Hello from the snow-free city of Cleveland! It's a beautiful, brisk morning, the sun is shining, the car horns are blaring, and the office is busy at work!
This week I went on 3 exchanges in 4 days. This week was full of meetings hosted by the Zone Leaders (based on our Mission Council the week prior) and Elder Parkinson and I tried to attend as many as we could ask President traveled the mission conducting interviews with missionaries. Tuesday morning we woke up nice and early to drive down to Tallmadge, Ohio (suburb of Akron) where I was asked to give my famous "Beware of Pride" talk. My 3rd transfer (last January or February) when I was in Findlay, Ohio, I was asked to give an interactive workshop about President Ezra Taft Benson's "Beware of Pride" talk. Missionaries still comment on it, so that either means it was super powerful or I was amusing (a lot of body movement...like jumping jacks?). So I gave it again due to some major pride issues between companionships and leaders. I felt really good about it and President said a lot of the missionaries commented on how much they liked it. I talked to every companionship two days later and followed-up on the commitments I left with them and had great discussions with them all. I love the missionaries here! It's really amazed me at how much I have come to love every single missionary and really know them personally from getting to serve here as President's Assistant. I've learned so much and am humbled by the many strong examples of Christlike missionaries that serve here in the Ohio.
Following the 3 1/2 hour meeting we drove back up to Cleveland and while on the turnpike (fast highway you pay money to use) a huge blizzard hit! We were in a complete white-out and you could hardly see the car ahead of you. We all had our hazards flashing and it was no longer a fast highway. We tried to take pictures but our cameras couldn't really capture what it was really like. Once we got up to Cleveland, we met the zone for lunch (they had their meeting that day too) and I got together with Elder Metcalf and we drove over to Sandusky, Ohio. Had a great time there, and the next morning my companion drove the truck over and we headed down to Findlay, Ohio for the Findlay Zone's meeting. Our GPS said we were going to be there about 30minutes early, so I called up the Lays' (a couple from Findlay who live pretty close to the church building where the meeting was being held) and asked if they'd cook up a quick breakfast! It was great to see them! The meeting went really well. It was Elder Perkins' last meeting before he goes home so I asked the Zone Leaders if he could bare his testimony at the end about what his mission has done for him. He bore a powerful, emotional testimony and it was a perfect end to the meeting; I'm proud to call him my trainer! I'm going to miss him, but I think he's planing on going to UVU, so he'll be close by when I get home.
Following the meeting I drove down to St. Mary's which is the most southwest area in our mission (borders Indiana). It's a slower area and missionaries can sometimes get discouraged - you do a lot of tracting (knocking on doors). The two missionaries there now (Elder Anderson and Elder Pratt) came out the same time as me and are awesome Elders, so I just showed up and we went out and hit the pavement. Because my truck gets unlimited miles, we used it to our advantage and traveled to a small town called Fort Recovery which is the as southwest as you can go in the mission. To get there I think we were accidentally driving in Indiana for a couple minutes. But we parked the truck, said a prayer, and started knocking on doors. We talked to a lot of people and got 3 people who were interested in learning more who we exchanged phone numbers with. It was good to find success and break the stereotype of it being a "dead" area. Those two Elders have been working really hard and are having a couple baptisms this month which will be helpful to the Branch out there.
The next morning we drove back up to Findlay, studied with the four missionaries who serve in that ward, and then drove up to Holland (Toledo area) where we went on splits with two sets of missionaries. On our way up, Brother Kreger heard I was in town and called and asked if he could take us to lunch. Figured we had to take a lunch break at some point... When we got up to Holland, I worked with Elders Kitchen and Hicks and we had a blast (they also came out with me - Elder Kitchen and I were MTC companions). We had dinner with M.J. from the Toledo 2nd ward (where I was trained and where I whitewashed trained Elder McMillan); she took us out to Olive Garden and we had a nice time. The next morning we realized we had left our supplies in a missionaries car while exchanging in Findlay so we had to drive back down to Lima, Ohio (a little less than a three hour round-trip). We got back in Toledo just in time to attend our last zone meeting with the Toledo zone and after having a bite to eat headed back to North Olmsted to work our own area! It was a busy week but good to be out with all the missionaries and get to work with them. I enjoy exchanges - applying D&C 84:106, 108 and getting to see the impact these missionaries are having, influencing others to come unto Christ.
