Tuesday, July 21, 2015

July 14th—July 20th: My First Opportunity to Give a Priesthood Blessing

     As I mentioned last week, last Monday was Brilliant!!!  It was the best day of my mission so far.  It started off with study as usual and planning our training for District meeting.  My assignment is to teach on “asking for referrals.”  Even though it was P-day, we taught a lesson to a lady who had contacted us.  Her name is Korina and her husband is Paul.  She is wonderful.  She just moved to Blackpool and was taught by previous missionaries.  She believes everything and has a strong testimony.  She told us that her biggest dream is to be baptized.  How wonderful is that to hear as a missionary!  She has a powerful addiction to tobacco, but I know that the power of the Atonement is stronger.  We have worked with her through the week and we gave her a blessing on Wednesday.  The mission president had suggested that we move her baptism up to July 25th.  She wants it so bad.  As the week progressed, and at the baptismal interview, it was determined that Karina hasn’t been honest with us and is still smoking, so her baptism is postponed back to August 1st.  President Ulrich said to not postpone it very long, otherwise she will just procrastinate making the necessary changes in her life.  He also said that as we meet with her to spend more time teaching the doctrine and less time focusing on how to stop smoking.  We will start with Faith. 
Peter was the guy that came in and scared us last Monday.  It was a miracle that we were there and that the Church was unlocked.  The second he saw us he asked “Can I have a Book of Mormon and will you give me a blessing?”  We found out that his cancer causes him great pain and he knew that we could help him before he went on to the hospital.  I gave the blessing after Elder Fernandez anointed him.  It was incredible.  I have never felt that way before.  I don’t remember anything I said besides that Heavenly Father loves him and through the power of the Atonement, Christ can comfort us and help us to overcome our pain.  The entire time that I was giving the blessing my head was just spinning.  It was the strangest feeling that I have ever had.  While I was giving the blessing, Peter just kept saying thank you and that he knew Heavenly Father loves him.  After the blessing he immediately stood up and he was telling us how much better he felt.  He gave us his address and we gave him our phone number and said that we would visit him depending upon how long he was in the hospital.  We have gone to his home during the week and nobody was there.  His neighbor said he was still in the hospital.  We have gone to the hospital and they have said his surgery was out-patient, so we don’t know where to find him.  He has our phone number and we will keep trying to reach him.  No matter what, he felt the spirit and knows that Heavenly Father is there for him.
My training in District Meeting went pretty well.  They are way easier than Elders Quorum lessons as missionaries actually participate.  It’s wonderful.  Two other interesting things, is that I found a mouse in our apartment.  I turned on the lights and it shot across the floor.  I got my flashlight and Elder Fernandez and I looked under the washer.  It shot out at us and ran to its hole.  We shoved some plastic bags into the hole until we can buy some rat poison.  I am also proud of myself.  I fixed my shirt pocket that had ripped.  I only stabbed myself like a dozen times as well.  The worst part was threading the needle.  Good heck, it was stressful.
Last thing of the week was when we were at St. John’s square street contacting, two men came up and asked us for directions.  I didn’t know the road but we ended up talking to them for like 2 hours.  Their names are Josh and Bobby.  Elder Fernandez talked with Bobby more and I spoke more with Josh.  He is an interesting character. He was basically raised by a super Protestant grandma and wants to change his life so that he can honor her memory a little and make her proud of him.  He is 19 but has done some crazy stuff.  He quit illegal drugs about 7 months ago and has been clean ever since so he has the strength to change and a desire.  He has a good job. He is a very good person, very bright, nicest person ever, but has made some interesting choices.

