The Easter Bunny Visits Missionaries Too (April 25, 2011)
Happy Easter everyone!
We had another great week, nothing different there. Yesterday was Easter and we had a Surprise visit from the Easter Bunny! Elder Angelos and I went to the store a few days ago and bought a bunch of eggs, candy and little gifts for the other Elders in the apartment. The first picture is of Elders Custance, Ward, Cava and Johnson with their Easter "baskets." The second picture is of all of us, about 7 am on Easter morning with our spoils after the search was over. We found something for everyone. Elder Custance got his favorite hair gel, Elder Johnson got Eggo waffles, Elder Ward got Fruity Pebbles, and Elder Cava got a bottle of his favorite chili sauce. We even had a special golden egg that we hid, and whoever found that egg won the grand prize, a king-size Hershey's Cookies and Cream bar. Elder Cava found the golden egg and was pretty excited. Not bad for his first Easter egg hunt. Elder Ward finally got his new bike in the mail and while he was putting it together, Elder Johnson, myself and Elder Angelos used the box as a bobsled. There's a pretty funny sequence of pictures of us as if we're on an actual bobsled run, including a crash. You'll see those when I send the memory card home. The last picture is of our house Rule Board. We've picked some rules that we want to improve on as an overall house. Everyone has a dish night and trash night. Should anyone violate a rule, there are punishments affixed, as identified by the tally boxes at the bottom of the chart. Oh yes, we have fun.
Elder Angelos and I had a good Easter Sunday. The wards did great programs and had good speakers. We were invited to dinner a the Wagher's home in the West Point ward and had a blast. They had family in town and it reminded me a lot of holidays back with grandma and grandpa. We mostly told stories to the teenagers about our missions, and then their family gave us a each a giant Easter egg filled with candy. We didn't stay too long, but we were very grateful for their kindness. Elder Angelos and I spent the evening street contacting because we didn't feel like knocking doors on Easter Sunday. We went back into El Mirage, the ghetto part of our area and just walked the streets and talked to people. It's a pretty sketchy area. Lots of trashy yards, bars on houses, dogs in the streets, shady allies...SO MUCH FUN! There were a lot of families outside together and were very nice to us. We walked down one ally and saw lots of families in back yards who waved to us. We turned to go down another ally and saw a huge pitbull halfway down the ally. No thanks. We met a few drunks and lots of Hispanic families but overall had a good Easter evening. The funniest part was that we forgot where we parked the car...oops. It was very much like the episode of Seinfeld where they wander the parking garage looking for the car. We just laughed as we turned every corner and the truck wasn't there. It started getting dark and we were kind of freaking out. Not in a scared way, but in a humorous way. Yeah it was dark and we were in the sketchiest part of the area, but we were having such a good time and the people were so nice to us, we weren't (too) worried. We eventually found it and by that time it wasn't blue-dark anymore but straight up black-dark.
The work this week has been going very well. As a mission, April was a tough month for finding and baptizing. As a zone we wanted to step it up and focus more of our meetings and trainings on living our purpose as missionaries by inviting to baptism. In just a week we've already seen a huge change. From last week to this week, our number of baptismal dates in the zone has DOUBLED. That was a very good thing to see, and President Beck's pretty happy with it. This week we have a zone leader council (tomorrow), leadership training (Wednesday) and a specialized training on Friday with half the mission meeting in the morning, and the other half immediately after the morning session. It's going to be a long week for meetings, but I see good things coming. The meetings' focuses will be on living our purpose as missionaries and extending baptismal invitations. We'll learn more as zone leaders tomorrow, and in turn will pass it to district leaders on Wednesday, then to the rest of the mission of Friday. President really wants to make sure that we all get the water to end of the row on this one. Already our zone has a projected 19 baptismal dates for the month of May, and the zone record is 20. Elder Angelos said that before President Beck goes home, we want to break that record. May is looking very promising!
