We've had another rough week!! I don't know why it's been so hard! I know Ether said "for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith" (Either 12:6), but man, it's been brutal! Through this all, Elder Hansen and I have developed a lot of faith and patience. We have dropped (stopped teaching) all but four investigators. One of those only speaks Spanish, one is in a nursing home, and one is 8 years old; we're teaching a very diverse group. But we are extremely grateful for those we are teaching, and are just going to be putting more time towards finding than teaching. This week we don't have any meetings to distract us from proselyting in our area and we are excited to work.
On Tuesday we had a District Leader Council meeting with our 4 District Leaders and 2 Training Sisters (basically Sister AP's over Kirtland Historical Sites). It was basically a mini-Mission Council were we discussed different principles of Christlike Leadership and effective ministering, and concluded with a council where we came up with goals for the Zone to increase our baptisms. They were inspired and I was again impressed by how the Spirit of Revelation worked among us all. We talk, throw out different ideas, talk some more, and continue this until the Spirit confirms to all of us that what we have is good; that what we have is what the Lord would have us do. I am confident that as our Zone implements these goals, that we will find more, teach more, and baptize more. I'm very excited! (some of these goals include things like the amount of time we put into "finding," how we seek after referrals, how many more people we strive to talk to daily, etc.). All of our ideas are based on Preach My Gospel or council we've received from President Sorensen, and like I said, I'm excited!
Elder Hansen and I, right after the meeting, went out and implemented some of our goals and we passed out 3 copies of the Book of Mormon in like 45 minutes and got 2 return appointments! At one of those, we met with two brothers, Don and Djuan. They are amazing! On the street we gave them both copies of the Book of Mormon and explained what it was. They said they were interested and that they would call us. They also said they might be moving soon but weren't sure when. We also got their number so that we could call them (people don't usually call). But later that night we received a text message from them asking when we were free, and we arranged with a member (recent convert who was baptized last September) whose house could meet at for a discussion. They arrived and we had an amazing lesson. As we taught about the Great Apostasy they were baffled by the fact that they were talking about that exact principle earlier that day. After we had concluded and we were getting ready to leave, I told them about our Singles Branch and how we'd love to see them there. Then they broke the news to us - when they said they were going to be moving soon, they didn't mean in a few months, they meant in a few DAYS! They were moving this Sunday! It was so sad! Even the member whose house we were at was sad! But they were eager to meet with missionaries where they'd be moving (Georgia). Those two were pretty cool. Didn't have any family they could turn to and didn't have really anything but each other. So they had arranged to move to Georgia to escape the slums of Cleveland and start over (hopefully to begin their dream career of singing R&B. We were going to meet with them the next day (since they were moving so soon) and at the meeting they were going to give us their new address in Georgia (they didn't know it at the first meeting). But they were running so late to our second meeting that we had to cancel and reschedule, but then the unthinkable happened! They ran out of minutes for their phone and it died!!!!!! And we didn't know where they lived because we talked to them on a street we were tracting and they didn't ever want us to come to their house because it was so filthy!!! And we weren't able to ever make contact with them again!!!! :( I am devastated!!! "I wish from the inmost part of my heart, yea, with great anxiety even unto pain [that we got their address in Georgia before their phone died!!!]" (Alma 13:27). Oh man... I do know, however, and am reminded in the Book of Mormon every time I read it how merciful the Lord is. This was only their first encounter with missionaries and I know it wont be their last. Heavenly Father will guide them back to this when the time is right, and one day they will be baptized. I'm sure of it.
