First off, this week has been wild and probably one of the most mentally exhausting weeks of my mission.
Second off, I love my mission more than words can describe!
Transfers were on Wednesday and I received my new companion - Elder Prince from Sandy, Utah. He has been out for 9 months and this is his first transfer serving as a Zone Leader. Elder Hansen was transferred to New Philadelphia, Ohio and is going to do amazing things there! He is in probably the most beautiful area in our mission - luscious, green, rolling hills and some of the nicest people you'll ever meet. I'm excited for him and his companion. Elder Prince is a stellar missionary - I am hardly training him how to be a zone leader as much as just showing him the ropes and how to channel or fine tune one's leadership qualities to fit the needs of a zone/mission. It was been a lot of fun! He's learning quickly and soon I'll be able to kick back and let him do all the work! -ha! If I kicked back I would go crazy. He is incredible though.
I feel bad for Elder Prince because his first few days here we were swamped in meetings, planning, coordinating, etc. to make these new boundaries work out. We now have the Training Sisters, Sisters Bills and Tokunaga (from Utah and Hawaii), sharing our ward and the YSA University Branch with us. We have had to meet together with many of the leaders and with each other so that I could explain to all three of these new missionaries (my companion and the Sisters) who everyone is, what's been going on, what Elder Hansen and I have been building, etc. Needless to say, after a few days of doing more planning than working, my brain started to melt a little. But with much fasting and prayer, all is well! In fact, Sunday, which to me was test of how well we had or had not coordinated everything, went fantastic! The ward has responded so well to having the Sisters with us and I have never seen a ward so ecstatic and willing to do missionary work! We have given the Sisters many of our investigators and less-actives we had been working with that are now in their area or would work better with the Sisters. All 4 of us are very excited and like Elder Hansen and I had been saying, big things are going to be happening soon!
We have had some great lessons with one of our former investigators Larry. Larry lives in the ghetto --and I mean GHETTO-- and when he dropped us a few weeks back I wasn't too surprised. But he called us up and asked us to come back over and is now making huge strides to quit smoking and be worthy for baptism. On Wednesday we taught him with our Ward Mission Leader, Brother Baker (or the Bee Man as we call him --he has his own honey bee's and makes his own honey; it's incredible), and as we taught him about the Word of Wisdom and faith, Brother Baker also suggested a few tips to help with the taste or cravings. On Saturday, the day he was supposed to go cold-turkey, Elder Prince and I ran to the store and bought him a few of the suggestions given by Brother Baker. When we showed up to give them to him, we invited us in and told us he had already got all that stuff, but accepted the gift anyways. Then he showed up at church and volunteered to read everything, say every prayer, and even to help the deacons empty out the trashcans after church. He talked to a lot of the people and found himself a ride to come play basketball with the Ward on Tuesday night. I think I need to have more charity and faith for those with Larry's demographics, because he is doing so well! He is also working on getting a vehicle so that he can become more independent. He's a great guy and I really hope he continues to press forward. One must be willing to pay the price for the gospel, and once you do you see that in retrospect, there was no prince or sacrifice, for the blessings and joy far outweigh what you "gave up." I know that as Larry continues to give up his smoking that he will be greatly blessed - not just health-wise, but spiritually. We also gave him blessing on Friday; the Spirit was strong and at the end he laughed and said, "I felt it! I felt it!" haha, he's a great guy.
Last night we went over to deliver a large print Book of Mormon to our friend Brother Leavitt. We called him on Wednesday to make sure Sunday night was still okay and he explained to us that he really liked us, but he wasn't going to convert and wasn't really interested in learning. I was heartbroken and explained to him how I had bought him this large Book of Mormon and asked if we could still come over. He was very thankful and agreed. Well... we stopped by last night and his son (who is older and has some slight mental health issues) answered and told us that his father was in the hospital due to suffering from a heart attack!!! I was even MORE heartbroken! I loved this old 80-year-old Jewish man so much! And you all would too if you met him! The son didn't know which hospital he was at else we would have driven there immediately, so we instead taught the son a little bit more about the restoration and Book of Mormon.
I have to share some of my Book of Mormon studies from this morning. I'm going to explode. This 90-day reading challenge that we, as a mission, have been engaged in since January 1st has created in me a greater love and enthusiasm for the Book of Mormon. This morning I read from Helaman chapters 3-5. I cannot express in words how moved I am by this book. "...and they were filled with that joy which is unspeakable and full of glory" (Helaman 5:44) -maybe that's it. I see evidence of the Book of Mormon's truth as I apply it's principles in my life and see the promised blessings! For example, I see in my life that the "peace and exceedingly great joy" (Helaman 3:32) that the Nephites felt, I too feel as I "lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked-- And land their souls, yea, their immortal souls, at the right hand of God in the kingdom of heaven" (Helaman 3:29-30). Or as I pray! "Thus we may see that the Lord is merciful unto all who will, in the sincerity of their hearts, call upon his holy name" (Helaman 3:27). That is what we as LDS Missionaries ask people to do every day! To search, ponder, and pray about the Book of Mormon, with real intent, and as it is promised in Moroni 10:4; the Holy Ghost will manifest truth unto you! What incredible evidence of the Lord and "his miraculous and matchless power" (Helaman 4:25). Helaman chapter 5 is one of my favorite stories in the Book of Mormon. Verse 9 testifying of our Lord and Savior who "cometh to redeem the world." Verse 12 - a father pleading with his two sons to remember "that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation...a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall." The rest of the chapter entails the story of Lehi and Nephi, two outstanding missionaries and witnesses of God. I love the conversion of the Lamanites; the still small voice that penetrates their hearts and distills their pride. "And behold, the Holy Spirit of God did come down from the heaven, and did enter into their hearts, and they were filled as if with fire, and they could speak forth marvelous words. And it came to pass that there came a voice unto them, yea, a pleasant voice, as if it were a whisper, saying: Peace, peace be unto you, because of your faith in my Well Beloved, who was from the foundation of the world" (Helaman 5:45-47). I could go on and on about what I studied, but I just KNOW with every fiber in my being, with my entire soul and every ounce of understanding that this book, the Book of Mormon, is true! I know that it changes lives! I love it! Every time I read it, I am filled with the Spirit of God, which edifies, sanctifies, and teaches me how I can come closer to being like my Savior and returning to live with him and our Heavenly Father. A loving Heavenly Father who has provided us with the way, which "there is no other way nor means" (Helaman 5:9), to return to Him. "...remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men...ponder [the Book of Mormon] in your hearts...ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true...with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ...And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things" (Moroni 10:3-5). Read the book. Rid yourself of your pride, your excuses, your "fear...and lay aside very sin, which easily doth beset you" (Alma 7:15), and read the book. And that's my cry of repentance for the day. My cry driven from the deep joy which doth stir my soul. "O THAT I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!" (Alma 29:1). I know a bit how Alma must have felt.
My soul is filled with joy! I love my mission and for who I have become, what I have learned, but most importantly for the lives that I have been able to touch. For the eyes I have been able to open. The understanding I have been able to bring to my brothers and sisters. This isn't just another church I'm telling people about; this is eternal life, with our families. It's all so true. This is my testimony. I love you all! And I mean that from the bottom of my heart! Life is SO good! If you don't think so, open up to 1 Nephi chapter 1 verse 1 and start reading. Love you.