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! ;)
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.