Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Merry Christmas

This week we had our second (last) Mission Christmas Conference. It was the same procedure as the week prior but this time I gave a 10 minute talk in the Kirtland Temple (instead of conducting the meeting). It was a great meeting, a little better than the first if I had to pick. The speakers were great and the Spirit was so strong - especially as we all concluded with hymn #2 - The Spirit of God. I gave my talk on the "doctrine" of Christmas, as found in 1 Nephi 11 - the Condescension of God. This was taken from a 1969 BYU Devotional by Elder Bruce R. McConkie called "Behold the Condescension of God." The meeting went great and after our lunch we presented to President and Sister Sorensen their Christmas Present from the mission. We've been working on it for a couple months and when they unwrapped it they couldn't speak. We had collected a picture of every companionship and with the help of the Kirtland Historical Sites made a collage and framed it. They hung it the entryway of the mission home and said they absolutely love it! I'm glad we could do something special for them.

After the conference we went on exchanges with the Zone Leaders from the Akron Zone - Elder Green and I stayed here in North Olmsted. Thursday morning we showed up at 8:30 at a less-actives home where 440 bushels of shavings were being delivered. They charge 40 bucks every hour it takes to unload, and since she's sick and couldn't unload, we and her home teacher showed up to stack them in her barn. It was a great workout! We got it done in 30minutes so they only charged 20 dollars. Woo hoo! We got to share a message with her non-member sister after the job was done, and though she wasn't too interested, it was a good meeting. 

In other news, Erica is being baptized this Sunday (Jan 1st)!!! Elder Parkinson will be baptizing her and I will confirm her the following week. We will also be meeting with some of her family and friends before the baptism to teach them a little of what she's doing and why it's relevant to them. Last week she took our her nose and tongue ring! When we taught her how our bodies are temples and how the prophets have counseled us to have only one piercing in our ears (speaking of which, have you checked out the new For Strength of Youth pamphlet?? https://lds.org/bc/content/shared/content/english/pdf/ForTheStrengthOfYouth-eng.pdf?lang=eng) she originally figured what's happened has happened and she will make the right choice from now on. But as she dwelled on it and allowed the Spirit to work on her, she decided to take them out for good! She will be interviewed tonight to make sure she's ready to be baptized.

On Christmas Eve we drove to Mayfield, Ohio (near Kirtland) and met up with 6 Elders, 8 Sisters, the Smith's, and the Sorensen's to go caroling to some of Karl Anderson's neighbors. It was great! Afterwards Karl and Joyce Anderson invited us back to their house for some hot chocolate and we visited for a bit. Karl showed us some old artifacts he has - replica's of the original keys to the Kirtland Temple, Carthrage Jail, Liberty Jail, etc., a mite from Jerusalem (widow's mite from Old Testament), some oil lamps that were excavated in Israel, sand from Egypt, etc. It was pretty cool! Karl Anderson is known as Mr. Kirtland and knows all there is to know about the church history that passed through there. The Church Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve call upon him for information quite often. He's awesome - older, has the most contagious laugh in the world, and is the kindest man you'll ever meet. It was a honor to spend Christmas Eve with him!

Christmas was great. Got to skype home :) :) :) We went to a handful of members houses for dinners/desserts/games and got TONS of presents from the Ward!!! We got a box that was probably 40+ pounds full of candy, missionary supplies, gift cards, personal hygiene stuff, etc.! It was crazy! The little kids at the house (we were with 3 families from the ward who had a combined Christmas dinner) helped us open all the presents and were in Heaven. They were amazed at all our presents and kept asking if they could have some of them! One kept saying "You're going to get sick from all this candy!" and then would look at us with a look that was saying "so share with me!" - he's 5 years old. I'm grateful for all the gits, cards, and love that was sent my way. Weird that I wont have another Christmas out here as a missionary...

This week is full of meetings, exchanges, looking at transfers that will be coming up in a couple weeks, and a baptism! Another busy week ahead :) And the best part of it all is there is STILL no snow on the ground! The sun in shining and the clouds are white and puffy as can be! I feel like I'm back in California! Hope everyone had a great Christmas and has a great new years!

