Monday, February 13, 2012

Letters home (and Dad's letter) 2/13/12

I had to leave Damon's letter attached, it was just so full of wisdom to his missionary son =)
Dear Mom,
I actually packed long underwear with me. I knew that it would come in handy, so I should be good to go :). The travel department has been very quiet, so no news yet. No electronic or otherwise.

My shoes are holding up for the meantime, but are already starting to show wear and tear. Some of the leather on the back has been peeling off, but the soles are still intact. The place I'm living in now is a gated community so it should be safe to mail to my apartment, although its best to send it to the mission office, because its a lot of fun to have mail come from the mission office ^^. I'm doing really good right now, have an overload of sweets of which I have to blame you and Kelsey :P. So I share with my district. Lots of food in the cupboards and the like.
Do you remember how many times I went to see Episode 1 in theaters? About a brazilian (I think he meant "gazillion" funny typo) times, Tori is right I -am- jealous. Sounds like a fun FHE. While you are going to the movies tonight though, I'll be having FHE with Steve R. and his family, so I'll be having fun frosting sugar cookies with them :).
I got your DJ's Birthday package. Thank you for all the goodies. I especially liked the gummy worms. I can't remember the last time I had a bag of sour gummy worms ^^.
Sounds like Spencer is living it up at Prairie. I can only imagine how much fun he's having playing all the different characters.
You are so funny Mom. The first thing you notice after the new bishopric gets called, is that Brother Tong isn't wearing a suit coat :P. Only my Mom would notice such a thing. You are awesome, and always bring a smile to my face.
This week was pretty much AWESOME!
We had a lot of progress with our investigators this week, and should be getting geared up for baptismal services soon ^^. Of course we are also finding new investigators at the same time which makes me even more excited :).
First I'll start off with the bad and the ugly. Haig will be out of town for the next 2-3 weeks, so we may not see him again if he's not back by the end of the transfer :(. He's doing good, but progressing slowly. We had our ward mission leader, Brother Sharp attend the lesson with us and it made a HUGE difference. Haig found Bro. Sharp inspirational, and hopefully will feel more welcome at church because of it :).
We have a couple new, and rather fun, investigators. First up is Paul. Paul is an middle aged man, who flies everywhere in the world. He calls himself Fed-ex for Boeing. He delivers plane parts for Boeing to places all around the world. This coming week he's flying to Kazakhstan for a delivery, and then he flies home and works on the preparing for the next delivery. He doesn't attend church and grew up Catholic but is much more Evangelical in his beliefs system now. We had a good first lesson with him, but didn't dive too much into the gospel. I was on exchanges later that week for our return appointment, but apparently he showed up with two pages of notes on Salvation, and went on and on about how performing good works is not part of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and all we have to do is confess with our lips and hearts that Jesus is the Christ... Its been really good for my learning of the Gospel, because of his objection I have been able to really dive into the scriptures and understand a lot more of why things are the way they are. I'm impressed by the amount of knowledge I am gaining every day in the scriptures, and have actually come to love the way they are written. I enjoy the poetry and old language that they use. I didn't think I'd ever get to that point in my life, but here I am.
Next up is Chris. I don't know if I've mentioned this or not, but in my area there is a huge university named BIOLA (Bible Institute of Los Angeles), and he's a student there. For the most part BIOLA is pretty anti-Mormon, but we received a referral from the Sisters at Temple Square that Chris wanted the missionaries to come over. So we called him up and set up an appointment. He wasn't at all hostile, but was a little more interested in just learning rather than accepting, but he is in-between churches right now and so I'm hoping that with some good fellowship he'll be able to attend church and enjoy the spirit there. We haven't met with him again since last week, but hopefully will this week.
We also tried to meet with Gaston this week, but his wife answered the door and said that,"He's not interested but just doesn't know how to tell you". We are pretty sure that he -is- interested, but the wife isn't. A hard situation to deal with, but before we stop we want to be able to talk with him. Hopefully I'll have better news about him next week.
Steve H. is doing great! He came to church and stayed for Sunday School! I think this is the first time in 4 years he's ever come to the second hour. He's also reading the Book of Mormon, things just haven't clicked for him yet. There is a lot of pressure from his family, and I think he's rebelling against that pressure so far as baptism is concerned. We are trying our hardest to just stay supportive of him, and helping him on his conversion.
