Tuesday, December 29, 2015

I Love Dolan Springs!

I love the sunsets here!
I know you mentioned that you were worried about how I'd feel after our FaceTime on Christmas Day. Don't be nervous, I don't feel homesick! It was nice to see you guys, but it wasn't hard for me to snap back into missionary mode and jump right back into work!  

On another note, Zack makes a crazy good Santa! Didn't even recognize him at first! 

Since we just spoke, there is not a lot to tell but here is a little more about my new area... 

From what we can tell, his area lies within the purple
boundaries where Dolan Springs is in the center.
I love Dolan Springs! It's definitely a big change though. My last area, even though it had some ghetto spots and some differences from home, was for the most part, a normal middle class suburban neighborhood. Dolan is very much not that, haha. We cover a huge area and spend a lot of time driving. The people out here are very poor, but also incredibly humble and willing to share everything that they have. I mentioned last week that there is one paved road in Dolan. Well, what I didn't know, is that all of the dirt roads are really rough! I'll include a video of us driving down one of them. (He must have had problems sending it or forgot because we didn't get it.) It's a pretty average road for Dolan. There are some that are better, but also some that are much worse. This is about all the time I have this week. I'll try to send more next week!

I love you!

This skull was hanging in our trailer when I arrived so we decided to give him some Christmas cheer and gave him some holiday antlers!
Some of the goodies we received for Christmas!

Q&A - 12/28/15

1.) What kind of pickup do you drive? Make and model? Manual or Automatic?  --Silver Nissan Frontier. Automatic 

2.) What ways did you find to make Christmas meaningful to you this year? --The "12 Ways of Christmas" that you sent was really great for that!  I liked focusing on the ways of Christ! 

3.) What is your favorite thing about Elder Andersen?  --I honestly just love everything about Elder Andersen, haha. He's a really easy person to like. 

4.) Where do you go to get WiFi on P-days?  --The stake center in Kingman. 

5.) How are you? Are you still struggling with a cold? Are you happy?  --Very happy! And just about over the cold!

The Berryessa's
The Martin kids
Keith and Pam

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!!

FaceTime with our Missionary!!
We were able to spend nearly 45 minutes with Ty today via FaceTime!!  He looks and sounds wonderful!!  How grateful we are for his willingness to serve!!  We love him!!

"Out of Valley" Zone Christmas Activity - Notice Elder Summers from Highland 7th Ward in the back on the left!  How cool is it that they got to spend Christmas together?!?

We Received an email in the morning with these fun pictures from the Hembrick's. It appears they opened their home to the missionaries for Christmas!! Thank you for your kindness!!
Elder Excell and Elder Andersen

Monday, December 21, 2015

Postponed P-Day

Ty sent us a very brief email to tell us that his P-Day has been moved to Friday this week so that they can enjoy Christmas Day off. He told us to expect to get a FaceTime call from him between 5:00 and 6:00 that day, and we can't wait!  He also asked me to let any of you that wrote him Christmas messages  or emails this week know that he appreciates them so much and he will plan to write to you on Christmas Day.

As his parents, we are so grateful to each of you for the continued love and support you show to our son!! Thank you and Merry Christmas!!

Monday, December 14, 2015

"Homeless" Missionary

Me and Mr. & Mrs. Claus - AKA President & Sister Snow! 
Transfers! It looks like I'll be getting the axe after all! I'll be going out of valley! That's mission speak for Arizona. The place I'm going is called Dolan Springs. It's right above Kingman Arizona, which I tell you because it might be hard to find on a map otherwise, ;). My new area actually covers five small towns, and is one of the biggest areas in the mission. It'll be about as different from a biking area as you can get, because this area actually has a truck so as to be able to navigate all of the washes. (There is only one paved road in Dolan Springs). The missionaries in the area average about 3000 miles a month! I'll be living in a trailer, which according to Arizona state law, means I'm technically homeless! Didn't think that would come up on my mission! Haha!  The area is also very poor. The reason I have all of this information about the new area, is it's actually the area that Elder Dixon came from right before we met! Not much news on the new companion though. His name is Elder Andersen, and he's been out 2 transfers longer than I have, but that's about all I know! Also, apparently I'll be able to receive letters and packages at the mailbox in Dolan, because the mission office doesn't want to have to send all of the mail from the middle of Las Vegas that far south. All in all, I'm really excited!
Elder Dixon and I wearing a LOT of leather.  It was given to us by a wonderful less active family, but we're still not sure why!
As far as this last week goes, it's been really good! We had the chance to go to the temple with one of our members, which is always so amazing! If there's one thing I miss about being in a mission, it's not being able to go to the temple whenever I want.