Love, Elder Dransfield

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Delightsome People

We had our first big snow this last Saturday! That means winter/Christmas are finally here! That first snow is always so tranquil and beautiful as it slowly falls, coating everything in sight with a thick blanket of pure, white snow. And once the snow stops falling, the evening is illuminating with some unknown light, painting the perfect illustration of "Silent Night." ...and then it starts to melt, the traffic gives it a brown hue, your socks become soaking wet as you accidentally slip in piles of slushy mud, and when you least expect it a huge blizzard comes and cuts away at your face until you turn either into a snowman or ice cube!!!!! ....Needless to say, I'm excited for this winter :)

Last Tuesday was our first Christmas Conferences. It was held in the Kirtland Temple and I conducted the meeting. It was a great event; we had Stake Presidents speak, the Sorensens, Karl Anderson, had a few musical numbers, and at the end of our time in the Temple we separated into the four corners (where the choir boxes are) and everyone had a chance to bear their testimony in the Kirtland Temple with their zone. At the end we all sang The Spirit of God (which was written for the Kirtland Temple dedication) and concluded the morning portion of our meeting. For the remainder of the day we were in the Kirtland Stake Center (which is just down the road) where we ate lunch, were instructed by President and Sister Sorensen, given Christmas Presents from them and the office staff, and then we watched 17 Miracles - a new movie about the Saints' journey to Zion. It came out this last summer and President thought it would be a nice treat to let all the missionaries watch the film together. It was a great movie, really brought to life what the pioneers went through and how their faith pulled them through the roughest of times. There were definitely more than 17 miracles in the movie, and I'm pretty sure it's based on true accounts/journals from those traveling.

On Wednesday we went over to Mrs. Lopez's house and helped her steam wash the tile in her finished basement that was damaged from floods earlier in the year. Since her husband passed away last March she hasn't had the time or strength to clean it herself. She just turned 85 and we were glad to help out. We brought our High Priest Group Leader with us and afterwards she fed us a great big Italian lunch (she is very Italian). We had shared with her a little bit about the Book of Mormon about a month or so ago and this time talked about the Priesthood and families being together forever. She told us she would love to read the Book of Mormon but probably couldn't become a Mormon because she doesn't want to betray her husband. She said her and her husband thought that we were the ones who had multiple wives and because of that her and her husband were never interested, but had they known maybe they would have joined. On the flip side, she said she knows her husband sent us to her to help her and be here for her. The holidays have been especially difficult for her (as she and her husband were married for over 60 years) and this week was also her husband's Birthday. She called me last night to say thank you again and began to weep a little as she confided in me how much she's been struggling. We might stop by tonight with a plate of cookies and will be going over after the holidays to paint some of her walls. She got us some Christmas Presents; mine is addressed to "Elder David" (she can never remember Dransfield! haha) and my companion opened his because he couldn't stand to wait - she bought us some nice t-shirts from JC Pennys (size small, but there are gift receipts so we'll be okay - that or I need to lose a few pounds....which in my case would probably be a bad idea...I might turn invisible!).

Friday we had a trainers meeting and afterwards we went contacting in Tower City (Downtown Cleveland). I was with 2 missionaries - one who has been out for about 3 months, the other 1 week, and we had a blast! They were so excited and would open their mouths to everyone! At first I was talking and teaching right along side of them, but as we went along I began to stand back a little and let them take the lead more and more. At one point, the younger missionary was talking and got stumped and looked at me, I just smiled at him, and he turn back to the person and began talking some more (and did a great job I might add!). I love contacting with the new missionaries and get to see the many tender mercies the Lord provides us with. I had a copy of the Joy to the World and Mr. Kruger's Christmas DVD's in my backpack so we handed them out to a couple people - one lady was so grateful and went off about how amazing she thinks our church is and our missionaries are and said that if she wasn't Catholic she would definitely join our church. The other I gave to a man waiting for the bus who at first didn't feel right taking it but was also very grateful (I guess he was a big Jimmy Stuart fan). It was great to see what a simple act of kindness would do for someone walking or standing in the cold, busy streets of Cleveland!

Our investigator Erica is also doing very well. She decided to be baptized on December 31st (and confirmed on January 1st) and has been taught all of the lessons. She came to the ward Christmas party on Friday night and her mother came with her! It was great to see the two of them together and her mother seemed to have a nice time; the ward loved meeting her and hopes she comes again! Her mother wasn't too supportive of us at first and was worried that her daughter was getting involved with some polygamist cult who doesn't believe in Jesus (a lot of people think that in Ohio. I can understand the misconception of polygamy, the "cult" rumor is just ridiculous and mostly stems from pastors of other churches (or so we're told by investigators), but not believing in Christ? "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" ...anyways. Nothing against Erica's mother, it's a common thing here in Ohio). But with Erica we have gone over all of the principles and doctrines of the gospel and are excited for her to be baptized. She has grown SO much in the past month-and-a-half and just illuminates with light!