We met with Nicole this week twice. She's a lot more on the basics than we originally thought. She said she knows that Joseph Smith is a prophet, but hasn't received a confirmation of the Book of Mormon yet. She's read through 1 and 2 Nephi, and is in Jacob right now. She also needs to quit smoking, although we found out she's quit much harder things than smoking before so I have full faith that she will be able to overcome tobacco as well. She didn't come to church which is partly because her husband, who is a member, can't come to church because he works Sundays -.-'. A very frustrating situation, so we are working to get her some really close friends in the ward to come with us so she wants to come to church.
Lynn had a major breakthrough this week! She pretty much has a testimony of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, but struggles to get to church because, A) she has a lot of aches and pains and B) she didn't have any friends at church. So this week we asked the Relief Society who would get along great with Lynn, and boy did they give us a golden fellow-shipper. Her name is Sis. Braxston, and her and Lynn just got on like two peas in a pod! At the end of the lesson Lynn said that she could come to church now because she has a friend. I think she'll be baptized pretty soon :). She didn't attend church this week because she went out of town for family, but she'll be there next Sunday.
Steve R. also had a huge breakthrough yesterday :). He had a really hard week last week, and we couldn't meet with him at all, which made me SUPER nervous. When he walked into church I was so relieved that he came, but he looked really down trodden. I knew that the week hadn't gone well for him, and that he had probably smoked all week long. We sat with him at church, and after Sacrament he pulled me aside and said, can I talk with you two before I have to leave to go to work? Of course I told him yes, he is our number one priority. He went on to talk about how he had a huge debate as to whether or not he should come to church that morning. He really didn't want to, he had lots of work to get done, and didn't want to get in trouble from us, but he made the decision to come anyways.
He then went on to tell us that the service had really touched his heart. He realized how wrong he was living his life, and that he needs to change. He felt godly sorrow for his sins and really wants to make the change in his life. I feel like he finally made it to the point where he realizes that this isn't something that he can do by himself and that he can only overcome his addiction if he relies on his faith. Last night we called him up and he said that he had brought the Book of Mormon to work with him, and that every time he had a spare moment he was reading. I know that he's going to be ready for baptism soon, I'm really excited to see the changes he's made in his life, even if he can't see it himself.
That's my week in a nutshell. We should have another great week this week as well! OH! I almost forgot, we officially reactivated someone yesterday. Her name is Sister Smith, and she started coming to church last week, and came again this week, just because we dropped by and showed her we still care :).
Keep up all the hard work on the homefront. Thank you for financially supporting me on this awesome spiritual endeavour. I'm loving every moment of it, and growing each and everyday.
Thank you again for the package :).
Elder Henry
Dear Dad,
That's awesome that you got to spend the weekend with your Dad. I love just sitting and chatting with you, so I can imagine what a treat it was to spend Sunday just enjoying each others company. That's probably one of the best things about being a missionary is just sitting down and talking with people.
That's the lesson I really had to learn with my last companion. You are right, Heavenly Father does not want to command us in all things. Thank you for sharing that with me, it helps me to realize the kind of person I need to be as a missionary, and hopefully I can just learn the easy way from your experiences rather than learning things the hard way.
You are right, things are hard as a missionary, and you do get the highlights of the week. For instance I'm just about DIEING as a missionary with all the huge hills in my area on bike. My legs are soooo tired all the time, plus we run a little over 2 miles every morning (good old mission rules >.>). Not to mention we have difficulties with some members and other little things. Regardless I love every day as a missionary.
Its so funny to hear you refer to yourself as Elder Henry, because that's me!
I hope you aren't too bored without 4 kids at home. Did you figure out what you are going to do about Elmo? Are you still driving it around?
Have fun tonight at the movies, you'll have to let me know how the new version turned out.
Elder Henry
Hi Mike,
How are you? We got an unexpected treat this weekend. Grandpa Henry came up and stayed with us. He was coming up on Saturday to see Spencer's performance and his work schedule got switched around so that he had to escort a load out of Portland early Monday morning so he decided to just stay over. It was great to have so much time with him. He and I spent several hours after church just sitting together talking. It's great to have a father son relationship like that, and it makes me happy that you and I will get to continue the tradition :)

