It's been a great week. Today marks my 20th month of being on a mission. Isn't it wild how fast time goes by? This week was long, but it flew by and I can't believe it's Tuesday already. I'll try my best to explain it all...
On Monday we held a Zone P-day in Fairport Harbor, Ohio. There is a somewhat famous lighthouse there and many beaches. We had been told by members that there are volleyball nets set up on the beaches there and for weeks we have been planning this trip. It was a blast! The beach was about 15 minutes away from the Kirtland Historical Sites and because it is so early in the season, they have not started charging for parking and we had the whole beach almost to ourselves. The volleyball nets were not hung up, but we had brought our own and somehow got it to stay up. The Assistants came down from Cleveland to play too and we all had a fantastic time! It was really cool to have the Zone get to know each other more and bond as we played volleyball, football, soccer, etc. together on the beach. The temperature was also perfect - I think it was around 70 or 75 degrees. A couple of the missionaries even handed our a few copies of the Book of Mormon to some people on the beach and the Sisters have some potential investigators.
After the beach volleyball, we all headed back to the stake center (Sisters went back to their homes) and we changed and met back at the Community of Christ's church building. They hosted a dinner for us in recognition of our service a couple weeks back. It was delicious and was a lot of fun to fellowship and being with them. We didn't get back to Shaker Heights until 8pm and Elder Ingersoll and I had two lessons with members (in preparation for our Luau) and so we had the East Cleveland Elders (who we drove to Kirtland) drop us off at the first members house, the plan being for them to come pick us back up at the next members house (who lived maybe half a mile away). On our walk over to the next appointment (which, by the way, it was so nice to walk. We drive so much to makes me feel like my legs are going to whither away. Random side note...) we were pulled over by a police officer and gently interrogated. Because two white kids in Cleveland wearing suits and ties looks pretty sketchy. The next day we were sitting in the car on the phone before going into an appointment and a different police officer crept up beside us and also asked what we were doing. I'm starting to wonder if I'm doing something to draw police to me? Maybe I'm "losing myself" in the wrong connotation. Or maybe they just want a better look at our ties. Yes, that must be it!
Tuesday was exchanges, and when we met back up in Kirtland on Wednesday, Elder Ingersoll and I stopped by the Sites to pick up a future missionary. The Steele's, a senior couple at Kirtland (who I could write pages and pages about how amazing they are and how much everyone in the mission loves them to death, so for sake of time I will just leave it at this), left this last Friday (home), and in preparation for their move and to help with the long drive home to Utah, their grandson Cole flew out from Colorado. President Sorensen had been made aware of this and arranged for us to take him out teaching with us Wednesday evening. He had graduated high school the Monday prior and is preparing to turn in his mission papers at the end of the summer. We had an incredible night and a great time with him. We had dinner at our Ward Mission Leaders house where we shared with the kids a lesson about us opening our mouths as missionaries and letting the Spirit to help us know what to say (which Cole was then able to witness first-hand the rest of the night). We taught Kenny and Mornetta, finished our appointment early and tracted around their house. The first door let us right in and we taught a very brief lesson about what the Book of Mormon is. We would ask Cole questions and allow him to teach, bear testimony, explain what the scriptures were saying, etc. And numerous times he would say something and the man would light up and expound upon what Cole said. We have a return appointment with the man (his name is A.C.). Afterwards we went and taught Richard (who was baptized a few weeks ago) and Cole helped us teach the Restoration. Cole was amazing! The night was just so energizing and inspiring to see someone like Cole, who has had little to know "training" on how to be a missionary, be so successful and influential in these peoples lives! When we dropped him back off in Kirtland with his grandparents, we visited for a bit and recounted the evening to the Steele's. They were all so grateful and Elder Ingersoll and I were equally so. It was a great evening for us all.
Saturday was the big event we've been putting countless hours into preparing - the Luau! It...was...AWESOME! We didn't have as many nonmembers as we were hoping (I think our count was 15) but we had about 200 people there - which is (or was) unheard of for a ward activity. The decorations were perfect, the music and skit turned out great, there was plenty of tasty food, and the church tour was successful. I should be able to get some pictures hopefully later today or maybe in the near future from members and missionaries. But I can try to describe it now... When you walked up to the front doors, two Elders were there greeting you and placing a lei around you and welcoming you "Aloha!" You walk in and in the foyer was a photo booth set up for you and your family to dress up and pose for the camera. As you then proceeded to the cultural hall, we had five rows of tables lined up perpendicular to the stage with white table clothes and colorful Hawaiian fabrics covering them. Our center pieces on all the tables were pineapples cut into boats (which pieces were eatable). We had surf boards made out of ironing boards, big cardboard pictures of Hawaiian flowers all over the walls, big palm trees made out of sun umbrellas and fabric (looked really cool), lights all around the room, aaaand I'm probably forgetting some things but it looked great! The room was a little bit dim but light up with the lights. The room was PACKED with people and by 6:45 we began our show.
