Monday, November 28, 2011

Letter from Elder Henry 11/28/11

Dear Mom,

 That is an awful strange combination.  That is a huge zone!  Unless missionaries are doubling up on wards like they did when I left.  Of course my entire mission is probably about the size of Vancouver :P, so my idea of geography is a little distorted. (He was replying to my note that we don't have the Zone Leaders anymore and the zone is up to Woodland)  I've officially decided that there is no way I'm going to live in city limits for the rest of my life.  City life just is not all its cracked up to be.  Everything is crowded, you have to worry about crime, there isn't any nature to enjoy, there are people everywhere who could care less about you, and in all there really aren't any upsides.  It takes just as long, and just as much gas to get to the grocery store, as it did for me back home.  I'm happy to serve my mission here, but I'm definitely not enjoying city life as much as I thought I would.  I guess I always had kind of a magical sense of what it would be like to live in the city.  But that dream has been crushed by reality :P.

I didn't take any pictures this past week for no good reason other than its hard to find time to take some.  I'm definitely going to try and take some this week (especially today being P-day), and I'll try to get some with my Investigators as well.

That's crazy to think both Steven and Brittany are home from their missions!  I can not believe how fast time goes.  Fortunately I still have lots of time to enjoy my mission :P.
I'm glad to hear we destroyed the Beavers yet again.  Not that I had any doubts, but it's always good to hear the news ^^. 

I live in a really nice part of town, but there are a couple of Elder's that live in East Rancho Dominguez, that cover the Spanish area for Compton, and they are in much more danger.  We heard them talking about gun shots going off outside their apartment complex, and another person was telling us their cousin was killed this last Thursday right in their neighborhood.  So I'm counting my blessings for living so far outside the Ghetto areas of our area.

I'm going to send a Christmas wish-list at the end of this E-mail to give you some idea of things to send.  It isn't an exhaustive list, just some things I've scribbled down during the week, and also I can live without any of these things.  I just wanted to give you some idea of what to send since I would have no idea what a missionary wants :P.

This week has been another great week in the mission field.  We were able to meet with all three of our investigators that are going to be baptized soon, and they all seem solid as ever.  I don't understand it, I worked my tail off in Huntington Beach, and I come over into this area and I don't even have to work to get these people to keep commitments.  They are just ready to be baptized.  The members found them, they were prepared by God, and then we just show up to complete the picture.  It made me realize a couple of things:

1.  Missionaries are far from the only ones who convert people to the gospel.  We do our best to find people, and to help people to understand the importance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but there are a lot more people involved then I first realized.

2.  Callings are not a hobby.  They are callings from Heavenly Father and they deserve our full attention to magnifying them.  One of the reasons we are seeing so much success is because our Ward Mission Leader, Brother Va'ili, is on top of things.  He has a band of about 30-40 ward missionaries and they find people to teach, they invite people to church, they do everything they can as if they were full-time missionaries just with less time to find people.  When they find and prepare people to hear the Gospel everything works out perfectly.

3.  You can do your best, but things don't always go the way you want them to.  The fact of the matter is sometimes things just don't work even though you put your heart and soul into it.  It's important to understand in these situations that its not your fault, and we shouldn't seek to blame others either.  Just continue to do your best and hopefully you learn from what went wrong and you can do it better the next time.

I know you were complaining about others not giving specifics.  So here are some of the stories of my investigators.

Ma'epu (10) - Ma'epu is by far my favorite investigator of all time.  I love to see him, and he always makes me feel like I'm doing my job as a missionary because he is always so happy.  He has been reading everyday and came to church again yesterday.  Everything is set up for his baptism next week, and I'm way excited ^^.  There really isn't much more to tell because he's so easy to teach, we just show up, talk, and make sure he understands.  He always surprises me by how much he can comprehend :).  He's going to be an awesome missionary one day.

R (9) - Robert loves the missionaries.  This past week I didn't get to meet with him because we went on exchanges, but we went by later in the week to see if we could teach him, and his Mom wasn't home.  We turned away to leave and he looked so sad as if he had done something wrong!  He was so excited to talk with us that when we weren't able to stay for very long he was incredibly disappointed.  He wasn't at church yesterday, but I'm thinking his Mom might have been gone with family this past week or something so he didn't have a ride.  We'll have to arrange something for when she isn't there so he can still make it to Primary and Sacrament.