I thought of some things that I wanted to share with you while I was walking home from church today. They are some of the lessons I learned early on in my mission and some of them may be applicable to you around this time.

I came out of the MTC fired up and really wanting to be a great missionary, and the one resounding lesson that stuck with me was the importance of being obedient. I was determined to follow the mission rules because I was sure that was the path to success. I was lacking in some of my understanding and ability though regarding the rules.

For instance, I knew that romantic female relationships were off limits on a mission. However, I found myself serving in an area that had many Mormon Nannies. They were my age, and very similar to me, having been thrust into an unfamiliar situation far from home, so naturally they desired to interact with me socially. I was a piece of home to them. In fact, one of the nannies I met on my mission had been in the same ward as me growing up and I knew her and her family. I didn't know how to handle the situation because at that point in my life most of my relationships with girls my age were in dating situations. So early on in my mission I was simply rude to girls who approached me because I could not think of any other thing to do. That is clearly not the right way to act, but there is not a mission rule that explicitly states don't be rude to girls. There are mission rules that deal with not forming relationships with girls. As I matured as a missionary I learned how to have appropriate relationships with girls my own age and stay true to the mission rules.

Another lesson that I learned early on in my mission was that the relationship you have with your companion is more important than just about any rule in your mission rule book. I was trained by a missionary who was a pretty good guy, but not an extremely hard worker, or especially strict on mission rules. He wasn't bad, we did follow the mission schedule pretty well, but we spent a bit too much time just hanging out with other missionaries in our district or in members houses. I remember spending several Sundays at members houses watching football. It was awkward for me, I did not want to be there doing that, but did not know what else to do or how to handle the situation. All in all though, he was a good companion and we did a fair amount of work and followed the rules pretty well, and there wasn't really any contention. I had one more pretty good companion in that area, but then I got transferred to Queens and my next two companions were both pieces of work. My third companion was just plain lazy and disinterested in doing real missionary work. I really struggled with him just to get him out of bed in the mornings, and I mean by 10am. When he was up, I could not convince him to go out and do hardly any proselyting with me. I was very frustrated. I could not leave my companion and do missionary work by myself, that was against the rules, and I could not follow the missionary schedule and do real missionary work. I was often upset and angry with him. What I found was that my hard feelings for him were more of a detriment to our work as missionaries than any indiscretion in following the mission schedule. I had to learn to not judge him or resent him for holding me back from being the missionary that I wanted to be. I learned that working together with him in any positive manner was better for me as a missionary than holding fast to any of the rules that we were not following. Your relationship with your companion is the number one factor that will determine your success as a missionary (what does that teach you about marriage?) Sometimes you get companions that you just click with, and sometimes you get companions that you struggle with. It's up to you to find a way to get along with and appreciate your companion. In this case, I found something that worked that was a little outside the normal missionary work. We lived in a very old house (over 200 years old) in a room we rented from an elderly inactive member Edith and her adult son Donald (a retired policeman). They expressed interest in remolding the room they were renting to us. They provided all the materials and direction on what they wanted done and my companion and I spent a full week together ripping out all the old and putting in the new. We did not do any missionary work that week. It was the first time that him and I actually worked hard together on something and it allowed me to appreciate him in a new light plus we finally accomplished something positive. We now had a nice place to live and all the missionaries that came after us did as well. After that he still was not especially interested in doing the missionary work we had to do, but our relationship was better and I had more influence over him now. He especially did not like tracting which was really about all we had to do in that area. We did have one subway station at the very end of the line in our area though so we set out together to make up some street boarding materials. Again, this was work that he was quite interested in and we worked well together on it. We gathered all the materiels we needed, easels, tables, and the like, and we made up some nice displays. Once the street boarding materials were all put together it was again a bit of a struggle to get him to go out with me and use them, but our relationship was stronger, and I had even more influence on him, plus we had these great displays that he was proud of that needed to be put to use. I don't recall us ever working really hard together on real missionary work, but we did learn to enjoy each other and to work together with some real harmony which was a very important lesson for me to learn. Also, it would be interesting to hear it from his perspective. Perhaps his story would read, I have this new companion who is impossible to work with. All he ever does is nag and belittle me, he makes me not even want to be a missionary... who knows, it's hard to always see things from someone else's perspective. Perhaps my zeal for the mission rules was making the situation worse, not better.

Just remember this about the mission rules. First and foremost you should always follow them, but realize that Heavenly Father likes to give us less rules not more. He is interested in raising children who can show judgement and discretion. Never allow the rules to become a hinderance to your work. When you follow them properly they will mold you into being the best missionary you can be. When I reflect back on those early months of my mission I remember a sense of trying to force myself into being something that I wasn't. As I matured as a missionary I figured out how to follow the rules properly and it led me to being the best Elder Henry that I could be. The rules helped me to develop my own talents and personality to a point where I was the only Elder Henry in the mission and Heavenly Father could then lead me to the people who needed an Elder Henry, not a robo-missionary :)

Just to round out my story my fourth companion was almost impossible to live with. He had a huge ego. He could not get along with anyone, and by that time in my mission my Mission President new me well enough to trust my easy going personality would allow me to deal with him as well as any missionary he had. We did get along fairly well, and had some success working together, but he had real problems living with anyone. I was able to look past his faults and still enjoy him as a companion. After having those two companions back to back, my Mission President made me a Zone Leader and kept me there for the next year and a half, so I'm pretty sure that I learned the the correct lessons from those early companionships, and I found the rest of my mission much easier and was a better missionary from the experiences.

I hope you are enjoying your mission. Your letters are always so positive and fun to read, but I know that your weeks are also filled with tedious tasks, real disappointments, and extremely hard work and you only share with us the highlights. Even with these type of challenges, the only time that I recall really being unhappy on my mission were times when I did not give my fullest effort, even if it meant spending a week remolding a room because that was the best way I could spend my time that week. That made me much happier than brooding over my worthless companion. Do your best and rely on Heavenly Father to provide solutions to your problems and you will be a great missionary and feel good about yourself. You won't be perfect, but you can be pretty darn good!

I love you and pray for you always.

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