Wednesday was a mission Christmas conference, which was really amazing! I was able to see a lot of friends from around the mission, and learn a lot from the trainings that were given!

The last few days have been crazy trying to say goodbye to everyone, and pack. I've come to love the people of this area so much, it's strange to think that I didn't know anyone at all here 4 short months ago. But I know that I'll love the people in my new area just as much, and that it's the place the Lord wants me to be!

I'll be sending some pictures of some of my favorite families in the ward, and hopefully a few more from tonight next week!
The Hudman's

The Pierce Family

The Russell's

Sister Royal and her daughter Rachel

Me and Bishop Marshall
I haven't sent my ponderizing thoughts home in a while, but I especially liked the scriptures I chose this week! They were the scriptures referenced in a conference talk I recently read by President Monson.  
  • ·         John 15:8 "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples." This says that all we have to do to glorify God is to "bear much fruit" or have many good works.
  • ·         3 Nephi 18:24 says, "Therefore, hold up your light that it may shine unto the world. Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up--that which ye have seen me do." As we do the things that Christ would do, we glorify him. If you are living your life the right way, people will notice the kind of person you are and start to wonder why you're that way, and that's when they can start to see that it's because of Christ. The first step is to be an example!
  • ·         1 Peter 2:12 "Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation."  Some people won't ever recognize your good works in this life. But even though they might call you an "evildoer" if you continue to live the gospel, someday they will recognize your actions for what they were.

I love you all so much! Merry Christmas!
Elder Excell

One of our favorite billboards in our area! Not sure what the quotes mean, but it can't be good!

Q&A - 12/14/15

1.) If my memory is correct, you were supposed to find out about transfers this weekend. We are anxious to hear what you found out!! Will you be staying in the same area? Will Elder Dixon still be your companion? 
2.) How do you feel about your assignment for the next seven weeks?  --I'll answer the first 2 in the main letter. 

3.) What are your plans for our Christmas Day phone call? Will we be speaking on the phone or will you be able to FaceTime or Skype? How long will we have to chat?  -- Either FaceTime or Skype. I'm supposed to keep it to 30-40 minutes. Not sure on a time yet. I'll have a better idea next week! 

4.) Did you receive our Christmas package? I'm sending #2 on Tuesday or Wednesday of this week. Hopefully, you'll get it next Monday. :)  --I got the first one! I may have a new address for you to send the second one to, ;). 

5.) What are you looking forward to this week?  --The unknown!

Monday, December 7, 2015

The True Spirit of Christmas

This week's letter will be short, because I'm not very prepared this week, and they've started asking missionaries to really focus on keeping their email time shorter.  They have extended it from 1 hour to 2 though, so I'll still have plenty of time to email as long as I'm more prepared than I am this week!

We had interviews with President Snow this week!  We have them every 3 months, and It's always so great to be able to meet with him!  He's a great man, and always has a lot of good advice!  

Exchanges this week were really good!  For those of you who don't know, exchanges are where you essentially switch companions for 24 hours.  It's a great chance to learn from other missionaries and to mix up the day to day routine a little bit.  On this exchange I was actually in an area that has a car, which is something I no longer take for granted! All of you people driving cars instead of riding bikes or walking, take a moment to be thankful for it this holiday season!  

I've been thinking a lot this last week about what the true spirit of Christmas is.  I think President Monson said it best when he said that "All we need to do to find the true spirit of Christmas is remove the last syllable, and it becomes the spirit of Christ."  I've been loving being able to focus more on the savior at this time of year, and I always love to see everyone else be just a little bit kinder and a little bit more generous. 

I'll be sure to be more prepared next week so that I can write a longer letter!  I love you all!

