Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Five Loaves and Two Fishes

Hey everybody!

Lots to write about this week and not much time, but I'll do my best!

First off, baptism! It was amazing! Laura and Bubba have such great spirits, and they're the last people in their family to be baptized, so now the family can be complete and go to the temple in the near future! The baptism service was great too! The branch really showed a lot of support! And it had very little to do with us. We would call people asking if they were available to help, and they would tell us that they had already been contacted, were planning on it, and had things ready for it! I love this branch!
The baptism! As you can see, lots of support from the branch!
This Sunday we had a really good sacrament meeting. It was sort of like a testimony meeting, but instead of sharing testimonies, everyone shared their favorite scripture and why it was their favorite scripture. There was such a great spirit, and it really reminded me how grateful I am for the scriptures! They're such a blessing and have so much potential to bring us closer to Christ if we really dig into them and find ways to apply them in our lives.

Along with that thought, I thought I would share my ponderizing scripture for the week.
Ephesians Chapter 4:
  • 11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
  • 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
  • 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

This scripture talks about the structure of the church that Christ established. He established it with apostles, prophets, and priesthood authority, and there are so many blessings that come from having that structure on the earth today. It's there to help us be unified, to perfect ourselves, and to become more like Christ. There are lots of good lights on this subject in D. Todd Christofferson's October 2015 conference talk, “Why the Church”.  Would strongly recommend! Especially because he explains it a lot better than I do!

Also, we had a total “five loaves and two fishes” miracle this week! It can sometimes be hard to get supplies like Books of Mormon and pamphlets when you're out of valley, and we ran out of Books of Mormon early his week. But somehow, we kept on finding more in the most random places throughout the week! The Lord provides!

I love you all! 

Elder Excell

Q&A - 5/30/2016
1.) What was the funniest thing that happened to you this week?  --Probably Singspiration Part 2! Although it didn't feel as crazy as the first one. Maybe it's just because I'm more used to the crazy now. Or maybe I'm starting to be crazy... Who knows, haha. 

2.) What are your favorite British words or phrases you've picked up?  --Let's see... I say "oh my days" a lot now. I also say, "bin" instead of garbage can, "Hoover" instead of vacuum, and I say "oi!" A lot. And lots of others, but I can't remember them!

Monday, May 23, 2016

British-isms and Some Fine Tuning

Hey everybody!

This has been a great week!  First off, we got the truck back!  Never before in my life have I had this much appreciation for having a working vehicle!  Instead of spending an hour and a half walking through the blazing heat to walk somewhere, we spend 5 minutes riding in a nicely air conned truck listening to gospel music and conference talks.  Take time today to be thankful for your car!  

I've been focusing a lot over the last week or two on trying to pay closer attention to the promptings of the spirit, and I've had some really cool experiences from it! It's such a blessing to live our lives in such a way that the Holy Ghost can guide us in all that we do, and it's been so cool to be able to receive really specific impressions from the spirit over the last few weeks.  A member of the branch here described the way the Holy Ghost works really well.  His career background is in broadcasting technology, and he likens the spirit to a broadcasting signal and a radio.  Although the spirit is always broadcasting, we have to be tuned into the right station to be able to hear what it's saying. And sometimes, even though you can more or less feel the spirit, the promptings aren't as clear as they could be. Then it's our job to do some fine tuning to make sure that our connection with our Heavenly Father is as clear and free of static as possible!  As we fine tune our sensitivity to the spirit and pray that we'll be sanctified by the Holy Ghost so that we can be worthy of it's companionship, we can experience the blessings of having a clean and clear connection with God.  

There are also some comments that I read today from a very wise man that was very involved in my life while I was in the young men's program and who I greatly admire.  I'll quote some of them here. 

"I recently had a couple of interesting experiences that taught me some important lessons about hearing the spirit. While traveling, due to some distance to an English speaking branch, I decided to attend a German Ward. I thought, “I took 3 years of German in High School so it should be okay” – boy was I wrong (some of you are already laughing)! It was Fast and Testimony Meeting and as speakers bore testimony if I really focused (and I mean really focused), I could follow what the speakers were saying but I soon realized that I could easily be distracted. As kids ran across the back of the chapel, as people stood up to walk out, or as I started thinking about other things, I would lose focus, my mind would wander, and I could no longer follow the testimonies. It would take me several minutes of really focused listening before I could follow the messages again. I guess you would say that I am easily distracted.

Then last Saturday, my wife and I were in the Ogden Temple waiting to witness a sealing. While in the waiting room, there were several families and as the families greeted, reunited and talked to each another, the volume in the waiting room became rather loud. It became loud enough the temple workers came in and reminded people to whisper in the temple. Within a few minutes, we entered the sealing room and everyone was quiet. I vividly felt a very different spirit in the sealing room than I did in the waiting room. The two rooms were both in the temple, the two rooms were only separated by a short walk but the spirit was distinctly different. I know part of the reason was because we were sitting in the ordinance room but I also believe it was due to the stillness and reverence of the people in the room. 

