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