I went on two exchanges this week. The first was with Elder Cava in his ward. He totally took the wheel and stepped it up. We had a great day together and got a lot of work done. I bet we spent an upwards of 6 hours tracting, which makes for a long day. It went by really fast, though. We met a ton of people. One guy tried tearing us apart with bashing, and it didn't go so well for him. We didn't fight back at all. It was just pure doctrine and testimony the whole time. I really admired Elder Cava's patience with him and his sincere testimony of the Restoration. I always learn something from Elder Cava about character. He's a wonderful example of patient service and humility. The other exchange was with Elder Tripp, one of the Assistants to the President. The AP's are in our zone, so I wasn't really sure who was the senior companion here. Elder Tripp said that since we were in the zone leaders' area, the zone leader was the senior companion. Elder Tripp and I had a great day together. We had meetings in the morning and a whole lot of tracting in the afternoon. We went into El Mirage, the ghetto part of mine and Elder Angelos' area that I referred to earlier. Very humble people. It was cool because of all the houses we knocked, every single door was opened except one. That's never happened before! We picked up a new investigator and three potentials. Such a good afternoon. We had lots of chances to talk and share thoughts about being in leadership. We both learned a lot from one another. Elder Tripp suggested that even though I'm a young zone leader I should expect to strap in and get to work, because I may be in Surprise for a while (there's been strings of zone leaders who have been here for up to 11 months...just saying...). Who knows. I figure that as long as I'm doing what I need to be doing, the Lord will put me where He needs me.
So last week I mentioned that we were having dinner at Bishop McLaw's home with Jeff and Marcy. It went SO well, better than we could have planned it. Turns out that Marcy and Sis. McLaws' families are family friends. They both grew up knowing each other. Friends that Bishop McLaws had in the neighborhood were siblings to friends that Jeff had growing up (Bishop McLaws is a very young bishop, young 30's). It was a very "small world" dinner. Sadly, nobody knew anyone from Washington or Ohio, so Elder Angelos and I were kind of left out. It happens. We tried pulling Bishop aside to see if he would do a fmaily home evening thought on receiving answers to prayers, something we knew that Jeff was trying to understand. We never got to talk to him and then we started family home evening. Bishop proceeded to talk about, you guessed it, receinving answers to prayers. Can you say inspired? It was a short lesson (due to the McLaws' kids' attention span) but very powerful. You could see that Jeff and Marcy enjoyed it.
Saturday's lately are my favorite days, because they always seem to be the days where we have the most spiritual experiences. With that introduction, we met with Jeff and Marcy again on Saturday night. They invited us over for dinner before the lesson, which we gladly accepted. The first thing I noticed on the wall was that painting of the Salt Lake Temple which I love. Mom, you know which one I'm talking about, the one with the close up of the temple and the bright red leaves in the foreground? Marcy's parents gave that to them as a gift. I think it's a perfect addition to their home, and a great motivator to apply the gospel into their homes. After dinner we started the lesson on the Plan of Salvation. We switched things up a little bit and halfway through the lesson we transitioned from the Atonement to how we apply the Atonement into our lives...and invited him to be baptized. There was a long pause until Jeff said, "Wow, you guys really brought the hammer down on that one." More pause... Jeff said, "I think that it would be nice to have that clean slate, yes, I would like to be baptized." He had a lot of questions about what he had to know, because he feels like he doesn't know anything. We told him how our role as misisonaries was to be those guides to help him prepare to follow the example of Jesus Christ by being baptized. We promised him that we would help him prepare, and invited him to be baptized on May 21. Elder Angelos said, "Jeff, will you prepare yourself to be baptized on that date?" Jeff immediately responded "Absolutely." The Spirit was very strong in the room for the rest of the evening. We kept it there by ending with a quick prayer and then by heading home. We saw them the next day at church and they were very happy to see us. I'm so excited for Jeff, and so is the ward. Lots of work to come, I'll be sure to keep you posted.
Life is good in Surprise, Arizona! It's going to be a busy week but busy is good. I wouldn't have it any other way. I hope everyone at home had a good Easter weekend. While I'm certainly grateful for egg hunts, Cadbury Eggs and coconut jellybean nests, I've been reflecting more on the Atonement and Resurrection of the Savior. Lately I've been studying in Acts and I've been loving it, particularly chapters 3-10. The apostles all are witnesses of the Resurrected Savior and were commanded to teach the nations. Their experiences have motivated my efforts to better represent the Lord in my missionary efforts. I wish I could go into more detail but I'm out of time. I love you all and hope you know that I'm having the time of my life in the service of the Lord. Write back soon, take care and be good.