Have a blessed week!
Elder Excell

Q&A - 12/7/151.) Is the bleach in the bottle to kill the cockroaches or to clean up after the kill? (This made us laugh!!) --The bleach is for the kill, haha.  Probably not the most humane response, but I've never felt an overabundance of empathy for cockroaches.

2.) We loved your thoughts on learning to be happy in the moment instead of waiting for the next big thing! What are some of the simple pleasures you took time to enjoy this week? --I love the sunsets in Las Vegas!  I've been appreciating the cold a lot too!  On exchanges this week, I was in an area with a car!  That is something I hope I never take for granted again! haha.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Someday, I'm Going To Miss This

I've had a new mantra this last week: Someday, I'm going to miss this.  

I've realized that although I'm really grateful for all of the ways I can see myself changing and all of the ways that my service is going to bless my future life, sometimes I spend a bit too much time dwelling on the future and not enough living in the present.  So any time I catch myself spending too much time thinking about the future, I just remind myself that someday I'm going to look back on what's happening right now, and miss it a lot!  It's helped me to focus on what's really important, and I think it'll be a good thing to keep going for the rest of my life! So many people spend time wishing that they could just get past this point in life and then they'd be happy, and then get to the end of their life and realize just how much they missed out on waiting for the next big thing instead of enjoying the simple pleasures of everyday life.

We've discovered this last week that we're developing a slight cockroach problem.  People say that they're hard to kill, but we've found that a combination of a rubber mallet and bleach in a spray bottle will dispel even the most troubling of pests!

Thanksgiving this year was tons of fun!  Admittedly the morning started off with a lot of homesickness, because it was a little slow, but as we were able to meet with some people, the day became much better! There were a few good parts to it.  In the morning we stopped by a recent converts house who's been going through some rough times, and we shared a thanksgiving message about being thankful in adversity as well as in the good times.  He told us that, "You guys just put the first smile of the day on my face." Then we visited a few different members and shared that same message.  As far as thanksgiving dinner, there was plenty!  We had 2 separate thanksgiving dinners within an hour of each other! One at a members house, and one at an investigators house who wanted us to come by and meet the family, and insisted we not leave until we had more food! Needless to say biking home after that was a little rough!  I had a few different thoughts during thanksgiving.  One was that I think that thanksgiving might actually be a more homesick day than Christmas for me.  All of my siblings are married now, so the Christmas that I grew up with hasn't been the same the last few years anyways.  Thanksgiving at Grandma and Grandpa Hyde's is still pretty much the same though, so that was a little hard to miss!  The other thought that I had was how blessed I've been this last week to be in the company of people who recognize how hard it is to be away from family at this time of year, and are more than willing to welcome us into their family with open arms. It means so much to a missionary!

My last thing I'd like to share this week is a short poem that was shared by Boyd K Packer many years ago in general conference that I read this last week and really liked called, "The Touch of the Master's Hand"

’Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer
Thought it scarcely worth his while
To waste much time on the old violin,
But held it up with a smile:
“What am I bidden, good folks,” he cried,
“Who’ll start the bidding for me?”
“A dollar, a dollar”; then, “Two!” “Only two?
Two dollars, and who’ll make it three?
Three dollars, once; three dollars, twice;
Going for three—” But no,
From the room, far back, a gray-haired man
Came forward and picked up the bow;
Then, wiping the dust from the old violin,
And tightening the loose strings,
He played a melody pure and sweet
As a caroling angel sings.
The music ceased, and the auctioneer,
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said, “What am I bid for the old violin?”
And he held it up with the bow.
“A thousand dollars, and who’ll make it two?
Two thousand! And who’ll make it three?
Three thousand, once, three thousand, twice,
And going, and gone!” said he.
The people cheered, but some of them cried,
“We do not quite understand
What changed its worth.” Swift came the reply:
“The touch of a master’s hand.”
And many a man with life out of tune,
And battered and scarred with sin,
Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd,
Much like the old violin.
A “mess of pottage,” a glass of wine,
A game—and he travels on.
He’s “going” once, and “going” twice,
He’s “going” and almost “gone.”
But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd
Never can quite understand
The worth of a soul and the change that’s wrought
By the touch of the Master’s hand.