Elder Tarbet

Picture of our Street Display

Street Display

July 7th—July 13th: Our First Street Display

     The week started off with us going to Lancaster, which is where all of the other missionaries in our District live and serve.  Our District consists of 4 companionships.  The District leader, the Zone Leaders, a companionship of sisters, and us.  Their area is 1/3 the size of ours and there are three.  It was fun to spend some time together.  We spent the night and then had Zone Conference the next morning.  It was very good.  We talked about the formula of faith which is (1) desire (2) belief (3) action (4) expectation.  The one statement that really stood out to me was “Miracles are Faith in Action.”  I just think that is so true.  We hurried back from Zone Conference to have Tea with Steve, who is an ex-member of the Church, who is a great man, and is actually the ward pianist.  He is super active and helpful to the missionaries.
I have found my street contact stop.  I walk up to them and I immediately shake their hand.  It naturally makes them stop and intrigues them.  People keep saying that I am bold so I will go with that for now.  This week marked my 1 month out in the field.  1 month since I have seen my family.  It sounds like a long time that way, but it has gone so fast.  It is true that days are weeks and weeks are days. I wanted to let you know that I have been getting along with my companion very well for the last week and things are much better.  He isn’t any different but I am.  It is a testament to me that Heavenly Father does answer prayers.
We did our 1st street display which was so hard.  We had a table and it was just 2 of us against so many and was overwhelming.  We did teach 11 lessons though and got one solid investigator so that is success.  I don’t think that I have ever had someone try and walk through me before.  It was like I was invisible to these people.   The next day the rest of the district came and helped us do a 2nd one.  The District and Zone leaders came and brought some banners so that looked actually quite professional, much better than the one we did.  One of our ward missionaries was there, a crazy lady (but super funny), and brought her own street display that was super awkward.  It was a crocheted picture of Christ in a frame sitting on a knit doilie.  She had some Books of Mormon and some pamphlets.  The icing on the cake was that she had a CD player booming super loud.  I was teaching a lesson right there and it was really messing me up so I subtly turned it way down.  It felt like our street display was solid and hers was the competing JW stand.  The only word I have for it is awkward.
I think today, P-day, has been the highlight of the week.  We had an appointment with 2 investigators.  We have set a baptismal date of August 1st,  so pray for them to have strength.  She really struggles with smoking and he is just waiting for her.  Also, as we were at church emailing, some random man came in and scared the poop out of me because he looked drunk.  He has bowel cancer and was on his way to the hospital and wanted us to give him a blessing.  He is a less active, but he still has faith.  He told us to come and visit him and we gave him a Book of Mormon and some stuff to read while he was in the hospital.  We gave him a blessing and immediately he told us how much better he felt and how he felt so much less pain.  It was the first blessing that I have ever given.  I have only done the anointing before.  I will tell you more about it next week.

Elder Tarbet

June 30th—July 6th: A Promise from the Mission President

      This week started off with district meeting.  It gave me some help with answers I have been looking for, how to “find” better and how to be “patient.”  On the train ride back we actually taught a fellow and gave him a Book of Mormon. 
I have been struggling with my companion and wish that we worked harder.  I read in “adjusting to missionary work” that when we feel stressed or lonely or what not, to pray and pretend like Heavenly Father is sitting there beside you listening and caring about you like any other father would when their child needs help or council.  I took my own way on that.  I tried writing a letter to Heavenly Father.  It allowed me to put my thoughts in order so they don’t get scattered as I pray.  I have determined that I need to love my companion.  I haven’t been, but I need to.  I need to become a stronger person in the Lord and love unconditionally so that we can come closer to being true disciples of Christ.   
After that, the Zone Leaders called and when they were finished talking to Elder Fernandez, they talked to me.  They told me that where I am at isn’t uncommon. I have to work through it.  They challenged us to give each other a blessing each morning during companion study.  This was an answer to my prayer.  This has helped me a lot this week and my relationship with my companion has improved immensely.
Blackpool is a very large area, and it is not unusual to spend over an hour and 45 minutes getting from one side to the other on the bus.  We do not have anyone that we are teaching.  We have had a few appointments but most have been a bust.  The ward is solid with 50 to 60 active members. 
As I was riding the bus on the 4th of July I talked to a young man named Chase.  As I was getting off he asked “What is your belief in a nutshell?”  Well, being a good missionary I hurried and handed him a restoration pamphlet and told him to call me once he had read it, but I needed to quickly answer his question.  As I was about to get off, I kinda yelled back to him “God is our loving Heavenly Father and he cares dearly for us.”   Hopefully, something comes of that even if it just lifts his day. 
Our week finished off with a fireside in the Manchester South Stake.  It was epic!  It is a fireside where the Mission President calls recent converts to share their testimonies and they are so strong.  They have changed every part of their lives in order to come closer to Heavenly Father.  It really made me want to go to work!  After the meeting I got to go and talk to President Ulrich and he gave me some advice about the Blackpool area, and a promise.  We are to do all of our finding for this week within 1 mile of our flat, do 2 street displays, be 100% obedient, and pray every 2 hours as a companionship.  If we do these things he promised us, apparently his promises have a 100% track record, that we will find 4 solid new investigators.  I hope that this truly happens.

Elder Tarbet

First pictures in the Field

Day in the life of a missionary

Cool church!