The show started with the overhead lights flickering and suddenly the plane crash scene from LOST projecting onto a white screen (a normal project screen which suspends over the stage). There was dramatic LOST music and everything and on the 30 second video the last thing you see is a huge piece of cargo or plane fly at you and then we cut the video and sound with a single spot light on the screen. Brother Collete was playing as the typical beach bum and he was behind the screen. He pulled it up, raised his conch shell, and blew it to start the Luau! Then the curtains opened and from the back of the room two of our members ran yelling and screaming - the story was then about a young couple on their second honeymoon and their plane had crashed over the Pacific. They thought they were on some deserted island but really were in Hawaii. The wife of the couple (in real life) went to school at Julliard and has danced on Broadway and such, so her acting ability is amazing. So in the show, she was freaking out and being over dramatic while her husband remained calm. The rest of the show was a series of performances in which the two would watch and then be the transitioning piece to the next show. For example, Sister Tokunaga came out and calmed them down and welcomed them to Hawaii (the couple were talking slowly and loudly to her "We... mean... you... no... harm!" and to calm them down she performed a traditional dance. Afterwards she shows the couple her school class that she teaches and the primary classes sang to the audience and did hand motions to the song "Pearly Shells" (you can probably youtube it and see what I'm talking about). Sister Tokunaga left to take her children back to the school when the beach bum came out and showed them how to get the milk out of a coconut (it is not the water inside, you have to break it open and squeeze it out of the white part apparently) and then when the touristy, confused couple couldn't pay for the beverage, he called his people and they came to scare them away with the Hakka. Luckily, Sister Tokunaga came back with some of the Sisters from the island and they danced the Hula. A few more numbers were performed and from the show we transitioned everyone to the church tour.
For the tour, we had four different stations - the youth (young men's/young women's), the Relief Society, the Primary, and the chapel. At each one, members explained what each program or room was used for and why we did certain things. It was similar to a temple open house. In the end, we had everyone come back into the cultural hall for us to announce the winners of the costume contest (winners won some Hawaiian CDs (actually from Hawaii) and some Hawaiian punch (actually from WalMart!). By 8:05 we were done and began to clean up. We received wonderful feedback from the members and nonmembers and Karl Anderson told President Sorensen that it was the best church event he had ever attended - if anything for the fact that we were done by 8pm, rather than dragging on and on into the hours of the night with our presentations). But everything worked out well which came from TONS of planning and undoubtedly from the help of our Heavenly Father. Although we didn't get 50 nonmembers to come (that was my goal), it was still a success and the ward and many in the stake are still talking about it. Hopefully we were able to plant some seeds for the nonmembers who were able to come and learn more and feel the Spirit in the chapel.
Sunday we had stake coordination with the Kirtland Stake President, his High Councilor in charge of missionary work, and President Sorensen. We were able to talk about some of the success with missionary work, reactivation, etc. and see ways we can continue to strengthen the different units in the stake. It was my last Kirtland Stake Coordination meeting because I'm being TRANSFERRED! I'm a little sad, but I know that where I am sent it where the Lord needs me. After the meeting, we met up with Elder Bills to practice our arrangement of Redeemer of Israel which we were to perform at the Kirtland Fireside. Elder Ingersoll and I wrote a violin part for the song, and we were able to put it all together an hour before the performance. The fireside's theme was 2 Nephi 33:1 and 7 recent-converts were given time to bear their testimonies and talk about their conversion and 3 musical numbers were performed. It was an incredible meeting; the Spirit was so powerful and touched every ones hearts. It was packed with people and we received great feedback about our performance. Erica spoke and did an amazing job, and I was privileged enough to have a front row seat. As she spoke of her coming to know the Book of Mormon and church are true, floods of memories came back to me. It was such a blessing. President and I were talking after the fireside and he said that as he watched her bear her testimony and me sitting almost directly in front of her, he kept thinking that that opportunity I had, if not anything else, made my mission worth it. Being able to hear her bear testimony to a room packed with members and nonmembers that she knows the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only complete church on the earth. Again, I feel so greatly blessed.
Another huge blessing from the night was I got to see the Nevilles and Hornings!!!!!! (From Canton)! I was literally jumping in the air getting to see them again! AHH! It was Awesome! And I also got to see many members from previous wards and missionary companionships (like Elder Hansen and Elder Bills). That night was just so enriching and powerful - I'm grateful I was able to attend and perform.
This last week, as you can tell if you're still reading this (and if you are, I'm sorry if I've wasted your time!), was a very, very busy week. But it was also very fulfilling and memorable. I'm so grateful for the time I've worked here in Shaker Heights/Kirtland. I've loved my companions, I've loved the ward, I've loved the people I've met, I've loved the missionaries I've been able to serve (even if, I'll admit, having to be a Zone Leader over 20+ Sister missionaries terrified me at first), I've loved the lessons we've taught and the powerful experiences we've been graced to have, and I've loved the Spirit I've felt here - it's different from the rest of the mission. There is a Spirit of peace, as Kirtland truly is sacred ground where God, the Father, and His son, Jesus Christ, both appeared. I've loved my mission, and these four-and-a-half months have marked another chapter in my life that I will never forget. I have grown and learned things here that I couldn't anywhere else in the mission, and that is one of the many ways I know that God is in this work. It isn't always an easy work, but it is true. And as Erica said on Sunday, if it's true, then what else matters? I am grateful for the ability to see God's hand in my life. I've found on my mission that there are many people who struggle to see that. He is real, He lives, and He loves us unconditionally. If there's one thing I've learned out here, it's that. He love us. And He always will, no matter how far we've strayed or how lost we feel. He loves us, and always will. How much better can it get? I love you all too! If you are still reading this, you should probably do a few jumping jacks and go grab a bite to eat. Your face is looking pale and your eyes are turning into squares. Have a great week!
Love, Elder Dransfield