Thanks for all of your love and support, and happy holidays!
Elder Excell

Q&A – 11/30/2015
1.) What is up with the duct tape?? Haha! We spent enough on your bike that we were hoping it might last longer than this and definitely not need to be held together with duct tape already! ;)  -- Ha, the duct tape is commonly referred to as ghetto tape here in the mission!  You wrap your bike in Saran wrap, then duct tape it to cover up the brands and make it less likely to get stolen, then when you're done, you can just pull it right off again!

2.) What did you learn about yourself this week?
3.) Are you still healthy and happy? Honestly?  --  I’ll answer these together… I still have my moments of homesickness, and I imagine that I will for the rest of my mission, but the large majority of the time, I'm very happy, :).  I can see the ways that my mission is changing me and will bless me for the rest of my life, but sometimes I get a little caught up in thinking about the blessings of the future instead of the present, which is something I've been working on. I'm learning to live in the moment! I'll talk more about that in my letter!

Yea Lord, Thou Knowest That I Love Thee

First things first, here's last weeks letter! I had it all written up and was planning to send it as soon as we had some wifi, but couldn't get to any wifi until after 6, which is the cutoff for when we're supposed to email home. I'll send today's a little later!

The weeks really seem to fly by!  I know I might seem like a broken record, but it really is crazy to think that I left practically in the middle of summer, and now it's the holidays!

I've been studying in the book of James a lot lately.  It's a really cool book, that although short, has tons of things that are easily applicable to everyday life!  "Be slow to anger," "Bridle your tongue and the body will follow,"  and all sorts of other gems that are still very much applicable in everyday life even thought it was written  so long ago.

I've had some requests to give more details on the actual teaching that we've been doing, so I'll do my best to recount more of it in the future!  As you might see in the Q&A, there wasn't as much teaching as we had planned on this week, but I think my favorite lesson actually took place while I was outside of my area on exchanges with Elder Van Slyke.  We were teaching a guy named Fransisco, who they had been trying to get ahold of for quite a while, and we were finally able to catch him at home.  He started off the lesson by saying that he had had sort of a change of heart, and neither he or his wife were interested in us teaching them anymore, but since we had gone to all the trouble of trying to meet him for so long, we could sit down and talk with him and his wife for a few minutes.  That few minutes tuned into about 45.  Elder Van Slyke and I had felt impressed that we needed to share a message about eternal families with him, and after talking about the concept for a little while, he shared some very personal experiences about the fact that he had lost one of his sons several years ago when the son was very young.  Elder Van Slyke and I shared the principles of eternal families and the fact that he would be able to see his son again.  Elder Van Slyke also shared a story about a younger brother of his that had passed away a number of years ago, which I hadn't known about, and then we both bore testimony of the plan of salvation.  Throughout the lesson, you could literally see a light come into his eyes and see his countenance change.  At the end of this lesson that had started out with his decision to no longer meet with us, he told us that he would like to have us come back and tell them more about eternal families.  Maybe it's just my overdramatic memory, but I think I saw tears in his eyes once or twice during the lesson.

Since we’ve had a lot of cancellations lately, I had the thought that even though you think of Paul as a very successful missionary (which he was) when you think about how many chapters are written about his ministry compared with how many years he spent proselyting, there's a lot of dead space. I'm sure that even Paul had some bad days where no one wanted to listen and it felt like he didn't accomplish much. 

I've been struggling a lot with missing some things from home this last week. I was reminded of John chapter 21. Christ asks Peter, "lovest thou me more than all this?" My "this" may be a little different than Peter wanting to go fishing, but the call is the same. Feed my sheep. I've been called to serve for 2 years, and I owe it to him to do it, because my answer, like Peter's is that, "Yea Lord, thou knowest that I love thee."

Love,Elder Excell

Monday, November 23, 2015

Man of Few Words...

We have always known that Ty is a man of few words - this week, he was more so than ever. We received a response to our Q&A, got a short response to personal letters we sent, and got a few pictures, but no email letter.  Must've been a busy p-day...
Starstruck by Nashville Tribute Band!
Award-winning songwriter and Nashville record producer, not to mention former Nevada Las Vegas missionary, Jason Deere, regularly invites a revolving cast of talented artists and musicians that he calls the Nashville Tribute Band to join him in touring the world performing the stories and songs of the gospel.  Ty has had the opportunity to see them perform twice now in the time he has been serving as a missionary - once in the MTC, and most recently at a performance that was held at the Warm Springs Stake where the missionaries were invited to a special meet and greet performance.  He has always loved their music, so we know this has been a huge treat for our music loving missionary!! 

