Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Sparknotes version of the past couple weeks...

These past couple weeks have been extremely busy. Mainly because of something we called "Zoned Out." Basically it's a mission p-day where half of the mission (3 of our 6 zones) come together and we play games and such all day. It was held at the John Johnson Farm (church history site). We met at 9 in the morning -which meant us getting there at 8am, which meant leave at 6:45am, which meant waking up at 5:45am when only 5 hours ago I had gotten back to the apartment and fallen asleep! The past 2 weeks I've averaged probably 5 to 6 hours of sleep each night. I am catching up now but it was tough!

Anyways, all of the missionaries met at a church building right by the farm, for the first 30 minutes we had some mission announcements, went over some new material we are starting to implement throughout the mission (based on what Elder Marcus B. Nash of the Seventy taught us a month or so ago) and then the games began! There were 4 groups and 4 different activities. One was a tour of the John Johnson Farm (this is where the revelation was received concerning the Plan of Salvation (D&C 76) as long as many other revelations and D&C's. Another activity was a PMG game, one was Jeopardy, and ours was the game of Mafia - but we called in Prophets and Gadianton Robbers. It's a game you play with a big group and people are chosen secretly to be a prophet (or detective) and a robber (or a mafia member) and people keep being "murdered" throughout the game and the group (or townspeople - or nephites) have to council and accuse each other and execute a member every round... I don't think I explained that very well, but it was so much fun. After the groups we had a big lunch and a fun relay where all the zones competed against each other and then the remainder of the time there (which was about 2 hours) was left to play games (soccer, football, volleyball, dodge ball) outside or inside. It was a lot of fun. Now that it's over my P-days should be a bit more regular - I'll have time to email, do laundry, go shopping, clean the car/apartment...

Lately we've been doing a LOT of tracting. We're looking for people who we can teach the gospel to. Our area is pretty wealthy (some of the houses are mansions) so the people are generally nice but "not interested." One guy yesterday cracked open his door and yelled at us "I don't have any money!" and slammed it. I've never heard that one before...

We're currently teaching a 14-year-old girl named Brandy who is a foster-child who will be adopted in the coming months. She is progressing very rapidly. She had no understanding of who God or Jesus Christ were when we first met her, but now she is literally glowing as we talk about these things and ask her questions. We are also teaching a woman named Shirley who is practically already a member. She is engaged to a man from Mexico who has been a Bishop in the church a couple times. They will be getting married sometime this Fall/Winter and she plan is to be baptized in December. She is doing great though. We'll be watching conference with both of these families (Brandy and Shirley).

The really cool family we found when following Elder Nash's instruction, we are having to step back from for now. We think they got in a fight about church (he wants to go, she doesn't) or something and they asked us to give them some time. But they're in our thoughts and prayers and soon we'll get back into teaching them.

Sorry to those who I haven't written letters back to. I get so many of them but seriously can't find/make the time to write back without never sleeping! I can't remember the last time I wrote a letter... But if you're patient, maybe you'll get one back ;) Orrrr I'll be home in a year and you can talk to me then.

Hitting my year-mark has been pretty weird. Kind of depressing that it's half-over already! Time has gone by SO fast and I'm sure it will continue to fly (and fly faster and faster and faster and faster...). The gospel makes life fun and exciting, and when things are fun they tend to fly by. I feel bad for missionaries who have to "endure to the end" when really it should be "[enjoying] to the end."

Well, not much more to report on. We have many meetings coming up (and that have past) that I have to prepare workshops for (and conduct). I'm learning so much in regards to leadership and ministering to people. As we apply D&C 84:106 and "take" people with us, we strengthen them and they in-turn can strengthen those around them. That's what we're doing in our mission and the results are remarkable. In just the past year, the culture of the mission has changed dramatically. Missionaries are so much more dedicated, full of the Spirit, committed to obedience, and are better understanding and applying their purpose. It is so great to see.

I am so excited for Conference coming up this weekend. To hear the messages from the prophet, President Thomas S. Monson. We are SO lucky to be able to have his words broadcasted all around the world! I'm not sure if I've ever been so excited to watch conference... I know that we DO have a living prophet on the earth today, a prophet like Moses or Noah... I know that they are lead by our Heavenly Father and Savior, Jesus Christ. This is the church of Jesus Christ, His one, true church. I know that the Book of Mormon is true as well. This past issue of the Ensign is so awesome! All about the Book of Mormon and it's importance. I know that as we read it, ponder the message it contains, and pray sincerely to know if it's true that we can receive an answer and through the personal revelation from God know that the church is true. I am so grateful for my family - I have been truly blessed throughout my life and cannot imagine what it would be like to live in this world without knowing that I will live with my family forever. The blessings of the temple are real. I am so grateful for this gospel. Hope you all have a great week!