The Spirit or Holy Ghost is often described as a “still small voice” (1 Nephi 17:45) and can carry a conviction of truth unto our heart (2 Nephi 33:1). But some times and in some instances the promptings can feel like a foreign language to us. If we do not attentively focus on the spirit, small distractions can cause us to lose the intended message and though the Spirit may be speaking to us, it might as well be in French, Mandarin or German (President Uchtdorf would say that is the celestial language anyways). It is really important for us to regularly be found where we can hear the spirit with spiritual ears and where we can focus on the promptings. Stillness and reverence also help clarify the spiritual communication channels."

His words complimented so many of my thoughts this week.
Hayley's Baptism
Also, Hayley was baptized yesterday!  I don't think I've ever seen anyone as excited to be baptized as she was!  She was literally jumping up and down with joy all day long.  And I don't think she ever stopped grinning from ear to ear!  It was such a cool experience to see someone that we've grown to love so much be able to receive the gift of the holy ghost and see that blessing come into her life! 

I love being a missionary and, as always, I'm so grateful for all of your love and support!!
Elder Excell

P.S.  Due to my prolonged exposure to Elder Aitchison, I'm starting to notice an increasing number of random british-isms and british words sneaking into my language. Elder Aitchison claims I'm learning proper English, haha.  It doesn't come through as much in the emails as it does in my speech, so hopefully you can all make sense of my semi-british nonsense!
Mine and Elder Aitchison's new best friend!

Q&A - 5/23/2016
1.) I wanted to let you know that I will be sending a letter to you in the mail. Please watch really close for it. It will have your new debit card.  Your other debit won't work after I activate the new one. Will you be needing to use your debit card in the next few days?  --I'll be using it to buy some trousers today, but other than that, I can't think of anything!

2.) Do you have anything exciting planned today for P day? --I think that we're supposed to play some ultimate frisbee today being that it's one of the last nice days today probably.  It's been getting hotter and hotter.  Apparently it's still pretty cool for this time of year compared to average.  Normally it would be in the 90's and 100's by late May, but it's been mostly in the 80's.

3.) Do you still have baptisms scheduled for Thursday of this week? --Yep! I'll be playing the piano.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Biking and Baptisms

Hey everybody!

Sorry about the lack of email this last week! It was crazy with the hike to Devils garden. 

Well in the interest of updating you on the big events of the last 2 weeks, I'll start with the most notable part. We haven't had a truck for the last 2 weeks! I don't know if I ever mentioned this or not, but a few weeks ago while I was on exchanges, Elder Aitchison and another elder accidentally backed our truck into a pole! The back end was pretty dinged up, and we finally got it into the shop 2 weeks ago on Monday. We still haven't gotten it back... Once they started pulling it apart, they realized there was more damage than they thought, and had to change their estimate. So now, due to a long winded insurance process, we still don't have our truck back, and there's no end in sight yet. This has been interesting because, as some of you know, we have one of the largest areas in the mission, stretching almost 100 miles from north to south, and almost as many from east to west. So, needless to say, biking isn't the most effective method for traversing it, but we've been managing! The members have been amazing about helping us get around!

On the plus side, we have baptisms coming up soon! The first is an eight year old girl named Hailey. Her parents are less active members that live in Kingman, but her grandparents live in Dolan and are amazing! We've been working with her for a month or two, and her dad finally gave her permission to be baptized! She'll be baptized this Sunday! Also, A woman named Laura and her 8 year old son, Bubba. She's been investigating the church for a lot of years, and she finally feels ready to be baptized! They're both amazing, and will be baptized a week from this Thursday!

I'm sorry I don't have time for more. Thank you so much for all of your love and support! 
Elder Excell

Q&A - 5/16/16
1.) Did you get a little package this week? Hope you had some milk nearby, because I'm sure the cookies are a bit dry by the time they get to you! Hope you enjoy them nonetheless.  --Not yet, but we haven't checked the mail in a few days, so hopefully it will be there!

2.) If you got the package, does that mean you're headed to Taco Bell for lunch today? ;)  --Not today, but maybe soon!

3.) I'm assuming that you are, but I didn't ever ask after this last transfer. Are you still serving as a district leader? --Yes

4.) When are your baptisms scheduled for? We'd like to keep the dates in mind and be thinking of you and praying for your investigators as those dates approach.  --We have 2 scheduled for a week from Thursday, and a few more scheduled for the beginning of June.

5.) Where was it that you went for your hike last week? The pictures were awesome!  --Devils Garden in Golden Valley.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Mother's Day and a Hike

Mother's Day!!  We loved being able to see and hear how happy our missionary is!!

We had the opportunity to go on an awesome hike today so I'm afraid I don't have much time for writing.  I figured since we got to talk yesterday that you wouldn't mind! Sending pictures instead!

I love you all!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Unexpected News for Transfer Week!!