Sunday we got back into contact with that family who Elder McClellanand I found after Elder Marcus B. Nash was here (the story of us running in the thunderstorm and finding shelter on the porch of which we weren't sure was even the house we were looking for... Part-member family... Her mother is a Relief Society President in the Kirtland Stake...if this doesn't ring a bell, go read my blog entry from August-September time). But we stopped by to give them a Chistmas movie (Joy to the World) and they let us right in and we asked if we could start teaching them again. They had no problem with it - this time I think we need to be careful not to "push them" too much though. I think last time we got really excited and the sudden change was putting strain on their relationship so they backed off. But this time we wont lose them! The gospel can be such a blessing to families, aside from sealing them together forever, and we want this for them so bad! We'll be calling them tomorrow to see if they had a chance to read from the Book of Mormon. We hope to see them at church Sunday.

Tomorrow we'll be having our second Christmas Conference in the Kirtland Temple. I think last time I wrote I talked about possibly speaking of the account in Luke 2 - breaking down the nativity scene (who was really who) but as I prayerfully studied and looked into it, I decided to teach about the doctrine behind Christmas or celebrating Christ's birth - taken from a talk by Bruce R. McConkie titled "Behold the Condescension of God." Today I will finish putting it all together, I hope it goes well. Conducting a meeting in the Kirtland Temple is nerve-wracking enough, but now I have to speak! Nevertheless, I'm excited! :)

We have also been teaching a girl named Stephanie. She is the finance of a less-active member and they both have decided they want to have religion in their small family's life. We've taught her only 3 times and she will have to make some big life-style changes to be baptized a member of the church (Word of Wisdom, Law of Chastity, etc.) but she can do it if she's willing to pay the price. Pay the price...It's interesting, many will look at something like the gospel or a mission and see them as something they have to sacrifice for. "I have to give up my cigarettes and coffee?" or "I have to give up my video-games for two years!" when really these things are not a sacrifice at all. The blessings that we receive from keeping the commandments are far greater than anything we can earn or inherit from the world. One of my favorite parts of being a missionary is getting to take part (or more so just watch, I don't do too much) in the transformation that takes place as they apply the Atonement of Jesus Christ in their life and align their behavior and desires with that of the Savior's. Like Erica, you see a light come into their eyes, a change of countenance. It doesn't mean life becomes perfect and happy all the time, but a new pool of hope and direction become added to your understanding and comprehension. One receives that eternal perspective, that edification of the Spirit, and we see Mormon's desires come to pass: "And my prayer to God is concerning my brethren, that they may once again come to the knowledge of God, yea, the redemption of Christ; that they may once again be a delightsome people" (Words of Mormon 1:8). Mormon is the one who abridged the Book of Mormon in about 385 A.D.

I know that through the gospel we can become a delightsome people. I am grateful for all that I've learned on my mission - the patience that has grown on me, the faith that has consumed me... I know that the Book of Mormon is truly the Word of God; I have read it, pondered the message it contains, and have most importantly prayed to a loving Heavenly Father about it. I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas! I get to skype home this Sunday and am very excited to get to talk to and see my family!!! :) Although I don't know what I'm going to say...I tell about everything in these emails!! :) I love you all, stay safe!

Love Elder Dransfield

Monday, December 12, 2011

Good Tidings of Great Joy!

Every week when I sit down at the computer and stare at this blank email and think back to what happened in a week, it baffles me by how quickly time goes by! And I cannot believe Christmas is already here! What a great time to be a missionary and get to share with people more about Jesus Christ! I think I have the best job/calling in the whole world!

On Monday we had a great lesson with Erica where we talked about who Jesus Christ is and the importance of having faith in Him. We watched Finding Faith in Christ (29min video)
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By the end, the Spirit was strong and Erica in tears. She received much personal revelation that night as many questions were answered.

Tuesday was P-day/new missionaries arrived. We had 6 Elders and 3 Sisters come out. They are great! We picked them up and went back to the Mission Home (where President and Sister Sorensen live, which is about 10 minutes from where we live) to eat and have a testimony meeting. As President interviewed them one-on-one, Elder Parkinson and I role-played (the usual routine) and were impressed by how much they learned in the MTC - their teaching skills.

