Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A few more last pictures

Sunset in Norwalk, or rather, proof that God exists

My last District

Across the street from a member's home

Taking pictures with Elder Randall while driving home

Go to the Ohio

Here's a short segment of my weekly letter to President Vellinga - a little edited.

"We set another baptismal date last night! That brings us to three individuals who all have amazing potential to become finders of truth.

Shawnee and her 12-year-old daughter, Passion, have dates for October 21st. Shawnee is dating a less-active member who is undergoing some divorce complications. In our lesson last night, we were going to teach the Plan of Salvation but the Spirit led to us to teach the Doctrine of Christ - with a large emphasis on repentance and baptism. Shawnee admitted to us that since we've been meeting she has felt guilty for a few things she has been doing in her life, and it has led her to reevaluate her relationship with the man she is dating with her relationship with Heavenly Father. With a smile on our face, we explained how the Holy Ghost has been working with her - softening her heart and increasing her sensitivity to the light of Christ within her. Passion is very bright and when we first met her and invited her to be baptized, she was too afraid of the idea to accept the invitation. Last night, she decided that it was something she wanted and said she'd like to be baptized with her mom. I'm excited for them. Wish I could be here to keep teaching them, but they'll be okay.

Alton is another investigator with a date for the 21st of October. We tracted into him after one of our investigators stood us up. We met with him Friday afternoon and had the most wonderful lesson of the transfer. He is one of the most naturally Christ-like people I have ever met. Through his marriage, he is related to one of the members of the ward and has always respected and looked up to this man. He told us that he always wanted what Brother Baer has. And when we knocked at his door, he saw the same thing in us as Brother Baer and decided that he needed to receive what we had to offer him. The Spirit was in rich abundance as we shared the message of the Restoration and especially Joseph Smith's first vision. We invited him to be baptized and he accepted. We proposed a baptismal date, he paused and pondered the day for a few seconds, and then very excited said - "Yes! I will! And to prove it, I will write it down in my Book of Mormon so that when it happens, we'll remember we set the baptismal date this day." I'm grateful I could teach him, even once. I hope and pray that the missionaries will be able to minister to his needs and guide him to the truth."

We have had many other wonderful lessons this week with less-active members who say "that's a weird coincidence that you showed up today" and then before we can leave are desperately looking for a day and time to have us come back. My last day doing service at Fisher-Titus hospital was sad too - the old receptionists wished me a good life. I told them I'd come back someday for a good old hospital cafeteria lunch.. yum! ;) < br>
We had our Mission Conference on Thursday and Elder Anthony D. Perkins of the Quorum of the Seventy came and spoke to us. It was a wonderful Conference. He spoke quite a while on different things like receiving personal revelation, the process of how mission presidents or where we serve our missions are selected, he talked about being worthy of the Spirit, how to teach keeping the Sabbath Day Holy (one of our struggles in the mission). I enjoyed it, it was a treat for my last week. He will be speaking at the Priesthood Session of General Conference next month.

Sunday was the Cleveland Stake Conference. What a HUGE tender mercy THAT was!! The Cleveland Stake Center is in the North Olmsted Ward's building (where I served a quarter of my mission). So I got to see so many members there who I had grown close with. Erica was there and we were able to talk for some time. She is doing great! Someone joked that I would be going home and would be married in 3 weeks and she looked at me like I was crazy and said, "Really??" ...no. Not a chance. haha. But seeing soooo many old friends was such a blessing for my last Sunday. And the Stake Conference talks and choir were probably some of the best I've heard on my mission or ever. It was a very spiritual meeting and overall great day. I can't describe how grateful I am that I was able to have that opportunity so see so many people. It made going home a little harder, but I'm okay!

Obviously this will be my last letter as "Elder Dransfield." A part of me is still in denial. These last two years have felt like a dream. I have experienced some of the deepest sorrows of my life, experienced some of the hardest trials I could be faced with, and have had opportunities presented to me that have stretched, refined, and destroyed me - the old me. In great contrast, I have been filled with the most joyous, God-sent love that has consumed my entire being. I have grown as I have received strength and support to overcome the many mountains which now, to me, look like measly hills. And as I have done all I can to follow Jesus Christ's counsel to lose my life for His sake (Luke 9:24, 17:33, Matthew 10:39, 16:25, Mark 8:35, etc.), I have seen that there is truly "[no] other way" (2 Nephi 31:21).

