Monday, February 22, 2016

Beautiful Views and a Baptism!

Elder Aitchison and I checking out the view of
Lake Mead from Meadview!
This has been a crazy week!  We've spent tons of time in the car!  There were a few days where we did over 200 miles in a day!  

We had a baptism this weekend, and I had the chance to be able to confirm Julie.  It was the first time that I've had the opportunity to do so, and it was a really cool experience!  

We're still teaching that old lady in Chloride, Pat, and she can be so stubborn sometimes, haha.  She found a scripture in Exodus 33:20 that says no man can see God and live, and so now she has concerns about Joseph Smith.  We shared like 5 different scriptures with her about God conversing face to face with his prophets in the Old Testament and living, and tried explaining things, but she's just stuck on that one scripture.  It just goes to show that in the end, no matter what evidence is put in front of you, the only way that anyone can truly gain a testimony of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ is through the Holy Ghost and through humble prayer.  I'm so grateful for the fact that I was brought up in this church, and that I had such great parents who helped instill faith in me from a young age!  I feel my testimony of this gospel grow every day, and I know that a large part of it is because of the base that I was given by them!

I've been studying in the beginning of Genesis the last couple of days, and it's led me to do a lot of pondering on the nature of the temple.  I'm so grateful for the blessing of temples and all of the blessings that come from them!  One of the things I'm looking forward to most in my mission is the chance I'll hopefully have to see some of these couples that I've had the chance to teach go through the temple and be sealed for time and all eternity.  

Just a heads up for next week, there's a good chance that there won't be any emails from me.  I'll have to backtrack a little bit to explain.  The Elders that serve in Peach Springs in our zone also cover the Supai nation at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  They hike down about twice a month and spend 3-4 days proselyting to the Native Americans down there. They've organized for several sets of missionaries to be able to hike down with them this coming P-day and see some of the sights at the bottom of the Grand Canyon!  Not very many people ever get this opportunity because of all the restrictions placed on traveling through the Supai nation, but because the missionaries there have such good relations with the locals, they've been able to work something out!  I'm super excited to have such a cool opportunity!  That being said, it's a really long hike down and back up, and will take virtually the entire day, so there's a good chance that I won't have time to email this coming week.  If that does end up being the case, then for the next 2 weeks, know that I love all of you, and I'm so grateful for all of the support and prayers that I get from all of you!

Elder Excell
The Marsee's (our housing coordinator's) in the living room/office
of our trailer.

Q&A - 2/22/16

1.) Are you able to take a shower now without having to drive down the road five miles to do it? --Not yet, haha.  The shower predicament has gone on a little longer than anticipated, but we're hopeful that it will be over soon.  On the plus side, It's led to us starting to teach our landlord!

A replica old west saloon in Chloride
2.) What is your favorite thing to do on P-days?  --Well, aside from read emails from everyone back home, I really enjoy hanging out with the other missionaries and playing sports.  We play different stuff like basketball, ultimate frisbee, and Chinese dodgeball!

3.) You had a couple of baptisms this week if I'm not mistaken!! I want to hear all about them! Did you perform the baptism or confirmation or did a ward member or someone else? --We did!  It ended up being just Julie that was able to make her baptismal date of this Saturday, but Terry is still working towards it!  Someone from the ward performed the baptism, but I was asked to do the confirmation, which was a really cool experience!

4.) Did you have any moments of discouragement this last week?  --A few.  It's been a really crazy week with lots of time spent in the car, and sometimes it can be a little frustrating when you feel like you're not getting as much done as you could.

Passing time with Ray while we wait for
dinner to be ready.
5.) What was your favorite thing that happened last week?  --Probably the baptism!

6.) Have you forgotten yet how much you are loved?  --Never!

Our mission president is pretty cool!!  This is a
picture we found of him taken before his
mission president days!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Who I'm Becoming

Hey everyone!

This week has been a crazy week!  While we were tracting this week we came across a woman who is 98 years old!  We also came across a super stereotypical redneck who was sitting on his porch cleaning his AR15, flying a confederate flag on their porch, and told us to get off their property. Very authentic redneck experience!

We also had interviews with President Snow this week!  It's always really good to see him and Sister Snow, and it's also really cool to get the chance to pick his brain on different questions that I've been having. 

It's also been crazy because we haven't had a shower for the last few days.  This story might require some backstory.  Long story short, our shower has had several large cracks in it for a long time, and it will occasionally leak into my closet.  The landlord paid us a surprise visit to fix the tub, and started tearing it out, but realized that the hardware store was closed and they couldn't actually put the new one in until this Tuesday.  So, for the last few days, we've had to travel down to another trailer that they own about 5 miles down the road to shower every morning.  Needless to say, that's added to the chaos a little bit. 

We also had an interesting service project on Saturday.  I've mentioned in the past that there are some people with environmental illness living in Dolan Springs.  We were helping some people line their walls with tin foil on Saturday, because apparently it helps cancel out electronic interference from getting into the house.  It took a LONG time.

