Especially the weekend. We had stopped by just to confirm that we were gonna have a lesson out at their property near Emery that evening, which some how turned into us eating some very good stuffed peppers (I'm sorry I never appreciated yours mom, I didn't have a very developed palette the last time you made them) and spending an hour or so discussing various ways to jump into pools and how to make the greatest splashes. Then something else happened... which also ate up a bunch of time... then we discovered we were supposed to go to Emery by 4 to practice Be Still My Soul with the bishops family for church the next day... which ended up meaning that we practiced as Erin and I arranged various changes to make it a little more exciting. Then right after that we got to have another vocal lesson... which Erin had Caroline observe and listen to which certainly didn't help things. Although we did bring Shards of Glass and with Erin's help I was finally able to work through some of my mental block in that song so for the first time in years it sounded almost like I thought it should, that was awfully nice. And I unlocked some more higher voice things, so that worked out good as well. Then straight to dinner with Bishop nephew and his family where we discussed some of the most intense laser tag capture the flag 10 acre family night games that hopefully might be a thing by the time I come back to Ferron post mission. We also discussed some fantastic plans for the Emery 24th parade, but more on that when we get there, hopefully we'll have a video for you all. Then straight from there out to the Jenkins property to spend several hours roasting hotdogs and marshmallows, chasing rabbits with the boys and listening to Elder Hollands talk, where justice love and mercy meets. That was wonderful, and then sister Jenkins explained that their piano teacher (who they started taking lessons from after I came to their house and played the piano for them) was on vacation for a month and a half or so, so she asked if I could continue teaching them until he came back. So we set up to see them again on Sunday. 

Then Sunday happened. Went to Emery and sang with the Bishops family, it actually went quite well, although far from perfect of course ;P we also got to listen to the primary sing and some wonderful talks, all the while torturing the little boy sitting in front of us. Good times. Then Gospel principles and so on, then we accidentally sat in on the High Priest Group instead of the Elders Quorum. And this is what happened…

We had a great lesson yesterday. We went down to Emery to sing Be Still My Soul with the Bishop and his family. Whenever we go down to Emery for Sacrament meeting, we normally stay for all the meetings since we don't get to go there all that often. We sat in on a High Priest Group Lesson based on an Ensign article called 'No Greater Joy Than To Know That They Know' in the November 2016 Ensign. Brother George, who was teaching the lesson, is a fantastic teacher and also teaches the Gospel Principles class we attend while we're there. He's also the High Priest Group Leader, understand that in Emery, many people double up on callings because the town is so small. As a result however, many of these people have been strengthened and qualified by the Lord to have abilities far beyond their own. Such is the case with Brother George, he is a great example to me and has a penchant for asking Inspired Questions. He asked 'If you were the only one from which any of your children, or grandchildren, could have or had learned anything about the Gospel, what would they know?' That question caused a lot of fumbling with words and avoidance of the question. He then rephrased the question, what would we want them to know? I had assumed that would be the next question as I listened to every one fumbling for words and an answer, so I'd been thinking about it already, but when he actually asked it something clicked. After a few responses from the assembly, I raised my hand and explained that while I don't have any kids yet, when I do there are 3 things I want to teach them and be sure that they know. First, it is so important to me that my children know how to be good people. They know to serve, to put others first, to be the kind of person Jesus was, regardless of their beliefs. Second, I want them to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I know the Gospel is true, that I have a testimony of Joseph Smith and the Restoration and the Book of Mormon that is stronger than all evidence and offense and cannot be shaken. And Third, I want them to know HOW to find out for themselves if it's all true. I cannot and will not force my children to believe, and I cannot control their actions or restrict their agency, I cannot make them know it's true. But I can make sure they know how. I can teach them how to be some one the spirit can testify to, I can provide an example of faith and testimony, and I can teach them to learn for themselves. That's the only way. The only way I WANT to raise my kids. If they choose to leave, so be it, if they stray, so be it, but they must know what they can do when the time is right, they must know who they can turn to when they hit rock bottom. And they will. If I can teach them nothing else, that is what is important.