Love, Elder Dransfield

Monday, September 12, 2011

September 12, 2011

Not much to write this week. We didn't get to meet with Jaime and her family because she was at her mom's house when we were to have our appointment! What was her mom thinking?? :( But we rescheduled and all will work out. Tomorrow we have a fresh batch of missionaries coming out - 8 elders and 1 sister. We will pick them up at the airport in the afternoon, bring them back to the mission home for some instruction and dinner. After dinner a testimony meeting and more instruction. Then Wednesday will be transfer meeting, but before we will take all the new missionaries to the Kirtland Temple and to the School of Prophets at the Kirtland Historical Sites. After transfer meeting we'll take the three elders who are going home and will head to the mission home for dinner, instruction, testimony meeting, interviews... Thursday we'll take them to the airport and a new transfer begins! Crazy to think I've been an Assistant for a month-and-a-half! Time has flown!

Our ward is getting very enthusiastic and passionate about missionary work. We've been making huge pushes to get our Ward Missionaries more involved with the members and we have been leaving with them commitments (and following-up! that's the MOST important part!) that push them to share the gospel more. Many are having great experiences and as they share them with others at church, it motivates everyone else to seek out those opportunities. We have brand new investigators who we can hopefully begin to teach more regularly and help them gain a testimony of this restored, true gospel.

This morning as I sent out some mission emails to the leaders, I included this quote (we always try to send a little motivational/inspiring message):

Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover
that he can make a lot more out of their lives than they can.
He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken
their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits,
multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities,
comfort their souls, raise up friends and pour out peace.
--Ezra Taft Bensen

Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man,
the things which God hath prepared for them who love Him.
--1 Corinthians 2:11
Kind of like I wrote in my last email, we must not limit ourselves! We all have so much potential and we must live up to the expectations that our Father in Heaven has for us. Every bit of growth that we ever endure comes from pushing ourselves; from stepping out of our comfort zones. Humbling ourselves and stretching a bit. I know that as we give up our pride and lose ourselves in the gospel of Jesus Christ, we will become even as Jesus Christ Himself! We will in turn become stronger in spirit, be filled with the purest joy ever imagined,and be a light to this world full of those desperately looking for truth and stability. I love the gospel and I love the commandments. This path is the only path that will lead us to eternal life, with our families so dear. I love my family. Being on a mission has opened my eyes to how blessed I have been these past 20 years. Incredible role-models, friends, support... I couldn't think of anything better than one day living with my family and Heavenly Father, forever. Have a great week.

Love, Elder Dransfield

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Happy Labor Day Weekend!

I'll start my weekly letter with a miracle story, evidence that the Lord's hand truly is in this work. We called President about it last night and he suggested we e-mailed Elder Marcus B. Nash (who we had Mission Conference with last week) and share with him our experience. Here's a copy of what I sent (with a few modifications): 