M (20's) - Maria has just completely surprised me, not because I didn't think she would read the Book of Mormon, but because I've never actually had an investigator follow through on their commitments.  She has been reading the Book of Mormon and is really enjoying it, she also was at church yesterday.  She probably won't be baptized this Sunday because we've only taught her twice and she has a smoking problem.  She has amazing faith though, and I'm excited to see the changes in her in the coming weeks :).  Maria was a referral from our ward mission leader, Bro. Va'ili that the Ward Missionaries found.  We would never have found her otherwise, and she is ready to make covenants with the Lord to improve her life.  She has a lot of questions, and the Book of Mormon has all the answers.

One of the young men also brought two investigators to Church this Sunday, and we were able to talk with them a little bit.  They live out of our mission, so we won't be teaching them, but still good things happen when we just have the courage to invite a friend to come to church.  That's one thing Samoans are great at, inviting people to come with them to church, and as you can see it is working miracles.

The only other thing that happened last week was Thanksgiving.  We didn't have a huge dinner like we had planned.  In fact we only ate with one Samoan family and they aren't even members.  All the other Samoans were at large family gatherings outside our area, so we couldn't attend.

I'm very grateful for this Thanksgiving though.  As I mentioned before the people who invited us in for Thanksgiving weren't members.  We had only met them once before, and they invited us to come over (as Samoans are prone to do) for dinner.  We came into the house and all the lights were off.  It was about 5 or 6 in the evening so the sun was just about set, and there was really no light.  This poor family live in Government Housing, and the power had gone out for half the complex.

At the table was a very small turkey, a big bowl of potato salad, and some stuffing.  The rest of the family had just finished eating, and so we came in and sat down to eat with them.  We only had a flashlight for light to see where our food was, and she began to tell us about how she had bought the turkey.  The week before they didn't know if they would have enough money for a turkey, or a thanksgiving dinner.  Then someone from one of the local Churches came by and gave her a 40$ gift card to a grocery store, for thanksgiving.  She went a purchased the turkey, and a sack of potatoes, some eggs, and fixings for stuffing, as well as a very small Pecan pie.

The Turkey had next to no meat on it, and the stuffing was made from the turkey's gizzards, but that dinner tasted better than I have ever eaten before.  This woman, though she was not a member of our faith, knew that she needed to give.  We were very hungry, and no one had taken us in because they were busy with other things, but she was not.  She had nothing to give, yet still gave us of her food and her prized pecan pie.  Sitting there in an unlit room, with the smallest turkey you've ever seen, I truly saw someone who showed their faith in Christ.   I will never forget her, or her generosity towards two young missionaries, with no family and no food, knowing that as a disciple of Jesus Christ she needed to help others no matter her circumstances.

We have an appointment to teach her today, but I don't think I could ever do anything to repay the kindness she showed me on that Thanksgiving day.

Thank you all for your warm wishes and love,
~Elder Henry


A new watch, professional looking ( I prefer analog clocks, but will be happy with a watch :P)
New Ties!
A Scripture Case
A set of colored pencils

Some Music CD's:
The Garden by Michael McLean & Bryce Neubert
One or Two Christmas CD's
A MoTab CD
and any others you might think would be good.  The only guidelines are they have to be something that you feel the spirit while listening to, they have to draw your thoughts closer to Christ, and help you to focus on the work.  Deseret Book has a couple of good selections and I'm sure Seagull books will have some good ones as well.  If you burn me a CD make sure it's an audio CD not an MP3 CD, because MP3 CD's won't work in our cars.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Elder Henry 11/21/11 from Samoan Compton California