On Thursday we had a Zone Conference. It was all centered on the Book of Mormon. Elder Hansen and I were asked to give a workshop on "How to help investigators read the Book of Mormon to gain a testimony." We studied in Preach My Gospel chapter 5 and read on pages 110 about how many investigators either do not read the Book of Mormon or do no understand what they read. It talks about different teaching skills to use or things to take into consideration (i.e. Read with them if they didn't keep their reading commitment from the last visit, pause frequently as you read and describe what words or phrases mean, point out different principles or doctrines that can be pulled from the scripture, "liken"the scriptures unto them (I think that's the most important one!), etc.). We were thinking of a creative way we could teach this to the missionaries and the idea came to us to use these same ideas from page 110 to help the missionaries understand a hymn more! We all sing hymns (or songs) and usually just focus on the beat or the surface level feelings/words we intake. But all hymns (and a lot of songs) have a much deeper meaning that, when we understand it, can bring about a whole new song. We put together a pool of different hymns we each liked that we could do and then the idea again popped into our head - Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing! An early church history kind of song seemed fitting as we would be holding our conference a block away from the Kirtland Historical Sites. Unfortunately, we knew nothing about the song (it's background, what some of the words meant (like Ebenezer)) so with the help of some members, we investigated and tore apart the song! --I felt like I was back in my AP Literature class! The song is (more) incredible when you come to understand that the song is talking about the Atonement of Jesus Christ. That through Him dying for us and suffering for us, we can change and align our lives and desires with that of the Father's. So for our workshop on Thursday, we read through Preach My Gospel and discussed the things I mentioned above, then we gave them all a copy of the lyrics to the song and read it with them, breaking it down bit by bit and helping them to see the deeper meaning of the song. Then we ended our workshop by playing the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's rendition of the song (which is the best version I've heard) and man.. it was so powerful! We all (even Elder Hansen and myself included) were so edified and enlightened. We received many compliments afterwards and throughout the week, so hopefully that means that the missionaries see the connection of helping investigators understand the scriptures and them understanding the music.
Also at the Zone Conference, Elder Hansen and I performed a piano duet musical number "I know my Heavenly Father Loves Me" - a children's hymn sung in the Primary at church. Thanks mom for sending the music! :)
We're having a baptism this Saturday for Julia (pronounced Hulia), our Spanish investigator. Whenever we teach her, we have to have a member who speaks Spanish (which we have tons of...Returned missionaries...they're awesome!) and I either sit off to the side and send texts to our investigators/missionaries, or we go on Splits and I go teach someone else. The only gospel words I know in Spanish are Jesus Christ and Chastity... But her baptism should be great! It's going to be all in Spanish and we've made tons of preparations for it! Even though I will not be able to understand the words, I am excited to feel the Spirit that will be there, for "in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest" (D&C 84:20). A baptism is the greatest portrayal of the Atonement changing ones life and at it the Spirit is in rich abundance. That's why we work so hard to get our investigators to come baptisms performed by someone holding the restored Priesthood authority - because there the power of god is being used to change the life of one of His children!
Those are some of the highlights of the week. Pam is doing well. We have started over teaching her and her reading the in the Book of Mormon is slow (about 4 verses a day) but steady. The 8 year old I mentioned is the granddaugther of a recent-convert and is so bright! It's fun to teach the gospel so simply, yet sometimes can prove challenging! I give props to the primary teachers out there!
I know that our Heavenly Father loves us so much; he is preparing the hearts of His people everywhere to accept this great message we share. Alma 16:16-17 reads, "And there was no inequality among them; the Lord did pour out his Spirit on all the face of the land to prepare the minds of the children of men, or to prepare their hearts to receive the word which should be taught among them at the time of his coming-- That they might not be hardened against the word, that they might not be unbelieving..." We are all equal in God's eyes, and His blessings and tender mercies can be found in our every day. Our lives are saturated in His love, and one of the greatest joys of missionary work is when you can help someone feel the Spirit that testifies to them of that infinite love. Though Valentines Day may be more of a "Halmark Holiday," what a great reason to see the love He has for us in our lives and to help others feel that love. I love the gospel; I love everything about it and try harder and harder everyday to personify the attributes of our Savior, Jesus Christ. He lives! He is the fount of every blessing. His is the mount, Calvary, that we are fixed upon. May we all raise our own Ebenezer and remember how the Lord has helped us in our lives. May we bind our wandering hearts to Him. I know that our Heavenly Father lives as well! They are real, they know us, and they desire more than anything for us to return to live with them! This I know to be true.
Love, Elder Dransfield