Wednesday we drove them to Kirtland where we went on a tour with the Community of Christ in the Kirtland Temple, then over to the Kirtland Historical Sites (owned by the LDS church) where the missionaries consecrate their missions in the School of Prophets. At transfer meeting, there was a request for Elder Bills and I to play/sing our Redeemer of Israel song (I'll get a copy and send it home soon) and we did. It went well, President says our best yet. All the Sisters were crying. etc. etc. It was fun needless to say :) After the transfer meeting we went back to the Mission Home, this time with the Elders and Sisters going home (4 Elders, 10 Sisters!). Had a testimony meeting and while President interviewed the missionaries one-on-one missionaries packed, played the piano and sang, filled out some papers, and basically just hung out. It's important during this time that Elder Parkinson and I don't get distracted/trunky! ;)

Thursday 8 of the 10 Sisters and 1 Elder's parents came to pick them up at the mission home (usually they just fly home). So we had to be there as all these families reunited for the first time in 1 1/2 to 2 years and take their pictures. It was torture for us, but we're alive. haha. The rest of the week was a normal missionary week. Taught some investigators, taught a few people who haven't been to church in along time, eat dinner with some members, did some service in a Barn and in a recently-reactivated members home (we're helping him install wood flooring). We also attended a Baptism yesterday so that Erica could see what it's like. I interviewed the mother and daughter being baptized and passed them, so it was nice to be able to be there for the ordinance. It was a powerful baptism, one that many have been praying about for a long, long time.

Last night the Cleveland Stake (which covers from Sandusky, Ohio to Garfield Heights/Parma area) had a Christmas Musical Fireside. They've been practicing for months and did an amazing job! There was one cello/piano duet that was just phenomenal - I wish I had filmed it! Erica came with her son and her younger sister. It was fun to see her with her family. Today we'll be eating dinner with some members (the Hooks) and Erica and tomorrow we have our Christmas Mission Conference. We will be going to the Kirtland Temple like last year for the morning piece and will eat and finish our meeting in the Kirtland Stake Center (which is just down the road). I will be conducting tomorrow's meeting and will be speaking in next week's meeting. I don't quite have my talk written yet, I'll tell more about it when I figure it out! It'll be on Christ, Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds, and possibly the Wise Men - who the characters in the Nativity really are. But I have yet to collect my thoughts, have just been doing a lot of reading and studying.

Sorry I don't have more to report on! It was just one of those busy, not-too-much-proselyting-time weeks :( But this next week should be good, and I'll write more then. Have a great week! And here's a great talk that Ashley Holt emailed me last year that I read the other day: http://lds.org/ensign/1977/12/maybe-christmas-doesnt-come-from-a-store?lang=eng&query=maybe+christmas+doesn't+come+store I like it a lot. Have a great week! Love you all!

Elder Dransfield
We all came out together and we're all Zone Leaders/AP.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A short note

I don't have much to report on this week. Tomorrow we have the new missionaries coming in and Wednesday our transfers meeting in Kirtland. We have 8 or 9 Kirtland Sisters going home this transfer which has caused us to do a lot of consolidating and rearranging proselyting areas. Our Transfer Meeting (where we fast and pray about where to transfer missionaries) took us from 10am to 5pm!!! We were done by like 3pm or so but then we have the office staff come in and look at cars, apartments, new districts, new assignments, etc. It's pretty exciting. Afterwards the Sorensen's took us out to Olive Garden, my favorite! :)

The Christmas Devotinal last night was awesome! And I cannot wait for all of these "The Life of Jesus Christ Bible Vidoes" to come out!!! Anyone whose reading this should watch this short introduction video http://lds.org/bible-videos/videos/introduction?lang=eng. And the videos of his birth are perfect for the Christmas Season.

We're still teaching Erica and she's doing well. We're going over to a members house for Family Home Evening tonight with her, it should be lots of fun! But I really don't have much to report on. Lots of meetings, only taught about 12 lessons this week (which is pretty low seeing we didn't have anytime for tracting). Feels like we spend all day in the office sometimes - good thing I love the office staff so much! Everytime we get together we're laughing! Haha we have a good time together. But I do know that God is real and that Jesus Christ is our Savior. I love my mission and the people here in Ohio. Hard to believe I've been here for almost 15 months. Yuck, I can't think about it. A few of you have asked me about Christmas Presents - I really don't want/need anything. If you want to send me some stuff I can give to less-active families or investigators that'd be cool (i.e. Scripture markers, or... I don't know.) But instead how about everyone can save their money and put it in savings for when YOU serve a mission :) Love you all, have a great week!

Love, Elder Dransfield