This has been kind of a random letter, but I'll try to finish off with something cool that I read this week!  It talks about how when we're judged on how we've spent our time in this life, it won't just be a sum total of all of our good and bad works, it will be about who we've become.  I often feel this way about my mission.  Although there are good things that I'm doing, in the end, one of the most notable things is the person I'm becoming.  I can truly feel the Savior changing me each and every day, and I'm so grateful for this chance that I've had to grow!

Alma 12:12–14. Judged According to our Words, Works, and Thoughts

Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught that the Judgment is not merely a review of actions taken in mortality, but is instead an assessment of who and what we have become as a result of our actions:

“The prophet Nephi describes the Final Judgment in terms of what we have become: ‘And if their works have been filthiness they must needs be filthy; and if they be filthy it must needs be that they cannot dwell in the kingdom of God’ (1 Nephi 15:33; italics added). Moroni declares, ‘He that is filthy shall be filthy still; and he that is righteous shall be righteous still’ (Mormon 9:14; italics added; see also Revelation 22:11–12; 2 Nephi 9:16; D&C 88:35). The same would be true of ‘selfish’ or ‘disobedient’ or any other personal attribute inconsistent with the requirements of God. Referring to the ‘state’ of the wicked in the Final Judgment, Alma explains that if we are condemned by our words, our works, and our thoughts, ‘we shall not be found spotless; … and in this awful state we shall not dare to look up to our God’ (Alma 12:14).

“From such teachings we conclude that the Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts--what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts--what we have become. It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become.” (Conference Report, Oct. 2000, 41; or Ensign, Nov. 2000, 32).
So many of the things that I’m experiencing are really big to me, but I can't really convey in words.  I feel my testimony deepening every day. The gospel knowledge that I'm building is priceless to me, and the things that I'm learning about how to interact with people and how I can become more Christ-like will continue to influence me for years. I'm learning things every day that change my life!

I love you all!

Elder Excell

Q&A 2/15/16
1.) When you go somewhere, who drives? Do you take turns or do one of you just default to the driver’s seat? -- We switch off.  I would say that I still probably do the majority of the driving though.

2.) We are curious to hear if you’re still doing ok with your new companionship.  How are you getting along?  -- Still like him! :) Just like any relationship, you find things that you aren't as crazy about, but as long as you focus on the things that bring you together, the little things don't matter all that much.

Monday, February 8, 2016

How Long Does It Take to Bake a Potato?

Hey everybody!  

As I said last week, I have a new companion!  His name is Elder Aitchison, he's from southern England (a little village of about 100 people that's about halfway between London and Oxford), and he's a great guy!  We've been seeing a lot of success together!  

Elder Andersen wearing the tie I
knitted for him!
Two of the big things that happened this last week are that we helped out at a food pantry for veterans, and we had a zone conference down in Lake Havasu City.  I guess big things might be a bit misleading, they're both pretty standard, but I don't think I've talked about either in the past, so I figured this would be a good week to do it! 

We do service at the food pantry every other Thursday.  Essentially what happens, is we, and a few other volunteers, meet at the pantry at about 7:30 AM, and get things set up for the day.  We get huge shipments of food in from the local foodbanks, and have to get that all sorted out.  Then everyone gets put in charge of one thing and cars drive up sort of like a drive through and everyone takes the thing that they're in charge of and puts it in the trunk of the car.  Then the next car pulls through and we repeat the process.  It's a really good program that does a lot of good, and because of the average age of Dolan, lots of people in the town are veterans, and so it's also a good chance to meet people in the town!  

This last week we got sent home with tons of leftover food that they wouldn't have been able to
Elder Aitchison and I made some
banana bread. When you don't have
a loaf pan, you improvise!
hand out by the next time, so we have tons of food around the apartment!  Including some sweet potatoes roughly the size of newborn children!  We tried to bake them the other night, but because they were so big, it took longer to cook them than we thought it would and we didn't end up eating them until like 10:00 at night!  Nothing like an enormous baked sweet potato for a light midnight snack!  

The other thing was that we had a zone conference down in Lake Havasu City!  We were catching a ride with some other missionaries, and we got lost for a little while, so we may or may not have ended up in California for a short amount of time, but we got there eventually!  I always enjoy going to zone conferences and getting the chance to see all of the other missionaries (which doesn't happen as often out of valley because everyone's so far apart) and getting to learn things that can help us improve as missionaries!  

We'll also have interviews with President Snow this coming week in Kingman, so I'm excited for that as well! 

As always, I'm so grateful for all of your continued love and support!  I love all of you so much!

Elder Excell

Q&A - 2/8/16

1.)  Tell us all about your new companion, Elder Aitchison!  What things do you have in common with him?  What is the best thing about him?  Does he have a strong English accent? --I love Elder Aitchison!  He does have a pretty strong English accent.  I don't know that I'd say that we have a ton in common, but we still get along really well!  One of my favorite things about him is that he's super friendly and personable, which is a good thing in missionary work!  My last few companions have been really introverted and not very talkative, so it's nice to not have to carry the brunt of the conversation all the time when we meet people!

