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.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Pictures Worth a Thousand Words

This last week has been something I never thought I would say about Las Vegas: cold and wet! We had a massive rainstorm Wednesday night, complete with large amounts of hail! Luckily we were on our way to dinner, so we weren't out in it for long. It's officially sweater weather in Las Vegas once the sun goes down! It doesn't get much below 50, but my bloods already starting to thin out. I've become a wimp when it comes the cold!
I'll be staying with Elder Dixon in Haven for 5 more weeks! That's not a typo, 5. This transfer will be 5 weeks long, because if it was 6, we would be trying to fly people home on Christmas Eve, which would be crazy! The next transfer will be 7 weeks to make up for the difference.
A few shout outs in the pictures! 

Thanks to Grandma Hyde for the care package! I can confirm that it still looked like a pumpkin roll when it got here, but only lasted about 15 minutes between the two of us, haha. 
Also thanks to Grandma Excell who has sent me a real letter every week of the mission so far! 

Decided to snag a picture of the bassoon license plate, because it was unexpected to see it on the back of a muscle car, haha. 

Elder Dixon's house of cards! 

There's a Nielsens frozen custard here! Forgot to mention that, but missionaries get half off!

My Nevada Las Vegas Missionary tan line.  Haha.
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words and I hope you'll accept that in this case.  I'm super short on time for this week, so I'll wrap it up there! 

As always thanks for your continued love and support!
Elder Excell

Q&A - 11/9/2015

1.) I'm curious to know what you do for exercise. Do you have a set routine that you do each day or do you change it up?  --We have a workout facility in the clubhouse of our apartment which is pretty nice!  I have a few different things that I like to do: Bench press, curls, pull ups, dips, etc.  Just your basic workout stuff.  I usually avoid doing leg workouts though, because I feel like I get enough of that the rest of the day, haha.  Reached a cool workout milestone this morning though!  When I got here I could barely bench press 100 pounds.  Now I can bench my own body weight several times!
2.) What is your favorite thing that you're studying right now?  --I'm working my way through the Isaiah chapters in 2nd nephi right now, and using the seminary study guides and using a lot of footnotes, and simultaneously reading the footnotes of the actual Isaiah chapters (they have a lot of helpful translations) and I'm really enjoying it! 
3.) How often do you go on splits?  --For a while we went on splits about once a week.  We've been doing it less though lately, and finding more productive ways to work with members!  Even though we're not on splits that often, we have members with us very frequently!
4.) My guess is that you'll address this in your email, but we are anxious to know if you know yet where you'll be next week or who you'll be serving with.  --I'll be staying in the Haven ward with Elder Dixon!  We're both really excited about it, especially with all of the new stuff happening in the area lately! 
5.) We had the missionaries in our home on Monday to help teach someone about Family Home Evening. Do you get to teach investigators in members homes very often?  --It's always a good thing to do, and we should do it more often, but we don't teach investigators in members homes too often.  That's something we're going to try to work on though!
6.) Just making sure that you still remember how much you are loved!!??!!  --Got it!!!! :)

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Work is Hastening

The last week of the 2nd transfer!  This transfer has definitely gone by much faster than the last one, and I have a feeling they'll only keep getting faster and faster!  Lots of stuff happened this last week, so hopefully I'll have time to get it all down!

I had an interesting thought this last week: It's kind of stressful being a missionary, because for two years, you're responsible for other people's salvation.  I know it sounds a little high and mighty, but if you're feeling lazy one day and decide that you don't want to talk to that last person of the night on the street corner, you're denying them a chance to accept the gospel, and it's on your head that they didn't get that chance to accept or deny it!  Most of the time in life, if you decided to take a lazy day, and didn't get much done that day, the only person it really affects is you, but on a mission, you affect so many other people when you slack off!

As far as clothing fitting me, there's good news, and there's bad news.  The suit that I had custom fitted for me a few years ago is starting to get a little tight, which is sad, but the good news is that it's getting a little tight in the chest and not in the gut! I guess the fact that the rules say you're supposed to work out every morning is better motivation for me than I've had before!

This last week has been pretty crazy for a few reasons: The first being how much the work is picking up in our area, the second being that our apartment flooded this last week!  I'll focus on the work first.  To give you an idea of how much busier we've been getting, we keep track of how many new investigators we find every week in the mission.  Last transfer, we found a total of three new investigators for the whole transfer.  So far THIS WEEK we've found 8!!! making a total of 15 for the transfer!  Needless to say, this has been keeping us plenty busy! We've been seeing a lot of miracles, and I'll include some of my favorites for the week.  We were in the middle of contacting this guy on the street (he was grade A crazy and convinced that vampires walk among us and that blood bank's are a giant pyramid scheme set up by Satan.  Definitely one of the most interesting people I've met so far) and someone walked up and said, "Hey, are you the Mormons?" "Yes, we are!" "I'm on my way to work right now, but can I have your card so I can call you tomorrow?" "Sure!" That was pretty cool in and of itself, but then when we were on our way to the appointment that we set up with him the next day, we met another guy who was out in front of his building who said that he had just felt like he needed to come stand outside for a while, and he wasn't sure why.  He proceeded to say that he had always seen us around, and asked us what we do. When we told him, he said he'd been looking for a church for the last 5 or 6 months, and asked if he could come to our church this Sunday. "Sure!" Then when we went to talk to the guy we had originally set our appointment with, he said that he was busy right now, and we'd have to try him another time, but he had someone he wanted us to talk to.  He took us to his neighbors house, knocked on the door, and said, "These are the Mormon Missionaries, I think you'd like what they have to say." And we then proceeded to teach THAT guy the first lesson! Then when we went by the next day to meet with the first guy's neighbor again, we were teaching him out in front of his apartment, and the first guy's girlfriend came out, listened for a while, and then asked if SHE could have a copy of the Book of Mormon!  Long story short, We've been really blessed this last week.  That's just one of the amazing things that has happened!

Now on the the apartment flood.  Apparently, the apartment above ours had a sink overflow, and it overflowed badly enough that it came through the vents and SOAKED our carpet!  Luckily none of Elder Dixon's or my stuff was damaged, but It's been a bit of a process to get all of the water out, deal with the apartment management, and get the carpets cleaned!  It's all taken care of now though, and the apartment no longer smells like mildew!

One last thing to write about:  On Halloween, all of the missionaries in our mission who aren't "out of valley" (in California or Arizona) got together at the mission office for a party!  Apparently they've had problems in the past with punk kids dressing up as missionaries and pulling pranks, so they've started doing this so that all of the missionaries can be accounted for and no one can blame the church for any pranks!  It was a lot of fun though!  We ended up watching the Cokeville Miracle! It was a really good movie! And for those of you who don't know, it's especially close to my heart, because the principal of the elementary school that was held hostage in the movie was none other than my Grandpa Excell!  I've heard the story before, but it was definitely cool to see it on the silver screen. 

I think that's all for this week!  Thank you for all of your continued love, support, and prayers!  I couldn't make it through without them, and will always be grateful for them!

Elder Excell

Q&A - 11/2/15

1.) Did you find someone nice to help you fix your China suit pants?  --They've been fixed for quite a while now!  A member of the ward was more than happy to fix them for me, and it was a super easy fix because it was a rip right down the seam.
2.) Do you get to meet with President Snow very often?  --Because our area is so close to the mission office, we're there every once in a while, and I see him around.  But as far as official meetings go, we have a zone conference with president snow attending and training every transfer, and every other transfer, this conference includes interviews with president.

3.) Do you have people you are regularly teaching right now? Several or a few?
4.) Tell us about your best moment of the week. -- 
 I'll address both of these in the blog email!