Dear Elder Nash,
Thank you again for your instruction and help at last weeks Mission Conference here in the Ohio. You have inspired many missionaries and have helped us create a wonderful vision for this mission. Elder McClellan and I had a great experience yesterday (Sunday) as we followed your counsel to find ways we can better serve our Bishops. We would like to share this with you.
Yesterday in our P.E.C. meeting, we received a list of information concerning ten members who recently have moved into our ward boundaries whom the ward knew very little or nothing about; our assignment was to contact these individuals. We had several appointments set up that day and didn't see where we would have time to make these many stop-bys, but Heavenly Father had other plans as all of our appointments canceled on us during church. With a now very open day, our goal was to tackle the list and return and report to our Bishop that evening.
The few phone numbers we had didn't work, so we began to drive all over in search for these in-active members. Many no longer lived at the address we were given, one told us we could possibly come back, and another handful weren't home - our patience was being tested. The last name on our sheet was for a girl named Jaime. Our GPS showed that the house number we had received (556) did not exist, so we made a guess as to what it could be and headed there. We pulled into an upper-middle-class neighborhood and found a place to park, not really sure where this house was. We prayed, got out of the car, and began to approach a woman in her front yard when we heard a strange noise in the distant trees. We looked over and a wall of rain was speeding towards us, and within seconds it was absolutely pouring. We ran and ran until we found house number 8556, finding shelter from the rain on the doorstep. We knocked and, to our dismay, found nobody home. Soaking wet, we decided to wait a few minutes for the storm to die down and write this less-active a note (although we weren't even sure if this was her house). Before our pens even touched the note card, we heard the garage door open and a car pulled onto the driveway. We ran into the garage (it was still pouring rain) to be greeted by a young couple and their 3 children. We asked if she was Jaime, and she said yes! We chatted for a bit and they eventually invited us into their home to dry off.
Background we found out: Jaime hasn't been active in the church "for years," though grew up fully-active and was even a seminary graduate. Her non-member boyfriend, Raphal, knows a little about the church. We found out that they were just on their way home from a picnic dinner with Jaime's family - and the LDS missionaries! Jaime's mother (a Relief Society President from the Kirtland Stake) had invited two of our missionaries to their family gathering in hopes of finding some potential missionary work/reactivation within her family.
We invited Jaime's family to take the missionary discussions and come unto Christ, which they both accepted. We had a wonderful lesson about Family Prayer, had Raphal offer a kneeling prayer, invited them to church, set up a return appointment, and left having so much gratitude in our hearts. We immediately called the Elders they ate dinner with and they gave us the phone number to Jaime's mother. When we called, the mother had just gotten off the phone with Jaime and was absolutely trilled by the chain of events. Jaime called asking her mother if she had sent us over, and after the mother expressed her confusion, Jaime excitedly told her about finding us soaking wet on their porch, us teaching them a lesson, Raphal praying, them attending church next Sunday, and our return appointment. I think many years of prayers were answered last night.
We are beyond excited to have found this wonderful family and are ready to help them prepare to become an eternal family. We are so humbled by these tender mercies, and are grateful for the counsel you left with us. After meeting with this family, we immediately called the Bishop and went over to his home (Oh yeah, he lives about 3 minutes away from this family. And his children are the exact ages of their children). The Bishop was not only impressed by how quickly we contacted the ten names, but was the entire family was ecstatic about the new find and they immediately started making plans for fellowship. The Spirit filled their home as their love for the gospel and this new family was expressed. Again, thank you for your commitment to fast and pray for ways we can better support our Bishop. We have been so greatly blessed and cannot wait to see the rest of the mission find similar experiences. Have a great week!
Elder Dransfield and Elder McClellan
Ohio Cleveland Mission

It continues to amaze me how everything worked out so perfectly yesterday. We had several appointments set up for Sunday and throughout church they all canceled on us. Had we not spend however-long at each of the ten names, we would not have made it to Jaime's house while they were home. Had the rain not come at the precise moment it did, we would not have waited as long as we did at Jaime's house. As we allow the Lord to guide us, we will find much success and happiness in our lives.

This week I have been pondering much about the concept of being comfortable, or rather stepping out of our comfort zones. Yesterday in our fast-and-testimony meeting, a girl said something along the lines of "I knew it was the Spirit because the Spirit is usually telling me something I don't want to do!" (I think she was talking about doing Family History work or something). This made me think of many prophets in the scriptures. Nephi "shrunk and would that [he] might not" when he was instructed by the Spirit to take action in receiving the brass plates from Laban in 1 Nephi 4:10-17. Samuel the Lamanite "was about to return to his own land" after being cast out of the city when the "the voice of the Lord came unto him, that he should return again" in Helaman 13:1-4. When Jonah was commanded to cry repentance unto the people of Nineveh, he "rose up to flee...from the presence of the Lord" (Jonah 1). Once he finally exercised faith and carried-out the task, we read in chapter 4 that "they turned from their evil way." All of these men had to step out of their comfort zones in order for great things to come to pass. And as each one did so, relying solely upon the Spirit, he was edified, he grew, he was prepared even that much more to return to our Father in Heaven. That is why we are here on earth: to learn, to grow, to gain experience... I am drawn to Luke chapter 22. We read, "And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground" (verses 41-44). He did this to "take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people...that he may loose the bands of death which bind his succor his people...that he might blot out their transgressions..." (Alma 7:11-13), not so that he would be comfortable. Not so that he could be relaxed and have a great time. He set aside his own personal comfort to fulfill the commandments of the Father. I could write pages and pages about this so I'm going to stop now. But think about your own life...are you stuck in a comfort zone? Is there more you should be doing? I don't know...just some thoughts. I bring this up because of the many things I've had to "overcome" and the comfort zones I've had to step out of on my mission and the changes that I have seen take place within me. The growth that I have undergone in this these past 11 months. What a blessing.