It was a really cool experience. I had a glimpse of who I wanted to be and how I wanted to raise my children. My mission is so much more than just knocking on doors and talking about Jesus, it's shaping an individual, it's shaping a family, it's forming bonds and connections that will be perpetuated behind the eternities and will shape the whole family of my spirit, in the life and beyond. And it does the same for all who enters its flames, it takes what you are when you enter and makes you more. A lump of clay coming in may leave a beautiful pot. A seed may sprout into grass, or a great oak tree. A piece of coal, may enter and leave a diamond. The best thing we can do, is strive to become as good as we can before we begin, and strive to progress as far and as fast as we can during, so that we can be as great as we can as we leave. It's a beautiful thing.

After church we had our weekly lesson with J., and we also started preparing things for his baptism. I'm so excited for him, so prepared and so ready to be blessed and strengthened by the strength of the Gospel. Then we had our first Correlation with our new high councilor, Brother Anderson. He's excited and gung-ho and ready to go to work so that's good as well. Then we had our piano lessons with G, J., and I. Then a Gospel lesson. Then Dinner... then more stuff.... like I said... they got a lot of attention this weekend. But it's been good, and in a couple days the decision is final and hopefully they'll be able to get baptized finally. It's been an awfully long time coming. All the prayers would be appreciated greatly

Have a great day, have a great week, have a great life.

Elder DeFord

Sunday, June 25, 2017

6/20/2017: Week 36 There's Always a Bigger Fish ...

Or at least a bigger weekly. Seems like every time I miss a week...the less motivated I am to fix it the next week... so this is gonna be massive because I've finally decided to stop procrastinating and get all caught up again. So first.... a bunch of excuses!

First of all... I truly love frisbee. On a level most people have trouble understanding. So for the last several weeks I've been with a companion who actually plays and appreciates frisbee, if not quite as much as I do. Therefore distraction. Also my mom informed me that she was an email behind in posting a week or two ago... which meant I was off the hook right cuz no one wants two posts in one week.... then this week we went to the temple, and thanks to a new worldwide missionary policy change we can only attend the temple on Pdays. And since most temples are closed on mondays... that means tuesday pday. This morning I definitely had more excuses... but I forgot what they were. Oh well.

Next point... those of you who thought I was dead... you're all just silly. And don't know me at all. I am clearly invincible in regular life, and even more so as a missionary, literally nothing can kill me. So there. In addition, I refuse to die before getting married, and before the Millennium comes so thats another reason to stuff it... and on top of all of THAT, I have way too many adventures left in my life to die now. Besides the obvious reason that I have yet to play Breath of the Wild and until that happens the Millennium is straight up not allowed to come. That might be blasphemous... but oh well.

So there ya go... as for the last few weeks. No I have not been smashed by any cows lately. I haven't even gotten to wrestle any cows in weeks. We have done some herding but thats it. In other news I caught my first fish today... in like 9 years or something like that... and I was the only one to catch one I might add... so ha. Also went to the Manti Temple today which is always good... oh I hate catching up when I fall behind... you'd think I would just keep up but no... I haven't learned my lesson yet. Haha I just hope you all realize how lucky you are, I get emails from some missionaries, and my companions send theirs.... sometimes. I'm more consistent than all of them, and I write way more :P ok I'm done complaining... back to work...

Well maybe not that massive. I think I'm just gonna write a bunch of cool things that have happened and not even gonna try to make them in order or anything like that.So first.... my new companion that nobody knows about. So transfers happened and Elder Baker headed to Provo. I know have Elder Bayless, and I swear I'm gonna kill him by the end of the transfer. Literally. He's going home this transfer and I'm his last companion. Its been fun. A little about him, he’’s from North Carolina, wants to get jacked, loves music and frisbee, and is super chill. Its good stuff. To be fair... he is kind of trunky, so sometimes it’s hard to stay focused, but that’s just about the only problem we ever have. Unless I do something dumb, which as you all know, happens more frequently than any of us would like. Any who, we get along great and it’s been really good for both of us I think. We've gotten to play lots of frisbee, do some duets, and now instead of just me, we are both taking voice lessons once a week together. Also been really good for both of us. Can't remember if I told you about this, the Bishops daughter in Emery and her husband and family just moved in a little while back, he got called as ward missionary, and she’s a pro voice teacher so... yeah, the stars aligned. Its been a ton of fun, and I've learned so much. I thought I knew an awful lot... but shoot. I don't know anything. And I've been doing things wrong for so long... theres a lot of relearning going on as well. And now I don’t even have to feel bad for dragging my companion to these things... cuz he does it too!