Hey Dad,
I'm glad Granny got to you guys safe and sound :).  Sounds like she might be stuck with you for a good amount of time.  Tell her thank you for the letters she sent, I really enjoy hearing from her.
      That's crazy that the kids have the whole week off.  I was just telling my companion yesterday that back in Vancouver, we only get Wednesday-Friday off, but apparently the times have changed.  They just don't make kids like they used to anymore :P.
I'm really grateful that you and Mom have always been such an awesome example to me.  You have no idea how many times I tell a story in a lesson of when I saw my Mother and Father keeping God's commandments and they were blessed.  Your faithfulness is blessing the lives of the people I'm serving, not just because I am on a mission, but because I have the opportunity to share with them what happens when you do as God has commanded.
     Its funny you should mention the rain.  It doesn't happen very often here, but it did yesterday and believe me it was the FUNNIEST thing I have ever seen.  People literally are terrified of the rain down here.  We got a light sprinkle all day long, and everyone was driving 5 MPH under the speed limit, people missed church because it was too wet outside, the whole city shut down because of it.  It was like there was a foot of snow out on the ground, city streets were completely empty.  Seriously I was laughing very very very hard on the inside.  Oh and everyone was using an umbrella, like if you got touched by the rain you would melt into a puddle or something.  My companion is equally afraid of the rain and was very concerned when I refused to use an umbrella :P.
     It's back to the 70's and sunny today, but I really enjoy seeing the rain come down, because it always reminds me of home.  Our mission president has given us permission to just hang out with members all day after we finish our meetings on Thursday.  So from about 2-9pm we will be hoping from thanksgiving dinner to thanksgiving dinner and spending time with the members.  Best way to spend the holidays is with your friends and family :)
     I love you lots,
Elder Henry
P.S. My Mission President loves me, and of course that's mutual. 

Dear Mom,
     I'm really excited to be here in the Samoan wards.  It's been a blast recently and we have quite a few baptisms in the works so that is really exciting :).  I've been trying to watch my waist-line and I did a fair job of it in the MTC, but it will definitely be a struggle.
     Which wards did Brother McCausland serve in?  We live in the nice area of Long Beach, and we don't proselyte when all the gangs are out and about.  To be honest though, there are two big gangs in Compton/Paramount, and they are both Samoan gangs that make sure the Missionaries go unharmed.
     I have received both of Julia's letters.  I'm really happy to hear all about the ward doing so well without me.  I'm especially excited because Sister Brown is excited I'm trying to learn Samoan.  It's definitely a very different language from Portuguese and English, but a different strange from Japanese.  It is a really fun language to speak though :).
     That is a huge bummer about the Ducks losing to USC.  Oh well it happens from time to time, but we all know that the Ducks are the Best ;).  One of the members here is moving up to Pullman to play for WSU, and he played on the same high school team as Kenny Rowe (sp?), so that was fun to talk with him about.  There are a couple Duck fans to talk to here and there.
     I do study Portuguese for an hour a day during my normal language study, and I have to study Samoan whenever I have free time.  So its really tough to balance not forgetting Portuguese and trying to cram another language into my brain ^^;
     This past week was a really good week.  We picked up two new investigators, and two of our investigators came to church yesterday!  It's always super exciting to see people actually change how they behave because they feel the spirit of the Lord.  I'm so grateful to be a missionary who gets to see this on an almost day to day basis.
     We have 3 investigators in total right now, and they all came from member referrals:
     Ma'epu is a 10 year old boy living with his grandparents.  He is such a smart kid, and he reads his Book of Mormon by himself everyday.  I absolutely love being around him because he is so eager to learn and he loves being around us.  It is really awesome to be able to work with Primary age kids, they have so much love for the people around them and they really look up to you.  He came to church for the first time in a while yesterday and is set to be baptized on December 4th.  He will probably be the first baptism of my mission because he is set to go, just needs to be taught a little more.
     M is another investigator that lives in the same apartment complex as Ma'epu in Compton.  She's in her 20's and is living with some members from the ward.  We had a first lesson with her this last week and she was really excited to learn more about the Gospel and what we had to teach.  She just kept saying in the lessons, "Just tell me more, I want to know more".  She has been through some rough times and really wants to draw closer to God.  She said she'll be baptized if she receives an answer on Dec. 4th.
     Our last investigator's name is R.  He is another Primary age boy who's family is just starting to come back to church and he needs to be baptized.  We had a first lesson with him this past week and he's a really shy boy.  He's a really funny kid because he was running up and down the stairs waiting for us to come, and then when we were teaching him he played the 'I'm too shy' game with us.  He was at church this week and he's set for baptism on Dec. 11th.
     My new companion is a whole different experience from my last set of companions.  He is a really loving person, and just shows how much he loves everyone.  He's always talking about how much he loves serving in this area, how much he's grateful to be my companion.  Very compassionate missionary who's really excited to be serving among the Samoans.
     Working in this area is really different from my last area and it can be kind of frustrating to me because it literally takes us 20 minutes to get from our apartment to Compton/Paramount/North Long Beach, where all the Samoans are.  We can't teach as many people as I would like because everyone is so spread out.  There are tons of people here waiting to hear the message of the Gospel and I just don't have enough time in the day to do it!
     I hope you all enjoy your thanksgiving break.  I know I'll be missing sharing it with all of you, but I have a lot of friends here who need me right now.  I'll let you know if I survived all the food for Thanksgiving next week.
Lots of Love,
Elder Henry