I love my Savior, Jesus Christ, and for his tremendous, self-less sacrifice. His infinite Atonement. The Atonement is what helps us to change, helps us to become, enables us... May we all remember Him and allow His Atonement to work within us. I have been so richly blessed on my mission - I almost feel spoiled. I know that as we lose ourselves in the gospel, we will find ourselves. I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has restored truths that can be found nowhere else. I know that what we share with people is true and that it fills us with a deeper satisfaction and understanding than anything on this earth can even come close to. I know this is true, with all of my heart and with ever fiber of my being.

Love, Elder Dransfield

Friday, September 2, 2011

Another incredible week!

I've had a pretty incredible past week full of mission/life-changing experiences. I'll briefly share a few of those...

Monday (Aug 22nd) was Elder Tracy's last day here in Ohio. We tracted all night and I stood back in awe as he bore his powerful testimony to those at their doors, in their garages, on the streets one last time. His example has driven me throughout my whole mission. When I first got here last October and drove (what seemed for hours) to Toledo, he was the first one to greet me. He was my first Zone Leader. He served in the Toledo 2nd Ward with me and Elder Perkins: we ate dinners together, we spent P-days together. He has always been one of the hardest working missionaries out here in the Ohio Cleveland Mission and has never lost sight of his purpose. When I left Toledo 6 weeks later and traveled down to Findlay, we continued to see each other frequently as we would drive to Cleveland together or gather Stake information together. He continued to inspire me, to uplift me, to be that example for me. He showed me how to be a leader. Never did I think I would have the privilege of serving with him and get to teach along side him. In these past 4 weeks I got to serve with him, I learned more than I have probably my whole mission. He showed me the value of consecrating my life to the Lord. He showed me the importance of teaching by and listening to the Holy Ghost. He showed me how to be bold, courageous, faithful, how to "get the fear out." Dropping him off at the airport the next morning was bittersweet, but mostly bitter. I wasn't sure how I'd make it without him here anymore, but a week has gone by and I'm still alive. So that's good! He texted President Sorensen a few days ago actually telling how he actually taught one of his friends the first lesson, gave her a Book of Mormon, invited her to church and invited her to be baptized. So he's still in missionary mode and probably will be forever. How awesome is that?

Tuesday (Aug 23rd) our mission took part in a stress survey that was done by four missions in the world as a test-mission. Shane Littlefield (works for the MTC/missionary department?) and Doctor Faerie (a psychologist, works part-time for LDS Family Services and currently is creating this stress test that will soon be taken by all missionaries world-wide). It was a little tutorial about stress and how to manage it and tips for how to de-stress a too-stressed life. It had you take a test to see what level you were at stress-wise (the colors went from green to red, green is good, red is bad). I was green! I haven't been stressing out since I've been called to be an Assistant! You should all be proud of me! ;) After the stress-test we had about 20 or so missionaries participate in a discussion of the likes and dislikes of the stress test. Later that afternoon Elder McClellan and I had the privilege of going teaching with Doctor Faerie for two hours. What an amazing guy. Overall he's just brilliant, but he understands the gospel to such a deep level. Like... He understands the happiness and purity and joy of the gospel and of charity. After a lesson with a 14 year-old recently adopted into a family in the ward, I asked how we did and he started talking about how amazing every experience is in the gospel. Example, as we taught this girl about Adam and Eve (we were teaching about the Plan of Salvation) the fluidity of the lesson was disturbed, we got jumbled with our words, and you could tell that it kind of flew over her head. I told him how I wish we had taught that part better and he showed us the blessing of that experience because we now have learned so much. We need not worry about frustrating God's plan because it cannot be done. We taught by the Spirit and we taught to the best of our abilities, thus we were successful. He was so positive and full of Charity! We dropped him off at his hotel and went on to tracting just full of love and excitement. On the drive over to the neighborhood we had planned, we discussed ways we could help those at the door feel the Spirit more and decided that by acting charitable (full of love) that the influence would spread. So our new goal became to compliment everyone at the door for something genuine (not just a compliment for a compliment's sake, but for something that we were truly, deep down grateful for). We thanked men for the evidences of them being good fathers, thanked (practicing) Catholics for being so steadfast in their faith in Jesus Christ, etc. And the coolest part was as we would do this, people would literally light up and their "I'm not interested" attitude at first would change to a "good luck and have a great night!" attitude. As we show our love and thanks to others, as we live those Christ-like attributes such as charity, we inspire others and in the process of doing so invite them to come unto Christ: a missionary's basic purpose. Just as Doctor Faerie inspired us and changed our attitude and perspective in this work and in a task such as tracting, we need to do that to everyone in the world. Inspire a world who is desperately looking for light, for guidance, for truth, for Spiritual fulfillment! It was just awesome.