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7). Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life (3 Nephi 5:13). I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust (Psalms 91:2). And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father— That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God (D&C 76:22-24). And it came to pass, that I...began to be old...wherefore, I conclude this record, declaring that I have written according to the best of my knowledge, by saying that the time passed away with us, and also our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream (Jacob 7:26). And in the words of the Savior himself: These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

I do know that Christ lives. I do know that Joseph Smith is the prophet who has restored Christ's church to the earth. I do know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I do not have a belief in these things, but a knowledge. A testimony that has been sculpted and built upon for the last almost 22 years. A testimony of truth that burns throughout my entire being and carries me when I don't think I could walk another step. All can have and know what I do. Read the Book of Mormon. Ponder the teachings it contains. "...ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things" (Moroni 10:4-5).

If you can't tell, I have loved my mission. I would not give up these 2 years for anything. I am excited to come home, but will never forget the experiences I have been greatly blessed with during my time in the Ohio.

"Wherefore, for this cause I gave unto you the commandment that ye should go to the Ohio; and there I will give unto you my law; and there you shall be endowed with power from on high" (D&C 38:32).

Love, Elder Dransfield.

Shawnee and Passion

The Andersons - a great family who helped us do a lot of missionary work

Bishop Delap and his family, from the North Olmsted Ward

Erica - I know it looks funny, but we are NOT holding hands

Sister Sponseller who recently went to the temple.

Monday, September 17, 2012

And the Countdown Begins...

This week we have seen quite a few miracles with many less-active members we have been working with. It breaks my heart that I'm going to have to leave them so soon.

The first guy is Jake. He's an older man who lives in the "armpit of Belleuve" as he told us (Belleuve's a town west of Norwalk). He is on disability and lives in some kind of government home. But Jake LOVES remote control airplanes - the big ones. We met him, really by accident, a week or two ago and set up an appointment to visit again. We ended up having to push our appointment back, and when I called I asked if on the day we decided he would show us some of his airplanes. He said, "What? Really? My airplanes?" I said, "Yeah! I've never actually seen anyone fly those things." He got really excited. I called him the morning of and said "Well, it sure is raining hard... Should we watch the planes another day?" and he said "No, come over. I've been watching the weather channel all day - it'll pass." And he was right. I think Heavenly Father had something to do with the weather because when he got out there, it was the most beautiful day we've had all summer. Absolutely perfect with the whitest, fluffiest clouds you've ever seen. Even the ground was dry by the time we got there! So we spent some time with him, admiring his planes and laughing at all the cool tricks he could do (like chasing the big birds!). We had a great time with him. Afterwards, we drove back to his apartment and shared a lesson. He admitted he's never been in the temple and has always wanted to. We invited him to meet with us weekly to prepare him - he accepted. His demeanor and comprehension was COMPLETELY different from our first, lesson the week before. Funny how just giving someone some time and love the way they need it will soften their heart. He told us while he was flying his plane "This makes me happier than anything in the world." I can see why Heavenly Father prompted me to ask him about his planes.

Another family we are working with are the Rosales - a Hispanic couple in their 70's. I love these two like they are a part of my family. We have taught them two or three times (they were invited by the Ward Council months and months ago to take the lessons from us to help them return to church, which they accepted. Due to some medical problems getting in the way, they ended up having to pause the Sisters from coming over so much, and when we got here we started the lessons over). We had a lesson Thursday, teaching about the Plan of Salvation. The discussion made an unusual turn talking strictly about church and we invited them to come back. They gave the usual excuses "it's too early...our legs are too this or that... etc." and we just listened and addressed their concerns. The Spirit must have pricked Brother Rosales, because he felt impressed to share with us the real reason he struggles to come back. I probably wont write about it on here, it's long and personal. But basically some family trials in Mexico arose, secrets were uncovered, and the Bishop in Mexico wasn't very helpful to Brother Rosales. Other things happened (some word of wisdom battles, which have long been over) and now it's been 20+ years since he's been to church. He told us he's not sure how we'll react when he comes back, because he's been holding in this anger (not towards the church, but his father) for so long. We listened and ministered to him. The member who came with us (who knew them when they were active in the church) talked about the healing power of forgiving others. It was very good. Then I had the distinct impression to invited to take a tour of the church building. He liked the idea of the church tour.