Snazzy new red pedals, and what's up with all the Duct Tape?  This bike cost way too much to have to be held together with Duct Tape already!  Hope it's just a fashion statement?!?
Q&A – 11/23/2015

1.) Do you have firm plans yet for Thanksgiving? I'm hoping you might get a bite of turkey somewhere! ;) And, it would help me to be able to picture where you might be spending your day. --We have a family we're scheduled to have dinner with, and several other invites, so it might end up that we eat thanksgiving dinner more than once that day!  Other than that, it'll be as normal a day of missionary work as we can make it.  We'll probably try to come up with a special thanksgiving message to share with people!

2.) Did you mean to share pictures last week with me? Because I didn't get them this time. You said something about pictures of snazzy new red pedals... --They should be sent now!  I didn't get around to it last week. And, you can see also a bit of our amazing experience with The Nashville Tribute Band too!

3.) What was your toughest trial this week? --There was a little bit of discouragment this last week, because we had 23 lessons scheduled, but taught only 3 of those scheduled lessons because people kept cancelling appointments.  I guess there are pros and cons to everyone having agency, ;)

4.) What was your biggest triumph this week? --We were able to set 2 more investigators with a baptismal date!  They're both very excited, and will be baptized on December 26.  Merry Christmas indeed!

 Normally I'm against decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving, but we found a box of stuff in the apartment and just couldn't help ourselves!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Broadcasts, Bands, Bikes & Blessings

We had another stake conference this last week! The week before was a regional broadcast for the southwest United States, and this week was the Warm Springs stake conference. It's definitely made trying to get investigators to come to church a little interesting! It's also made me think about how a lot of the things that are talked about in stake conference are focused in such a way that they're not always super applicable to missionaries, haha. Of course there's always something about the gospel you can apply to your life, but when they're focused on people going through normal day to day stuff, mission life isn't exactly what the comments seem to be geared towards.

I saw Nashville Tribute Band in concert again this Sunday! It's like they're following me or something! They happened to be performing at the stake center in our stake, so all the missionaries in that zone were invited! They really love missionaries, so we were even able to have a meet and greet with the band before the concert! We even got to sing one of their songs with the lead guy, Jason Deare, afterwards, which is pretty much every missionaries dream! I really love their concerts, and the testimony they bear through song!

Along with all of the problems with our bikes (described in the Q&A), we had a thought. Although we've had a lot of flat tires the last few weeks, we haven't had near as many as we should have, because the catch phrase of the transfer is quickly becoming "wow! That was a lot of glass!" It's just everywhere here! We picked out 5 or 6 pieces the night I had a flat, and all I had had was a slow leak all day! We are being blessed!

That's all the time I have today. I love you all and appreciate your continued support!

Q&A - 11/16/15

1.) Were you able to get your bike fixed last p-day? Is it working better?  -- That's actually an interesting story!  I got some Stylin new red pedals from our bishop last week! (Pics to follow if I can get decent wifi.)  I did however get a flat tire this last week, and we had to have a member give us an emergency ride to Walmart for a new tube. On Monday I picked up some new tires, because the ones I had were already really bald, and it was causing me to get a lot of flats, and while I was putting those tires on that night, the quick release on my front tire broke, and we had to go back to the bike shop the next day to replace it, and they also fixed my back tire which had been scraping on the frame for free!  All in all, an eventful week for bike maintenance!
2.) Are you still having lots of opportunities to teach?  --Lots of them! We're still staying very busy!
3.) What are your plans for Thanksgiving? Do all the missionaries get together or do you spend the day with a member family or do you get to spend it doing missionary work?   --Not really positive. There's no set thing to do, you just try to be as productive as you can. Probably visit a lot of members and share messages about being thankful.
4.) Have you been making use of the "Count Your Blessings" jar I sent? What are some of the blessings you've been reminded of?  --Unfortunately, we've been slacking on the blessings jar. We put one in first night, but haven't since, so now according to the jar, the only thing we're thankful for is that Elder Dixon wasn't hit by a car that day, haha.