Monday, November 7, 2011

Letter from Elder Henry 11/7/11

One of our favorite families in the ward the Nichols and the three of us.

One of our investigators, B, and Elder Stringham on Oct. 30th.

My Zone Leader Elder Bateman roasting Marshmallows over a burning magazine (in a safe contained fire pit)

One of the members prepared a really yummy japanese dish, that had an awesome Japanese name that I can't remember.  He did call them Japanese pancakes though, and they were delicious ^^

My zone at the last transfer

My new companion Elder Chadwick is from Kentucky, and he is an amazing missionary.  He is kind, patient, caring, and direct.  He knows how to teach, and does it very well.  Seriously if you were to take a model Preach My Gospel missionary and make it into a human being, you have Elder Chadwick.  He was a zone leader last transfer and he knows how to lead out in the companionship, but also works hard on making sure that Elder Mathews and I are learning too.  He practices with us to help us to improve and has really helped me as a missionary this past week.
He went to BYU before coming out into the field, and will be back this Winter semester.  He's 5'11" so a little bit too short for Sherry ;).  He's studying to go into law school, and is a very driven person.
Elder Mathews on the other hand is very much the opposite kind of person.  He's from Spanish Fork, Utah and is bouncing off the walls energetic.  He has a huge heart.  He's very motivated to improve himself, and loves to play Rugby.  He went to Snow College before his mission and wants to be a Criminal Profiler for the FBI.  As typical with Utahns he's anti-BYU :P.
This past week has been absolutely amazing for missionary work!  I don't even know where to begin XD.  So you are going to get a play by play missionary style! (the parenthesis are the ages of the investigators so you get a better idea of who they are)
B (77) - Last week B came with us to the departing missionary farewell and that went pretty good.  We did service for him and sat down and gave him a bit of a spiritual thought.  At the end we invited him to resume learning more about the Gospel, and he accepted the invitation!  We weren't able to teach him other than the thought last week, but he surprised me by showing up to Church yesterday!!!  I couldn't believe B was sitting down in the pews.  The Ward really reached out to him and made him feel welcome to Church.  In fact we were in a PEC meeting when he got to church, and one of the members noticed that he looked a little lost, so he went up to him introduced himself and got him a seat in the chapel to wait for us.  It was an amazing experience to have him at Church.
L and V (50's) - V is our Romanian investigator, and L is really holding him back.  She's very much set in her ways, otherwise we would see V coming to church for sure.  We met with him last week and read 1 NE 3 with him.  Hopefully he begins to read on his own, but the prospects look slim.  He's a very very nice man, just trying to push through some challenges right now, especially financially.  He offered us some shark meat this past week, and we didn't really have any idea how to cook it, so he said he'll fix it up for us next time we come by.  He has a heart as big as the ocean itself.
G (30) - G we met with two weeks ago and have been having a hard time meeting with him ever since.  He promised to read the whole Book of Mormon by Oct 28th, but still has yet to crack it open.  Hopefully we will be able to meet with him again, and he will begin to read the Book of Mormon.
K (22) - K is a Polynesian we met on the street last week and asked if he would be interested in learning more about the Gospel.  He invited us back and we had an awesome first lesson with him.  He said that he wanted to start going to church and that he hadn't been to any church in 9 years.  We haven't been able to get a hold of him for a couple of days, but I'm sure we'll be able to get a hold of him soon.
J (20) - J is a new investigator we found by showing up to an appointment with a woman named K L who lives in the same house.  K wasn't there and J answered the door.  She invited us to come back on Saturday at 3:15, and we had a first lesson on her porch.  She just texted us this morning and she said she has read the introduction to the Book of Mormon, and part of the Book of Nephi!  She wasn't able to come to Church yesterday because of work, but she accepted the Baptismal invitation for Nov. 26th.  We will be meeting with her this Thursday again so hopefully all will continue to go well with her.  So she in herself was a miracle, but there is a double miracle to this story which I'll talk about a little later.