We met at his house Saturday around 4pm. We drove up together (it's about a 20 min ride to church) and for the next couples hours went from room to room, talking about the memories he had - his baptism, his families baptism, his daughters in Young Woman's, etc. But when we went into the Chapel-- Wow. I will never forget the experience there with him. We walked in and just sat for a while. Then we pulled out the hymn books and sang a few hymns he could remember. The one that stood out to him the most was "I Need Thee Every Hour." We pulled out the sacrament trays and the prayers. In tears, he read them out-loud. We talked about the Spirit which we are promised in those prayers and then sat in silence some more. The room felt like it was fogged with a wonderful Spirit - so peaceful, so serene. We had told the Bishop we would be there and asked him to stop-by if he had time. Of course he made time and he popped in near the end of out time in the chapel. He and his wife got to meet Brother Rosales and talked for some time. Brother Rosales told him about what had been happening - his inactivity, his father, how he told us all this and our amazing Bishop ministered to his needs. He invited him back to church and Brother Rosales said - not this Sunday, but next Sunday we will be here. As we were leaving, Brother Rosales said to me, I never thought I would be able to show my face there again.

They invited us over for dinner the next day (yesterday) and we had a wonderful time. They are very sad I'm leaving. Even though we've only spent three of four evenings together, it feels like we've been together forever. But they're on the right track now and I'm fairly confident that they can be considered active members soon. I will be sad to leave them.

We also met with Sister Jimenez and her family yesterday. The Bishop came with us (along with 3 of his kids!). We had an awesome lesson about families - Sister Jimenez was lead to tears again. She's such an awesome person - I told her last night that she needs to come back to church - less-so because she needs it, but this ward really needs her! Her family has so much to offer and she knows it's all true. It's just difficult to take on something again after so long of putting it off. Them and the Rosales' are two families I hope I can keep in touch with. They'll be back at church soon. I know it :)

Well, I've probably written too much for everyone - ha! It's been a rewarding week being able to see so many people touched by the Spirit and coming closer to Christ in their lives. I'm grateful for my testimony of Christ. I couldn't image not knowing or not believing in Him. Hymn #136 "I know that My Redeemer Lives" is going through my head right now... "I know that my Redeemer lives... What comfort this sweet sentence gives! ...He lives, my kind, wise heavenly Friend. He lives and loves me to the end...." Good hymn - anyways. I'm grateful for our Savior and for how much my testimony and understand of Him has increased these last 2 years. What a blessing it's been.

Well! We are going to go meet some Elders in Lorain to play some volleyball! Thanks for the many letters, prayers, love, etc. that have been sent my way these last few years. I'm grateful for the many examples in my life which have led me to this point. I wrote in my journal the other night, "I can't imagine where I would be right now if I didn't serve a mission." It has truly been some of the best 2 years. But why am I talking like this?? I still have 10 days left! I still have all the time in the world to find, teach, baptize! I'm going to live it up and when I walk off that plane next week, I'll be a pile of pulp who has given my all to the Lord. And man, it's all so worth it.

I really do love all of you. Thank you.

Love, Elder Dransfield

The ladies we do service with at the hospital every Friday morning. Nancy (left) is our boss and Rose (red head on right) we have been told by EVERYONE in the hospital is one we have to "look out for" haha, they're very sweet and they love us coming

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Norwalk: The Maple City

We had a good week... We're teaching more lessons and are keeping very busy.

Last week we taught one of our new investigators, Shawnee, for the second time. Our ward mission leader came with us and when the Spirit was strong we invited her to be baptized on October 21st. With tears streaming down her face she accepted and we explained what she would need to do to prepare for that day. It was such a great lesson. She has four children ages 16, 12, 8, and 6 that will hopefully all will be able to be baptized with her (her 16 year old gives her a lot of grief) but if anything can help her family, it will be this gospel and church.

I was able to go on exchanges this week with Elder Parkinson (we were Assistants together). He serves in Garfield Heights - the Parma area (suburbs of Cleveland) and we had a great time. We found some new investigators, got to work in the ghetto a little bit (which is the funnest), and gave an awesome church tour at the end of the night to two of their investigators. We had a couple from the ward with us and as we went around from room to room, there was such a wonderful spirit. We had soft music playing on the speakers that play in all the rooms channeled from the Chapel and all the lights were on, rooms orderly and clean. So the appearance and atmosphere was just perfect for the Spirit to be noticed the most. But when we walked into the chapel at the end of our tour, and sat on the front benches, the Spirit was SO strong. It felt like a waterfall of peace just overcame all of us and we sat there for about 5 minutes just basking in the wonderful peace and tranquility - the soft music still playing. We stopped the music and asked the two ladies what they thought. One just nodded her head and said "I can feel it... This is where I need to be" and the other smiled and nodded in agreement. We walked around and explained what the Sacrament was and how the services are ran, and then we ended our tour with a musical number by Elder Parkinson and I. It's called My Kindness Shall Not Depart from Thee - he sang, I played the piano. It was a wonderful night and we all were edified.