This week has been absolutely crazy!  We'll start with the thing that everyone has been asking about: Transfers!  Well, Elder Aitchison and I received some pretty unexpected news on Saturday morning: WE'RE BOTH STAYING!!!  We're both super excited about it!  Elder Aitchison has definitely been one of my favorite companions I've had so far and I'm super excited to get the chance to serve with him for another transfer!  We have some big plans for the coming transfer, and hopefully several baptisms! It was definitely a pretty big surprise for both of us. So much so in fact that I had already told a couple of members that I was probably going to be leaving and started getting some pictures with people. Oops! Guess that's what I get for assuming! There are a couple reasons that we were so surprised. The first one is that by the end of this next transfer, I'll have been in Dolan Springs for 6 months!  Although it's not unheard of for people in other areas to stay for 4 transfers, or even as long as 5 transfers in some extreme cases, it's been unheard of in Dolan Springs for at least the last year or two!  Also, it will mean that Elder Aitchison and I will be staying together for 3 transfers, which is the longest We've ever heard of a companionship staying together! Normally president doesn't keep companionships together for more than 2 transfers. We figure either we're doing something really good, or we're doing something wrong and still have stuff left to learn! haha.  

Now onto how crazy this week has been!  It was crazy for a couple of different reasons.  On Wednesday, Elder Aitchison and I drove to district council and afterwards we exchanged with the Golden Valley Elders, Elder Ryder and Elder Leakehe.  Elder Ryder and I stayed in Dolan Springs and had a really productive couple of days, and then on Thursday night, Elder Leakehe and Elder Aitchison came up to Dolan.  The Golden Valley Elders spent the night on Thursday, because we all had to drive up to Vegas the next day anyways for the big multi-mission conference. Then Friday morning, we all drove up to Vegas for a visit from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and Elder Lynn G. Robbins!  That was so amazing! (More on that in a minute)  Then after the mission conference was over, the four of us drove all the way down to Kingman to be briefed on a mini-mission that the Kingman stake was putting on the next day.  For those of you who haven't heard of them before, basically what a mini-mission is is a chance for the youth go out on splits with the full-time missionaries for the whole day and get a feel for what  a mission is like.  They do everything from waking up at 6:30 and coming to the stake center to have personal and companionship study with us to proselyting with us for the whole day. So on top of all the other craziness of the week, I didn't really even see Elder Aitchison all of Saturday because we were on splits the whole day!  Then we drove back down to Kingman that evening to be there for a closing testimony meeting for the mini-mission.  It was only the youth that bore their testimonies, but it was so cool to hear how spiritual these young people are!  

Elder Holland was amazing!  I empathize a lot with the Nephites in two different ways after his visit.  Both are from 3 Nephi 17.  The first is from verse 5.  -- "And it came to pass that when Jesus had thus spoken, he cast his eyes round about again on the multitude, and beheld they were in tears, and did look steadfastly upon him as if they would ask him to tarry a little longer with them."   I definitely feel the same way the the Nephites did. After having such profound spiritual experiences with someone who was so in tune with the spirit, I was hoping that it would last a little longer than the 2 hours that it did. 

I also empathize with verse 17.  -- "And no tongue can speak, neither can there be written by any man, neither can the hearts of men conceive so great and marvelous things as we both saw and heard Jesus speak; and no one can conceive of the joy which filled our souls at the time we heard him pray for us unto the Father."  It's so difficult to put into words today the amazing things that the Nephites heard, even though it was obviously one of the most incredibly spiritual experiences they had ever had.  I feel the same way. It seems like anything that I say to try to sum up his words just won't be the same.  Suffice it to say that it was an amazing spiritual experience that has changed the way that I look at missionary work and life in a lot of ways.  

Like I said at the beginning, It's been a crazy week!  I'm so grateful for all of the love and support that you all give me, and also all of the prayers!  I love you all very much, and just want you to know that I'm so grateful for this opportunity that I have to be out here serving the Lord in this unique once in a lifetime way!

Elder Excell

Q&A - 5/2/2016 (and a few other random thoughts) :) 

Dad wants to know: How have you been doing with your new tracker in the truck? I wondered if it would go off with some of the rough roads you guys have to go on. Does a major pot hole bounce throw it off?  --The tracker hasn't been too bad.  We were pretty worried that it would be really fussy with all of the rough roads, but the people say that they calibrate it for individual areas, and it seems like whoever calibrated it had been through Dolan before and knew what it was like!  The box actually doesn't recognize a lot of the roads that we go on as roads either, so it isn't too terribly strict about the speed limit in certain places.

Also, I really liked what Dad said about his lesson in High Priests.  (My high priest quorum meeting yesterday was awesome. Evan Harrison taught and it was on Elder Bednar's talk from October about the teachings of the prophets and apostles who had recently passed away. Very cool lesson. Very cool talk.)  That was a really good talk. And Evan Harrison is pretty awesome too! I'll always remember him quoting the story about the kids making fun of Elisha for being bald, and Elisha sending the she bears after them, haha.  (2 Kings 2:24) That didn't keep us neighborhood kids from giving him grief though. ;) 

Dad also mentioned that he's already mowing the lawn and that you must have gotten too much fertilizer on it last fall because it was nearly a foot tall and took him forever to mow.  Well, it might surprise you to hear that I actually really wish I could have been there to cut the grass, haha!  Me and Elder Aitchison were talking just the other day about how we miss mowing the lawn and the smell of grass.  Green grass is something that's definitely in short supply out here! I'd love to have you send me a picture of our house with the green grass!