S (17) - S is a young woman who just turned 17 years old.  She is good friends with a lot of the Young Woman in the ward who have brought her to Church for about 4 weeks in a row.  Last week they introduced us to her and we set up an appointment to teach her on Tuesday of last week.  She accepted the lesson well, and we invited her to be baptized on Nov 19th.  She was very surprised because it was so soon, and her Mom had some reservations about her being baptized before she was 18.  We were pretty excited about this, but this Sunday was a true miracle.
Yesterday, S came to Church after we had arranged a ride for her.  She was sitting in fast and testimony meeting and then turned to Sis. Davidson (the member that she had come to church with) and asked if she could go up.  We were sitting a couple rows back and we saw her walk up to the podium.  We weren't quite sure what to expect because we had only met her once, so we sat a little bit anxiously.  There were 3-4 people in front of her, and eventually it was her turn to go.  Her friend T stood by her for comfort, and she bore her testimony in Church.  In front of everyone.  It was a beautiful testimony about how she had seen when she was involved with church activities her life seem to go better.  She had more patience for the bad, she had more peace in her life, she got along better with her mom, the things she struggled with weren't as much of a struggle.  She also talked about how when she wasn't coming to church life was harder for her, and that she wanted to be a member.  She then talked about her baptismal date of Nov 19th and how excited she was to continue learning and to be baptized.  I couldn't believe my ears, the three of us missionaries got huge grins on our faces that were there for the rest of the meeting.  I have never seen such an amazing event happen ever before in missionary work.  I still can't believe how fortunate I was to witness this.  By the way this was the same meeting B was in, so hopefully he felt the power of her testimony ;).
We also had an amazing experience with one of the recently activated members in the ward.  His name is P, and I think I might have mentioned him before.  He's 20 years old, and a gamer, sound familiar?  He just received the Aaronic Priesthood about a month ago, and has just taken off in terms of progression.  When I first met him, he was embarrassed to share his testimony, or even say a prayer aloud.
We met with him last Friday, and had planned on teaching him Family History.  We figured that with his extensive use of the computer that maybe we could talk him into doing some Family History work to help him be a little bit more productive with his use of time.  Near the end of the lesson, we were inviting him to go to the Family History Center, and I was prompted to bear my testimony of how Missionary Work and Family History work was the same work, and that when he found those names and took them to the Temple it would be the same as if we found people to teach and baptize.  He then walked over to the bathroom, and began drying tears from his eyes.  I had never seen P so emotional before, and he then related an experience of how he was praying last night to his Heavenly Father as to what he should do with his life, where he needed to go.  He knew that he needed to go and do something but was unsure where to find it.  He also told us that he probably wouldn't be able to serve a mission because of some emotional problems.  Then we knocked on his door the next day and there we were, giving him that opportunity to work, and also to be a missionary.  I was so happy to be an answer to one of Heavenly Father's children, I have no doubt in my mind that we were led there to share that answer with him.  When we are listening to the small promptings of the Holy Ghost that's when we see these miracles happen.
Saturday P came out with us to teach J.  I was pretty nervous because P had expressed concern with even sharing a testimony, but he was excited to be with us so I hoped for the best.  Towards the end of the lesson P bore his testimony about the Book of Mormon, and how it had changed his life.  I was so excited that P had been able to overcome his fears.
Sunday P then proceeded to impress me once again by getting up and bearing his testimony in front of the whole ward!  He was amazing, my mind was absolutely blown by his courage to face his fears and to get up in testimony meeting.
Other than that, things have been pretty regular around here.  The weather has been getting pretty chilly, it stays about 60 degrees nowadays and we have been having some pretty (minor) rainstorms.  I am loving the oppertunity I have to serve here in Huntington Beach.
I love you all, thank you for all the letters :)
Love,  Elder Henry