2.)  Picture request!!  Stop what you're doing right now and take a picture to send to me of you and Elder Aitchison together!!  -- And, another request for this week when you get back to Dolan... I'd love more pictures of your trailer!  Homework assignment! ;) --I just sent a video of us doing some tracting in white hills!  Hopefully that still meets the requirements.  Also it gives you a chance to hear his accent! 

3.)  I sent you a package yesterday and it is scheduled to get to you on Monday.  Have you gotten notice that you have a package? --We got the slip in the mail this morning!  That means it won't be ready for pickup until tomorrow, but we'll pick it up in Kingman on Wednesday when we come down for district council.

4.)  Random question... would you want the red couch/recliner from downstairs for your apartment or home someday?  Planning a trip to DI...  --I would actually love to have that red couch!  That couch has been a staple of my childhood, haha.  Besides, it's hard to find furniture as classy as that couch anymore.  ;)

5.)  What day is Terry and Julie's baptism scheduled for?  --February 20th!  

6.)  What is something new that you learned this week?  --It takes longer than I thought to bake potatoes!  More about that in the letter!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Transfers & Singspiration

Well, there are two big things to be talked about in this letter: Transfers and something called Singspiration!  Also, on a quick side note, We got some snow this morning!  The weather is predicting 3 inches in certain places! 

I'll start with transfers and come back to Singspiration later. 

It's crazy to think that it's transfer time again already!  It seems like just yesterday that I got to Dolan Springs.  We found out on Saturday that I'll be staying here for at least another 7 weeks, and Elder Andersen will be heading back up to Las Vegas.  I'm definitely going to miss Elder Andersen, but I'm sure that my next companion will be amazing too!  I don't know too much about him.  His name is Elder Aitchison, he's been out one transfer less than I have, and he's from England!  I guess I'm destined to never have a companion who comes from west of the Mississippi, haha. I'm super excited for him to come and experience Dolan Springs and see how he reacts to one of the most hicksville American towns I've ever had the pleasure of being in. (For those of you who may not know, Ty's dad grew up in a town much smaller than Dolan Springs.  When he speaks of "hicksville", it is a term of endearment.  He knows that great things come from small towns!)  I'm also super excited to stay in Dolan!  Seeing Elder Andersen say goodbye to some of the people here yesterday made me realize how hard it's going to be to leave this place when the time comes. 

I've had some people ask about the couple we set with a baptismal date last week.  Their names are Terry and Julie.  They're a younger couple for Dolan Springs, only early 50's.  They're a couple who the missionaries have been teaching for a long time, and they've finally decided that they're ready to be baptized!  They're so excited and determined to make their date! I love working with them!

So on to the big question: What is Singspiration?  I'll be honest, I'm not sure if I can describe it and do it justice, but I'll do my best.  I've mentioned before that there are more churches in Dolan than there are houses.  Just try to imagine representatives from almost all of those churches getting together every 5th Sunday for a big combined potluck where everyone gets together and sings worship songs.  Now as you can imagine, some churches worship differently than others, so the singing varies greatly.  We heard everything from punk Christian rock to Johnny Cash to someone who yodeled for Jesus.  I realize that this isn't a very adequate description, so I'm going to send some short videos clips to give you an idea of what our Singspiration experience was like. It was one of the most bizarre experiences of my life, but also pretty cool to see a whole community come together and worship together.  It also gave us the opportunity to talk with people, and the Mormons who were there even sang. There were a couple of ladies who sang "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" and we had the chance to join in on "If the Savior Stood Beside Me."  Definitely a memorable experience!
As always, I'm so grateful for all of your love and support!

Elder Excell

Ty was impressed with the vast variety of performances at "Singspiration" - everything from Reverend Howard from the pink church, the aforementioned "yodeling for Jesus", and several songs that were featured in "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou" to a member of the Cowboy Church" which he described as basically a normal church, but they all dress like cowboys.  It's been a great experience for him to be exposed to such a vast variety of believers!

Q&A - 2/1/16

1.) Since this is transfer week, I'm really curious to hear how transfers work in your mission. -- We get what's called transfer doctrine on the Saturday before transfers.  For most missionaries, this means meeting up in the local stake center and the zone leaders pass out a sheet of paper that has your new assignment and companion, as well as that transfers desert disciple (mission newsletter). The desert disciple,  among other things, has the names, pictures, and hometowns of all the missionaries that are coming in and the ones that are leaving that transfer.  The process is a little different out of valley.  Because of the distance between areas, instead of meeting up, the zone leaders just call everyone and tell them the information over the phone.  Then you have a few days to get packed and say any goodbyes that you want to, and you go to your new area the following Tuesday.  For most areas, people just meet at one of a few different stake centers and make the switch there, but if you're out of valley the mission sends a van down that all of the missionaries ride in and out of valley together in.  So for me, I'll just be going to the Dolan Springs chapel Tuesday morning to pick up my new companion when the van drops him off.

2.) How often are you supposed to communicate with or report to President Snow or to your 
district or zone leaders?  Is that usually done on the phone or via email?  -- We communicate with Pres. Snow every week.  This is done over email.  We also get calls from our district leaders 2 or 3 times a week  to see how things are going.

3.) What was your best moment of the week?  --  Something called singspiration.  More about that 
in the main letter!