Preston Zone

June 25th—June 29th: First week in the Field

       Well, so much has happened in the last two days and I haven’t had a chance to write it all down, so here it goes.  Yesterday we left the MTC at 6:30, so I was up at 5:15, which was a killer for the rest of the day, especially after I was up til after 12.  Five hours of sleep just wasn’t enough haha.  So we got picked up by the assistants and put on a coach (bus) and taken to the mission home where we met with President and Sister Ulrich who are two of the nicest people I have ever met.  They are wonderful.  We spoke to them briefly before President Ulrich started interviews, then the assistants did some training which was quite helpful.  They made it fun though because we were all exhausted; we were so out of it.  
I didn’t get to be interviewed by him, but I met with him in a small group.  He is a genius.  He knows soo much about the scriptures.  I asked him how I can better feel the spirit and become more in tune with His will.  He told me (us) that the best thing we can do is to read the Book of Mormon, then we read Preach My Gospel and then we pray, and pray, and pray.  He was also telling us that the Book of Mormon talks about Christ and the Atonement more than even the Testaments. 2.6 times a verse in the Book of Mormon compared to 1.7 in the bible, how crazy is that!  Anyways, we went to the church to have a big mission conference and to meet our trainers, I was the last to get mine and I was terrified—never been so nervous over something so dumb.  But my trainer is Elder Fernandez from Sparks, Nevada.
We are white-washing (which means we are both being transferred into the area together) the Blackpool area which is really hard since neither of us knows the area.  We eventually got to our flat and then immediately went and knocked few doors down the street.  That was about it for my first in-field day. 
My trainer is phenomenal!  Such a great guy, he kinda beats to his own drum, but really who doesn’t.  His name is Elder Fernandez and he has been out four transfers.  Well, actually this is his fourth.  He is an amazing guy who is one of the most happy-go-lucky and optimistic people I have ever met.  He was a beach bum in Reno area (Lake Tahoe) before he came out here. Much of our area had been red-zoned (no go) for years and was reopened to use, which could be great when it comes to finding since it is the town center where the vast majority of the people are.  The plan is to try and set up a street display with the whole district because they have started them in Liverpool, where my companion was, and they are unbelievably effective, they had forty lessons in about six hours.  This area has hope and I hope I get to see the great things that become of it
  I got to speak to Elder Jolly today which was phenomenal!  It was so great to hear from someone back home.  I think he is a very good missionary judging from his reputation.  It was good to hear a voice from back home.  
I taught my first official lesson and it went really well, at least I think it did.  We went and just talked with him (our investigator).  He has a very strong belief in God and that God cares about us.  He will be a little bit of a challenge because he has such a strong personality and talks a lot.  We didn’t get to teach him much but we were able to get to know him and leave him with the commitment to read and to pray about the Book of Mormon.  We also invited him to pray for his daughter who has a lot of problems, but I promised him that if he would pray to ask Heavenly Father to let his daughter feel of his love and of Heavenly Father’s love, God would answer his prayer.  After that that we went hunting at St. John’s Square which is where we hope to be able to set up a street display in order to get more investigators.  I can totally understand having been in that area why it is that the area was red-zoned.  Some of the streets in that place felt, for lack of a better term, evil.  I have never felt more uncomfortable with a place I have stood in my whole life.  I shudder just thinking about it and it makes my skin crawl. 
The week ended with a fireside for a young man that leaves on his mission tomorrow and is a convert to the church.  While we were there, after, I had the opportunity to talk to both AJ and Avatar (friends of the convert) and to share with them a little bit about the gospel.  The one thing that they said that really stood out to me was “He (the convert) hasn’t always been this way.”  They had seen the change in him from before he was a member until now, that was what had intrigued them enough to come and talk to us.  I taught them about prayer and about how the things that we know can be confirmed through prayer.  I bore unto AJ in particular my testimony and how it is that God has changed my life and answered my prayers.  I gave him a Book of Mormon (I am so happy I grabbed one) and had him read Moroni 10:3–5 and then we talked about it.  We also talked about Alma 34:17–26 and I left him my email and my testimony that God is our loving Father who wants to hear from us.  He committed to read over the Book of Mormon and the Restoration pamphlet I gave him and most importantly to pray about it.  He never would have let any of that happen if it hadn’t been for the example of Jason (the convert).  Even if nothing more comes of our chat, Jason has touched lives before he ever became a missionary.  We are the city on a hill.  Our light cannot be hid from the people around us.  We can never know the lives that we will touch just by being ourselves and by living the gospel.  Jason hadn’t told his friends about the gospel, but they already know that it was good before they talked to me because he had let his light shine before the world.

                Elder Tarbet