Wednesday, June 27, 2012

My last letter to the Sorensens

My letter this week is a copy of my last letter to President Sorensen. Every week we write a letter to our Mission President to let him know how things are going (a form of return and report). I had a great week. Not too much to report on. Bonnie is great and will be baptized soon. God is good. :) Here's the letter:

Dear President and Sister Sorensen,

I'm sure you, more than I, cannot believe how quickly this week has come upon us all. I'm so grateful for the blessing it has been to serve and work around you both. I have learned so much from your examples and have grown in ways that I didn't know were possible. I'm grateful for the redeeming and enabling power of Jesus Christ's Atonement in our lives that allows us to change, grow, and become.

You have asked the mission the question, what have we come to love about our missions? I could write you a novel about how I have loved every experience, whether it be full of adversity or joy, every gospel principle, my Savior, my Heavenly Father, my purpose, teaching, doing everything by the Spirit, being a leader, learning, loving, and so forth. I loved every second of my mission. I'll just share about two principles that I have come to better understand and love which are principles that will play a role in my life forever. Those are the Holy Ghost and the Atonement.

I have loved the Spirit on my mission. I love the comfort found, knowledge received, and joy given "by the Spirit" - that phrase which will stick with me forever. I love being able to communicate with the Spirit. Through our worthiness (obedience and consistent repentance) and reverence in our lives, we can constantly be guided and comforted by the Holy Ghost. I have seen this countless times in these past 21 months. I love being much more sensitive and familiar with the Spirit than ever before in my life. One of my favorite things to do in a lesson (other than invite someone to be baptized) is pause the lesson and allow them to discover the Holy Ghost; asking the question: How do you feel? I love being able to witness and feel our Heavenly Father's love through the Spirit. What a beautiful phenomenon.

I have also come to love and appreciate the Atonement so much more than I can voice in a letter. The Atonement is real. It's powerful. It's effects on our lives are incredible. I have come to know, so deeply, that Jesus Christ's infinite Atoning sacrifice is the only way to acquire happiness and joy in our lives. It's the only way. I love that I know that now. I love it! I have loved every second of my mission because that's what we are doing very day - inviting others to come unto Christ and experience His Atonement! We can become what our Heavenly Father intends for us to become through this Atonement. We can change those things we wish to change and develop self-mastery even as the Savior has. I have also loved every opportunity that Heavenly Father has given me to witness the Atonement take place in others lives. Through baptism, the sacrament, repentance, whatever... I have loved it. It is real. The power of the Atonement is real. And I love that.

It's with tears in my eyes that I tell you how much I love you both. You have changed my life and I will never forget the things you have taught me. Thank you for changing my life and blessing the lives of so many others. I hope I can be as good missionaries, parents, and disciples as you two have been to us. I love you. This isn't a goodbye, it's a "see you later!" And as a member in Findlay once told me, "Don't be sad you're leaving, be glad that we've met. And if I don't see you again in this life, I will see you in the next." Thank you.

Love, Elder Dransfield

Monday, June 18, 2012

Humility: learning how to breathe under water

This week, the Sorensen's had their mission tour farewell. In three different days, they had meetings around the mission to basically say a few last words, tell us they love us, show us a cool video of Jeffrey R. Holland, and give us all a gift and hug/hand shake goodbye. It was a bitter-sweet meeting. The missionaries in each meeting all made arrangements to pay tribute to the Sorensens and the Akron and Youngstown Zone (my meeting) decided to sing a song as tribute. I thought it was a weak-sauce idea and did a little something extra. One of the Elders in our apartment ordered a nice, genuine leather-bound Book of Mormon. He accidentally ordered the compact size which is about 8x4" - a small guy! He wanted to order a new (bigger one) so we took advantage of the opportunity and I decided to have all the missionaries in the mission mark their favorite scripture and write their name next to it. I didn't think it would be that difficult, but anyone who knows me knows that I usually go crazy with projects like these. Here's the story of Elder Dransfield and the Farewell Gift:

Chapter 1: Once upon a time, it was Monday morning. Phonebook out, we call the local Christian Bookstore. We ask them if they can do engravings on sets of scriptures and they said they charge $5. Perfect! We asked if they will even do a Book of Mormon. They said yes. A few hours pass by and me and Elder Becksted drive to this store. We look around, see some Greg Olsen paintings, pick-up some scripture markers (for Elder B) and go to the check-out desk. Well... They refused to engrave my Book of Mormon. I asked why and she said that if a book isn't bought at their store and they mess-up, it cannot be replaced and thus they do not want to be liable for that. I asked if there was something I could sign that says "I don't care if they mess-up, I just need this done" and she said "no, we just wont do it." I probably stood there in silence looking down at the book for 30 seconds and the lady said, "I'm sorry, we just can't do it." I looked up and said, "Is there somewhere else I could go?" She told me they were the only place that do it in the area and that if I wanted I could go to the trophy shop where they can engrave things, but not put the silver or gold lining in. I told her that wouldn't do; that's not what you do with scriptures. I left asking, "Are you sure there's no way you can help me?" She said no. I thanked her and left.

Chapter 2: I never thought I would be so grateful for the Catholic church as I was this day. When we left the Christian Bookstore, I punched into my GPS point-of-interests "Christian." I scrolled through what seemed to be hundreds of churches when I saw the little icon for a store: "St. Raphael Christian Bookstore." I looked at Elder Becksted and said, "Well this will be awkward," and off we went. We pull up to a quaint little store nearby a large Catholic church - the lack of cars causing it to seem abandoned. We walked in and a little old lady asked, "Can I help you?" I probably sounded like a desperate lunatic as I explained to her what I needed and that the Christian Bookstore couldn't help me. "Yes, we can do that," she told me. I handed her over the book and she asked when I needed it back by. "Umm...right now?" She told me there was no way she could do it today, that usually people will drop these things off and give them days (dayS - plural! I had a mini-heart attack and millions of stomach ulcers suddenly appeared all over my stomach) to finish these. I told her that this was a going away present for someone we were seeing tomorrow. She quoted part of the Laborers in the Vineyard parable "something something eleventh hour" and said she would have it ready for me by tomorrow at 10am. The meeting was at 11am. I told her that would have to do. I thanked her and told her that I loved her for helping us. She looked at me funny. What is it with me telling everyone I love them?

Chapters 3, 4, 5, and 6 have to do with me running to Walmart and the Holley's apartment (the senior missionary couple in our ward) to figure out what to put on the inside flaps of the book, calling the Roseville Cover-to-Cover asking them to tell me the measurements of the book I had left with an old Catholic, and trying to do missionary work simultaneously. When we stopped by Walmart to print off some pictures for the Book of Mormon, the woman at the photo-center asked where the pictures were taken. It was a perfect opportunity to talk about the church and what we did and for the next 20 minutes she told us how her mother had recently passed away and how hard it has been. She has a brother who just moved to Utah and has been meeting with missionaries. We testified that families can be together forever and left with her spirits much higher than when we arrived. She was such a nice lady, not interested, but very kind. There's missionary work to be done everywhere - even Walmart!

In the end, the book looked like as follows: The cover had engraved in gold along the bottom "Ohio Cleveland Mission." When you opened the cover, the left side of the flap had a picture of the Kirtland Temple with part of D&C 38:32 quoted. The right side had our mission song (Armies of Helaman adapted into a Kirtland theme) lyrics. The back cover flap had a picture of the School of Prophets (from the Kirtland Historical Sites) with the rest of the D&C 38:32 quoted. On the left side of the flap was a little note where I quoted part of 2 Nephi 32:3 (words of Christ tell you...) and Jacob 7:26 (time passed a dream) and wrote about how much we'd miss them and hope they can treasure our favorite scriptures. I was very pleased with the finished product and when they presented it to the Sorensen's at the end of our meeting, they were very touched. I'm glad I could give them something that they can, hopefully, treasure forever. They took the book all around to each meeting (we were first) and had all the missionaries highlight their favorite scripture and sign their name. Mission accomplished. The End. I blame all of this on being around Kirtland Sisters for too long ;) just kidding!