This week we had a Zone Development Meeting (a meeting with all the missionaries in the stake - not quite a Zone Conference, but similar) and I was asked to be in charge of the role-plays. They explained that they wanted it to be like mock-contacting (talking to people on the streets) and asked me to make up some little scenarios. They had little cards printed out that had information like this:

Name: Benjamin Young Religious Background: Non-denominational/ Christian; attend the Word Church Currant Occupation: Internship-ing with Goodyear Family Status: 3-year old son; pregnant wife Story: Living in Akron and on your way to a job interview with Key Bank as a budget analyst. Don’t know Cleveland well and parked 10 blocks too far – your interview is in 15 minutes. It will determine if you get the job. Missionaries walk by on the street as you walk quickly to your interview.

It was a lot of fun and almost every story I created was based on real people I have contacted into or taught. We got to the mission office early (where the meeting was held) and set up the room we'd be in with different props and had had the missionaries who would be the non-missionaries bring tshirts, hats, backpacks, etc. to where for the role-play. It was awesome and we all learned a lot. The missionaries had a good time and afterwards we had a discussion on what went well and what didn't. The theme was "talk WITH people, not TO people" -- or in other words, we're here as missionaries to share a message that will improve the quality of people's lives and to invite them to come unto Christ... Not here to get as many baptisms or people to church as we can. It all went really well though.

Monday was Zoned Out! Half of the mission gets together on 2 different days and we have a big P-day together. We did this last year, except because I was an Assistant, I didn't get to participate as much because I ran one of the "stations." There were 4 different rooms we would rotate to (because we were in 4 groups) - one was a game like Mafia, one of a Preach My Gospel scripture-chase-like game, one was a jeopardy game, and the last was a tour of the Johnson Home. They were all a lot of fun and being in the Johnson Home one last time as a missionary was very special. That's where D&C 76 was received. After the stations, we all have lunch together, change into our pday clothes (every zone makes shirts as you can see in the pictures), we do a big fun relay race -- Cleveland Zone won! We dominated :) and then we're excused to go play basketball, football, volleyball, etc. for the rest of the time. It was a BEAUTIFUL day outside so we played volleyball outside. It was a lot of fun.

This week we got to work at the local hospital again. This time they had us assigned as "travelers" which are people who escort the patience around the hospital. We got to work with two older men and a girl our age who works there. They were hilarious and for 2 hours we were running all around the hospital, talking to the patience, laughing with them, explaining to them how to get back to the waiting room (the hospital is under construction and it's like a maze getting around there). But walked SO much! We also learned how-to and how-to-not push a wheelchair :) It was a great few hours of service and we loved getting to talk to so many people who would said "Oh! You're Mormons!" when we'd mention we were on missions. On Wed, Sep 12, 2012 at 11:52 AM, David Dransfield wrote: I don't know why Norwalk is the "Maple City," but that's what all the signs say...

So another busy week, like I said, and the next 2 are going to be just as busy I'm sure. Everywhere I go (whether it's a missionary or a member) I am reminded that I don't have too much time left. It's awful! It will be a strange transition to go home and I will be very sad to leave, but I am excited to see my family again :) I'm so grateful for how wonderfully blessed I've been on my mission. I have grown and changed so much and my life has been eternally enriched because of the experiences I have had. I hope I can continue to be a missionary for the rest of my life whether or not I have a black name tag, because the blessings of this gospel are too great to keep to myself. I wish the world could understand what we know and have! It's amazing.. Almost too good to be true. But it is true.

I love you all! Have an awesome week!

Love, Elder Dransfield

Norwalk Country

Outside the Johnson Home

Cleveland Zone - Winners of Zoned Out!

Elder Ingersoll, Sister Tokunaga, and Elder D. - They put on the Luau together earlier this year.

Elder McMillians - I trained him

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Walk Around Norwalk

As we were leaving a members house this week, the dad walked over to one of his daughters who was playing with their big, white dog. He asked, "What's on her (the dog's) head??" His daughter responded, "mud." He then asked, "How did the mud get there?" (there were two parallel lines above the eyes), and her answer was "I was trying to make her like Simba on Lion King!" :) It made me laugh.

Since we've been whitewashed in the area, we have been working hard to do most of our work through the ward members. One way we have done this is contact the home and visiting teachers of those that we are to be meeting with. We had one example of success with this on Monday when a Sister from the ward set up an appointment for us to meet them. They had been invited by the ward to take the missionary discussions in a hope to fuel their testimony and help them return to church, which they at one point accepted, but their eagerness to meet regularly had been fading before we arrived here. But we went over and had a great time getting to know them and the Visiting Teacher re-invited them to take the discussions from us. At first they were a little hesitant to commit again, but by the end they were willing. They are an older Hispanic couple (the husband is from Mexico and cannot STAND illegal immigrants or people who are on welfare. He was getting all fiery talking about those who don't work or complain and then get even more mad as he brought up politics and healthcare). haha! They have quite a few children, only one is active in the church and she lives in Utah.