Wednesday (Aug 24th) was a Leadership Training Meeting. All the Zone Leaders, District Leaders, and a few sets of Sisters attended a meeting in which we talked about stress (by President Sorensen and Dr. Faerie) and the Spirit/having faith to find. Elder Bills and I did another musical number. We created a combination of Come Thou Fount and Be Still My Soul. We put it together in literally 5 minutes. It was pretty cool. Afterwards I went up and thanked Dr. Faerie for the wonderful experience the day prior. He got so excited when I told him about our tracting and shared a scripture with me. It may have been Section 88:133 but I can't remember... Something about being brothers. I feel so blessed to have gotten to work with him!

Sunday (Aug 28th) Elder Marcus B. Nash of the Quorum of the Seventy and his wife, Sister Nash, flew into Cleveland. Elder McClellan and I were to report to the mission home at 10pm to "talk shop" - or in other words to discuss the ups and downs of the mission: our strengths, our weaknesses, how we were implementing the fundamentals of Preach My Gospel, how our Key Indicators were looking, how were were in finding, retention, activation, member involvement, etc. Elder McClellan and I didn't know what to expect and were overly prepared with information. We arrived and sat down with the Nash's and the Sorensen's and ate some dessert while discussing the mission. It wasn't a talking-to-a-General-Authority discussion as much as it was friends trying to find where we can strengthen the Lord's vineyard here in Ohio. We finally left the Mission Home around 11:30pm.

Monday (Aug 29th) was our first Mission Conference with the Cleveland, Toledo, and Findlay zones. It was an INCREDIBLE mission conference. We met at the Cleveland chapel and received instruction from Sister and President Sorensen, Sister Nash and for the remainder of the 5 hour meeting Elder Nash. The Spirit was so powerful! I was going through tissues like there was no tomorrow - and I was sitting up on the stand! Talk about embarrassing. We covered SO much I'm not sure I could write it all down! He started off with the question "Why are you wearing your name tag?" As we answered he shared a quote by Elder Scott, something along the lines of "have you ever heard the expression 'we need to get the water to the end of the row'? I think it's better to just make it rain" and that's what we did in that meeting. We made it rain - as he would ask us questions and missionaries would answer by the promptings of the Spirit, we would get the "water" everywhere and on our own. It was a great teaching method if you ask me. We were all edified. We read 3 Nephi 11:3-21 and talked about what Jesus Christ would do if he came to our mission. As we read in this passage, we see that the first things he does is testify of himself, invite all to come unto him, and then baptize (or give Nephi commission to baptize, restoring that authority). We talked about why we baptize, about the Atonement, having faith and the process of that faith growing, getting people to Sacrament Meeting, using members and so many other things. He shared D&C 84:106 which reads, "And if any man among you be strong in the Spirit, let him take with him him that is weak, that he may be edified in all meekness, that he may become strong also." We talked a lot about how we need to TAKE with us those around us. It's nice to call someone or shoot them an email, to stop by and say hi, but to literally take someone to the church, take someone to the temple, walk with someone to the Bishop's office - those are the ways to build up those around us. I'm not giving this scripture justice in the short time I have to email (though I've written a freaking long email again! haha) but study it! If we read a couple scriptures down in verse 108 it says "Behold, this is the way that mine apostles, in ancient days, built up my church unto me." We need to build up those around us! "take with him him that is weak"... AHhh! I wish I had more time!

We had a conference on Tuesday too and I had to conduct the meeting. It went well. After both meetings we had a brief leadership meeting titled "Therefore, what?" where we talked as leaders how we could implement what we discussed in the mission. We will be making plans in Zone Leader Council next week.

I'm out of time writing! Time... we never have enough time! Which is why we must live life to the fullest! President said something the other day along the lines of "you can lay in bed all day and waste your life away or you can get up and decide what you want to do with your life!" -this was when we were talking about missionaries before their missions sleeping in till the afternoon. He says he can count on one hand how many times he's slept in past 8am since his mission! Sleep is such a waste of time! In missionary work we're always seeming to look for more time, but that's for another day/email message.

I love you all! I love my life! I've been so blessed and privileged this past week as I've met and taught with some of the most amazing men I've ever met! My testimony and faith have grown so much in just this past week and I love every moment of it. Hopefully after my mission I can talk more about this stuff and explain in more detail some of the cool experiences I've had. Have a great week everyone!

Love, Elder Dransfield