So where does Elder Dransfield find time to do real missionary work amongst all of this? No sure. But we had a great week and have found many interested people from tracting! One house we knocked on and a mom answered. We began talking when three little children (ages 7, 5, and 4) ran out from between her legs and were running around the deck, asking us questions and showing us their toys. We visited with them for a bit and asked the mom if we could share a lesson with them. We taught them how their hands can teach them about Jesus and showed them a trick to know what faith, repentance, baptism, the Holy Ghost, enduring to the end, and the Atonement are. They liked it. One house we knocked and a man came out with a nine millimeter hanging at his side. We talked for a good 30 minutes until he agreed to hear more and we shared the message of the restoration with him. One house we knocked remembered missionaries from two years ago who used to come and help her with her yard work. I named a few and she got really excited when I named the correct two: Elders Mo'unga and Farmer. She can't wait for us to come back next week. Another house we knocked on and a guy came out. He shared with us how he left the Amish faith when him and his wife were born-again. We talked about how important Christ was. He was very friendly and though not interested, we had a great contact with him. All kinds of miracles and tender mercies occur from diligence in tracting. It's not the best finding technique, but it definitely brings blessings into our lives as missionaries. The best way to find people, is to share with your friends how the restored gospel has helped and blessed your life and invite them to learn more (Sister Maas...*cough cough*).

Bonnie is still amazing. Her baptismal date is for July 7th and she is so excited for it. She really "gets it" when it comes to the gospel and what we're teaching her. Usually this ward likes baptisms to fall on Sundays so that more of the ward can attend (after church) but Bonnie made the comment that she would like to be conferred the gift of the Holy Ghost as soon as possible after her baptism. That way she's not vulnerable or in that state of limbo for too long (baptism and the a week later the Holy Ghost). It was such a sincere and heart-felt concern that we felt that a Saturday baptism would be more than appropriate. I wouldn't want to put someone in that state of discomfort. Bonnie is awesome and we love teaching her. She's going to be an amazing member! We hope we can meet and maybe even teach her husband soon and allow them to begin the journey of becoming an eternal family.

Today we are going up to Uniontown to play golf with Fred. Him and his wife (who is a member) feed us amazing food every week. Last year when I was here, I helped them build their coy pond. It's light outside, contrasted with dark clouds and thick humidity, but hitting at the driving range should be fun. If I can hit the ball... ha!

I think that's about it. Father's Day has come and gone. I'm grateful for my father and his love and example to me! I've got an awesome dad :) Can't wait to be just like him someday.

I still love Canton. Elder Harris works hard with me and the members treat us great. This week I will hit my 21-month-mark. Wow! I know everyone says this, but it really feels like I just left yesterday. Time flies when you're having fun! And are happy! Thanks for all the letters and prayers that are sent my way. I'm so grateful for how blessed I have been these past 21 months! Take care. Love you all!

Elder Dransfield

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Plan of Salvation

This week has been probably one of the most memorable weeks of my mission. I'll explain why at the end. The title of this week's email gives you an idea.

We ended the week with great things happening: some powerful lessons, members who are working on inviting friends to learn more, and finding new people to teach. Bonnie is doing awesome. She continues to read and pray and last week when we walked into her house she said, "I have something to tell you! I completely, absolutely, without a doubt in my mind know the Book of Mormon is true!" Our jaws were probably hanging and we were thrilled for her! We taught her about the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and about the Plan of Salvation. We had some amazing members at each lesson and the Spirit was rich at each lesson.