We had an awesome lesson with the Jimenez family as well. Met with all of them and had a great discussion on how the gospel blesses our lives. Sister Jimenez was in tears as she told us how she's been visiting mormon.org and lds.org everyday to help bring the Spirit back into her life and how much that has been affecting her. She is determined to start working on getting her life Spiritually back on track and eventually wants to start coming back to church and have the gospel more in her life. She knows it's true, and has just struggled (as I think most do) at how discouraging it can be to consistently make mistakes and have to repent. We talked about how we grow and learn and the love that God always has for us and our families. I'm grateful we CAN repent, and as it reads in Doctrine and Covenants 58:42, "Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more." We love that family, and the youngest son (he's 14) and his cousin (who goes to a ward down south, out of our mission boundaries) both came to our ward on Sunday!

We have been teaching a man named Dave for a little more than a week, and have been struggling with him. Sister missionaries tracted into him 8+ years ago as he was going through a divorce with him wife. A few weeks ago, he called Salt Lake to ask for the information of that Sister missionary - because she was so nice. They talked him into meeting with us instead, and so we received notification and went over. He has many, many medical ailments and battles with severe depression, and because of so could probably open up his own pharmacy with all the pills he has. He lives in government housing and doesn't have a job and borrows his father's car when he needs to go somewhere. In our last lesson, he had just gotten back from the doctors who told him he couldn't have the medication he was asking for quite yet because they needed to do some follow-up appointments. This upset him greatly and he was so deep in his anger and depression that his receptiveness was very weak. And we were also trying to talk to him through the cloud of cigarette smoke around him (like pig-pen from Charlie Brown - I'm not kidding). So it was a sad lesson... He told us that he had prayed before he went into the doctors office and had "full faith" but that God fell through and didn't give him what he wanted. We talked about what faith in Christ means, and when he didn't seem to be listening, we put in the movie Finding Faith in Christ so he could just watch the tv. It seemed to work, and afterwards we invited him to pray differently. I remembered in a talk by Elder David A. Bednar when he used the story in 1 Nephi 7 to explain that we must not pray to have our circumstances changed, rather pray for strength to change or overcome our circumstances. When we left he was still stewing in his depression and has hasn't answered his phone since. But things will work out - Heavenly Father will help happen whatever needs to happen.

Tuesday we went over and did some service for a less-active woman who is battling cancer. We mowed her lawn and did some hard-core weeding. The coming Thursday she would be going in for her 4th treatment (of 8 total) of chemotherapy. She was very touched by the service and we were able to share a message afterwards similar to Dave - that God will hear our cries and prayers and provide us with the strength necessary to make it through the trials that are put upon us (Mosiah 24:9-16).

We did a lot of other little things here and there, but Sunday I had the coolest thing happen! We were in the foyer at church, greeting the members as they came in and for a moment I had turned my back to the doors to talk to someone behind us. When out of the corner of my eye, I see a couple walking by and I briefly glanced over and then did one of those dramatic double-takes to see it was a couple from the North Olmsted Ward: the Schroth's! He was baptized a few months before I had been tranferred there and I was privileged to teach him about keeping the Sabbath Day holy while on exchanges with the Assistants. He would come out teaching with us often and Sister Schroth (who I swear is a twin of Joyce Smith (her name is Joyce too!)) works very closely with the Mayor of the city (I talked about some of the stuff we did with them back in November-December probably). But so we worked through her a lot to be more active in the community. They would also feed us the best dinners ever - she's famous amongst the missionaries for her cookie pies :) But it was so fun to see them and visit with them. They have a condo up in Catawba (the pennisula above Sanduksy) that they come to periodically, and when they do they'll come to the Sandusky Ward for the Sacrament. When I was being transferred I was never able to get a hold of them to stop-by and say goodbye, so it was a tender mercy to see them once last time before I go home.

And that's the recap of another exciting week in Norwalk! These next few weeks are pretty busy... Friday we have a Cleveland Zone meeting, then the next week we have Zoned Out (which is half of the mission getting together for a fun p-day), the next week is our Mission Conference (Elder Perkins, a Seventy, will be coming to tour the mission), and the next week is...well, it'll never come so we don't have to worry about that ;) But the work moves forward and it's all still true! So have a great day and week! Love you all!

Elder Dransfield

Brother and Sister Schroth