Other highlights of the week: We gave a church tour to our investigator Stephanie. She and her less-active soon-to-be fiance came with their son (who I think is a little over 1 year). She seemed to really enjoy it and got really excited for church the next day (which she had never been to). The next morning she came alone and in the last hour (Relief Society) she stood up to introduce herself and told everyone that she is really excited to be baptized and is looking forward to being a member! For the past month we've struggled to get Stephanie, her fiance, and his mother to keep any of their commitments (to read, come to church, etc.) and have been praying a lot about how we could help them (or if we should drop them - which is missionary lingo meaning stop teaching them). We both felt that a church tour would be beneficial and it has since proven so! She is going to have to get married and quit smoking, so we have some trials we're going to have to teach her how to overcome, but through faith in Jesus Christ, anyone can change and miracles do happen.
Erica was confirmed yesterday! I had the privilege of bestowing upon her the gift of the Holy Ghost and confirming her a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! She had Elder Parkinson, the Bishop, Brother Lassen, Brother Hook, and Brother Palmer all stand in the circle - Brother Pattee and Quist would have but they weren't able to come to church yesterday. Erica's mother and younger sister both attended Sacrament Meeting to support her and it was great to have them! It was Fast and Testimony Meeting that day due to New Years being last Sunday and the meeting was great. Michael Fulkroad got up and bore his testimony with Elder Parkinson (last Fast and Testimony Meeting I kept elbowing Michael telling him that if he went up that I would go up and he didn't want to. After the meeting he told me that next week he would if I would. I let him and Elder Parkinson go instead). After a few more speakers I got up and immediately following me ERICA got up! I don't know if I've ever seen a recent-convert (at least not that recent!) get up and bear their testimony - but she did! And it was so sincere and powerful. I'm so excited for her and for the future that lies ahead of her and her three-year-old son!! She will now forever, as she remains faithful and obedient, have the Holy Ghost with her to guide her, comfort her, sanctify her, and teach her. She will forever be able to feel of God's love for His children as described in Moroni 8:26.
This week we will be having our transfer meeting where we decide where everyone goes. A new Assistant has been called (one of my favorite Elders out here - he's going to be amazing!) so he will be arriving tonight and will be in a triple-up with us until transfers on the 18th. I wont know where I'm going until the meeting on Thursday. Tomorrow we have a Trainers Meeting with all those Elders and Sisters who will be training this next transfer. But other than that, it will be a pretty normal week - as normal as transfer week can be!
I love this work; I know this is exactly where I am supposed to be. I know that personal revelation is real and that our Heavenly Father will lead and guide us to eternal happiness. I know that Jesus Christ is the head of this church, that it is His church re-established in these latter-days. The Book of Mormon and the Bible are the word of God - we can come closer to Him as we study their teachings. I love my mission and everyone who I have ever met out here - whether they be someone who slammed their door in my face or a missionary who is struggling to find his purpose. My calling as an Assistant has changed who I am and has helped me create a great vision for who I can become. I love President and Sister Sorensen and am eternally grateful for the honor it's been to work along side them for the last 6 months. I will be sad to leave, but more so excited beyond belief to get to go and work in the field! I know that wherever I am called there are people whose lives I'm supposed to go be a part of. I know that nothing can frustrate God's great plan and design for us. The Plan of Salvation is beautiful and perfect. In it lies our purpose and calling and what makes it all possible is the Atonement of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Man... Life is so good. I hope we all can see the infinite love that our Heavenly Father has for each and everyone of us in our everyday lives. Have a great week!
Love, Elder Dransfield