We found a new investigator named Frank. A week or two ago we had stopped by a less-active family to meet them and see how they are doing. They were busy and the mom gave her son a paper to give to us at the door with a new address and phone number - they were moving. They declined our help to move and we said we'd call them. We tried and for a week or so were unable to get an answer. So on Saturday we were driving to a street we had decided to go and bang down the doors of, when the thought to go by their new apartment popped in my head. We drove there right away only to find the nonmember boyfriend of the less-active mom. Apparently she left him earlier that week and her boyfriend, Frank, was very depressed and confused. So we taught him about the Book of Mormon and the great peace it could bring into his life and invited him to be baptized like the Savior was baptized. He accepted and is grateful for the time we have been giving him.

The day before that, on Friday, we got back to the apartment around 9:15 and headed up the stairs to plan, as is the usual routine. The phone rang and it was Elder Prince (one of my last companions from Kirtland who know serves as one of the Assistants to the Mission President). He called to inform me that Alicé had passed away. I'm not sure if I've ever talked about Alicé much in my emails, but here's the story:

After my first six weeks in Shaker Heights, some of the Sisters called us and told us that there was a girl in our area who they had been teaching over the phone. Her name was Alicé and due to some medical problems she was not able to meet with missionaries in person. Alicé had hodgkin's lymphoma. She moved to Cleveland from Montreal, Canada when her mother died in a car accident, to live with her dad while she went to the Cleveland Clinic. Shortly after her time there, her grandfather passed away as well. Her father is a member of the church bus hasn't been active in years. We agreed with the Sisters that them teaching her over the phone would probably be best and that we would see where it would take us.

We talked to her on the few times and through her thick French-Canadian accent, you could tell that the 17-year-old was sweet as could be. Eventually we transitioned her over to the Training Sisters to be taught (Sister Bills and Sister Tokunaga) who coordinated skyping appointments at members houses. Alicé, whether she was in the Cleveland Clinic for the chemotherapy treatments or at her house where it was safe for her, would be able to see and be taught by the Sisters through the computer. Elder Prince and I were the first Elders as we joined the Sisters on skype once or twice. She was very sweet. You could see in her skinny complexion the toll the chemo was having on her body. She had to receive a bone marrow transplant to beat the cancer, and during the time the Sisters were teaching her she was able to be life-flighted out of Cleveland to Tennessee to get one. After the surgery, the results were good. She was on-board to be baptized on June 9th and was so excited. She had read the Book of Mormon 3 times and knew it was true.

The first time I met her in person was at our Luau. It was about 45 minutes before the Luau began and we were running through the show. Most of the missionaries were up on stage, helping handle the curtains, projector, or helping with food. I was managing everything that was going on. As I passed from the kitchen into the cultural hall, I looked down the hallway and saw a petite girl standing at the end looking around like she was lost. It felt like a movie - I look down the hallway in the midst of stress and racing mind and as my eyes set on the figure before me (a little girl in a summer dress, short blonde hair in a comb-over fashion, hands behind her back as if observing art in a museum, and a sense of wonder on her face) my mind stops. Time stops. I feel like I know the glowing, angelic girl but am not sure what to say. My mind finally registers and I call out "Alicé?!" She smiled as she recognized me too and made her way down the hallway. She just illuminated with the Spirit. The Edman's and I brought her into the Cultural Hall where the Sisters were on stage dancing to unite her with her missionaries for the first time. That was one of her first nights being back in the public and her first time meeting all of us in person.

She was also at the Kirtland Fireside where Elder Bills and I performed our Redeemer of Israel song. At the end when the crowd had left the theater and not many people were left at the Visitor's Center, a few of us were cleaning/packing up. I was talking to President Sorensen about how amazing the night was and how special it was for me to get to see Erica bear her testimony (and have a front row seat at that!). Suddenly we hear the violin start accompanying the piano playing Come Thou Fount and we turn to see Alicé and Elder Ingersoll playing together the most beautiful music. It was such a spiritual moment and I noticed again how Alicé, this young girl whose suffering I could never understand, just glowed.