Any who... miracles, let them begin. J finally decided to take the lessons and get baptized, we got a self referral for a 21 year old who wants to be baptized and apparently some other family members want to as well. Then we got a referral from a less active in one of our wards for a lady who has actually already quit smoking and got a book of Mormon before we ever met her. Needless to say, all three of them are now on date for baptism, and for sure two of them will make it on the first try, and the other probably will as well. So that was pretty amazing to say the least. Looks like we can finally start working with some others that we've been waiting on for some time. Don't get me wrong, there was bad stuff too. We got chewed out by a random lady, some people yelled at us to go away, several sets of kids we can't teach because of their stinky annoying parents who have something against the gospel for no real reason.

Oh also so Fathers Day didn’t really happen... we had an emergency stake conference because our stake president is moving away... so that was fun. And now, somehow, we are singing in Emery with the Bishops family next week for it. We also got asked 3 days before zone conference to prepare a special musical number... so we did. And then my mic died halfway through and I was behind the piano playing... luckily I'm apparently obnoxiously loud so every one could hear anyway ;P Other things from zone conference... we were renamed the Canyon Land Zone instead of the Price Zone... that only lasted a few days though... everyone couldnt stop saying Candy Land instead. So now we're the Red Rock Zone which is so much better. 

In the past several weeks I've gotten to give several blessings to people and I feel like its really blessed my life. We go to the Nursing home every Wednesday morning to sing and have some music time and we were able to give a dear old lady a blessing for the chronic pain she'd been having. We also were able to have a meeting with the activities director and her family, her grandkids are staying with her for the summer and their parents are less active so we were able to have some music time their as well and teach them about the Plan of Salvation. It was a nice break from the norm. We also did service for like 6 hours putting in fence stays in someone fence. It was a lot of fun, then we installed some custom parts on a side by side after that. Again, a nice break from the same old same old. We were gonna go help with some more branding, but then they branded a cow which then laid down and died so instead we just herded them and put them out to pasture anyway.

It was pretty cool we just decided to stop by someone who we have awesome fellowshippers for, we just figured that they would be ok, and the fellowshippers were doing everything they could. But we hadn't been able to meet with them in sometime so we stopped by just to invite them to church and we had a really good discussion and set a lesson. Which fell through because of cows, and then a double ear infection, but it was cool to see how their eyes lit up from that personal contact, and the progress we instantly made. Their fellowshippers really are fantastic, but they also fear going too far just as we all do. If I had any advice for you people out there, its just do it. If they tell you to shove off, then give them some space. But until you do something for them and at least invite them, give them the opportunity to learn, you're accountable in some degree in the judgement for not reaching out. Does that mean that you'll be cast off just because you didn't tell one person you were a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints? Of course not, but when those people, especially your friend and neighbors and family members, find the truth, dont you think they'll ask why you didn't ever tell them. They may not have accepted it right then, but ask yourself this... Do you love them enough to offer them the peace and joy you've found in your faith? Do you love them enough to offer them Eternal Life and Glory with their families and with God? Or another thought... do you hate them so much you would keep those things from them? I've been saying for a long time I have a lot of regrets from before my mission, people I should've and could've reached out to, people who wanted to know, and I didn't. People that I loved and cared about, some of my closest and oldest friends. But apparently I never cared enough to give them eternal life and happiness. Or maybe I didn't believe as much as I thought I did, maybe my testimony wasn't strong enough. But I know now, and I've decided to do something about it. I know that by opening my mouth I can change the lives, even the eternal destinies of the people I love. I know that by small and simple things; by building our faith through prayer, scripture study, and church attendance; really simple things, we can be happier, we can have fuller more rich experiences, we can love deeper, and be loved, we have eternal support in every trial we face, we can one day receive the great blessings of the temple, we can be sealed to our families for eternity, we can have a fulness of joy and live with God again. I know that the church is true, I know that the Book of Mormon, and the principles contained in it, are true. I know that following the principles of the gospel will lead to joy and happiness and all it takes is a bold invitation backed with love. Do it and your joy will be full as well. Don't do it, and that becomes your problem in the end.

Have a great day, have a great week, have a great life.

Elder DeFord