I could go on and on about her and how special she was. When I got the phone call on Friday night, I was in shock. I knew her baptism was the next day and the missionaries in Kirtland had been doing so much to prepare. Alicé had asked a few days prior if I would be at her baptism - I wasn't going to be able to. I called a few missionaries and we talked, and cried, and laughed, and cried some more and by the end of the night, I knew that the only way I wouldn't feel so much sorrow was heartfelt prayer to my Father in Heaven. The whole experience was so strange to me. I have never really lost someone as close as we all were to Alicé since I have been older and more mature. But that night, as I prayed for understanding and confirmation of the Plan of Salvation, I received the most amazing confirmation of the simple, eternal, gospel truths. I knew that Alicé was okay where she was - in fact, she was "taken home to that God who gave [her] life...received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where [she] shall rest from all [her] troubles and from all care, and sorrow" (Alma 40:11-12).

I talked to President on the phone the next morning and we reviewed with reverence and awe the amazing impact Alicé had on so many people's lives in such little time. The inspiration she was to at least 50 missionaries, the Shaker Heights Ward, and many doctors and family members. No doubt, she is on the other side of the veil, teaching her mother and family of the things she had learned in the last 3 months from the missionaries. I know that her spirit lives on and that one day she will be resurrected. "The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair on the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame" (Alma 40:23).

It's been a humbling week, and one of great learning and deeper understanding on my part. I am grateful for the knowledge of the Plan of Salvation. Such peace and wisdom comes from knowing more about our purpose here on earth, where we go after this, what our relationship has been with God since before we were born... I look forward to the day when I can see Alicé again and thank her for the impact she has made on my life. I know that when we die, it is not the end. I know that families can be together forever. His plan for us is perfect. His love for us is infinite. Alicé is, and forever will be, at peace. We will see her again. I again just want to express my gratitude for knowing of the Plan of Salvation. It brought peace to my soul this week, and will for the rest of my life.

My hope is that we can all remember the eternal plan our Heavenly Father has for us. We need to take advantage of the time we have now to learn, love, and grow. Our time here on earth is short, and "this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God" (Alma 34:32). May we live life to it's fullest and allow ourselves to be thankful for the little things. I love you, I pray for you, and I know the words I have written today are true.

Love, Elder Dransfield

Monday, June 4, 2012

Canton - Week 2

Hello! I think I win the prize for most creative letter headings! I don't have much time to write because this morning we were in Massillon, Ohio at 10am helping the Sister missionaries move into a new apartment complex. The Senior Couple in our ward and a few other companionships from Akron came and helped too and it was successful. We got a dryer (ours is broken) out of the move so that's nice ;) We were able to do quite a bit of tracting this week and through it we found a handful of people who said we could come back! One house we knocked on and a man came out with a cigarette in mouth and a phone to his ear. He stepped outside and finished his phone conversation with him and us on his porch. He finished and asked what he could do for us. We explained who we were and why we were standing on his porch and he said, "Now let me tell you something... I came into this world a Baptist... And I'm going to go out of this world a baptist... But--" and then explained to us how he had a sister inside his house who was very mentally unhealthy, suffering from some extreme depression. He asked if we thought we could help her and we said we could try. The poor lady... She looked awful. When we walked into the kitchen, we found a woman sitting at a small kitchen table. She glanced up for half of a second and then shot her eyes back down to her Bible which she was frantically turning the pages of - too quickly to read anything. As we would speak to her, she wouldn't even flinch. After about 5 minutes of us saying a few sentences and then waiting for any evidence of comprehension and her brother just shrugging his shoulders and blowing his cigarette, the three of us stepped outside again. This time Kenny asked us to sit down and we talked for a bit on his porch. He was very concerned with his sister. Apparently she had a daughter who committed suicide a few months back and at the time his sister showed little to no signs of grieving. Then a couple months back, she just lost it and stopped communicating to everyone - her husband, grandchildren, siblings, doctors, pastors, etc. We had coincidentally left a Plan of Salvation pamphlet on the table next to her before we left, so we went back in and talked about life after this one (though she wasn't responding, maybe she was hearing what we had to say). Kenny thought it'd be a good idea for us to give her a blessing, but we did not feel comfortable touching her (even if it was just the crown of her head) if she did not agree to it - not when she was so mentally unstable. We still were unable to get any respond out of the poor woman and finally her brother had it and he began to yell in her face "DO YOU WANT THESE GENTLEMEN TO ANOINT YOU?? YOU'RE BEING RUDE! ANSWER THEM! ANSWER THEM! DO YOU WANT THEM TO ANOINT YOU?? ANSWER THEM!!" It was so sad to watch. After minutes of him yelling she looked up at him and screamed "NOOO!!!" Kenny looked at us and shrugged his shoulders again and we walked outside again. Kenny was so worried about his sister and before we left agreed to meet up with us in the future to hear our message. I wish I had some cool ending to this story of how we were able to help this distraught woman and bring the light back into her eyes, but as far as we know she is still trapped in her depression. The whole experience made me really value the information I know - that of the Plan of Salvation and of eternal families. I'm grateful for the blessings of the temple and knowing why we're here and where we are going. We will be calling Kenny this week so check-in on him. Bonnie on the other hand is doing great! We had a church tour with her on Thursday where her and a couple members from the ward walked around the building talking about the different rooms in and functions of the church. We had a small lesson afterwards about what it would mean to be baptized and why it's so important to know if the Book of Mormon is truly God's word or not. She came to church that next Sunday (yesterday) and had a great time! There were a few weird testimonies given but Bonnie didn't mind. She is in Jacob in her Book of Mormon reading (which is amazing!) and has a baptismal date for the end of the month! We can't wait! We really hope that her husband can learn with her and be baptized too so that the two of them can come closer together through the gospel and eventually go to the temple together! It's such a blessing to be able to witness the blessings of the gospel in families who live the teachings of Christ. We will be meeting with Bonnie a few times this week to teach her about the Restoration and the Plan of Salvation. It's been a real joy being back in this ward. I've been able to go down to the Nevilles house just like old times. Elder Bills and I began teaching them and they were baptized shortly after I left Canton. Sister Neville is one of the organists in the ward and does such a great job. We shared a lesson about eternal families and temples (I sense a theme in this letter...hmm...) to prepare them for the temple which they are eligible for in July! It's also been fun to see such families as the Maas'. We had dinner there on Sunday. Sister Maas makes amazing food and yesterday made us Cafe Rio! Brother Maas was our Ward Mission Leader last time I was here and we were over there all the time - meetings, service, dinners, etc. I saw my first firefly there I'm pretty sure. The weird part is not having Elders Bills, Toth or Hinds there with me (I guess they're not Elders anymore... Dominic, Adam and Derek). But the ward is great and I'm so glad to be able to serve them again. We also got to go back over to the Bosnakovic's house and see Michelle and Fred (whose not a member) again! When I was here last time we did some service over there (digging a coy pond) and they would always feed us huge feasts, usually consisting of some kind of steak, ribs, salmon, burgers, or anything else you can barbeque! I always loved going over there and spending time with them. I'm hoping Fred can take us golfing one of these Pdays (he's a pretty good golfer from what we hear) so he can show me how it's done. What else did we do this week...? We volunteered at the local Habitat for Humanity. The Elders have been going there once a week for a few months now and the workers love us. This time they kept saying how much they appreciated our good attitudes and good work ethic. Not only are we able to help the community but we are able to have a good impact on the people we serve around. Hopefully there can be some great missionary opportunities through it all! Nothing too new to report otherwise. This month is the Sorensen's last month and everyone is very sad about that. It will be hard to see them go. The weather has been beautiful. A few storms on and off but overall it's been amazing. We are doing all we can to soak in the cool breezes before the heat and humidity roll in. Being on a mission is great and I can't imagine anything else I would rather be doing with my time right now. The church is true and the blessings of the restored gospel are amazing. Love, Elder Dransfield