Monday, July 25, 2016

New Area and New Responsibilities!

The VanOrden's
Although the rest of the week was good too, the weekend was so crazy that I'll be focusing mostly on that! 

Brother Mejicanos
As some of you may know, this weekend was Pioneer Day! Although in most parts of the world this means very little to most people, if you live in a place with a high LDS population density such as Utah or Las Vegas, all the sudden it becomes a very big deal! Especially if you live in a place like Henderson where the people are rich enough to do big exciting things on Pioneer Day! There was a massive event on Saturday morning, with a parade, carnival, and other stakes even had fireworks! The event we were at was a tri-stake event with the Green Valley, Anthem, and Black Mountain stakes. Like I said, there was a big parade, and all of the missionaries were in charge of carrying a massive 30'x50' American flag! Afterwards there were all kinds of free food and games. 

The other crazy thing that happened Saturday was, about 10 minutes before the parade started, I got a call from President Snow. He called and asked if I would be willing to serve as a Zone Leader this next transfer! Then a few hours later, we got our actual transfer doctrine, and I found out that I'm going to be serving as a Zone Leader in the North Stake of Las Vegas! My new companion is Elder Branning, one of my absolute favorite missionaries in the mission! I'm super lucky to get to serve with him!  I've always wanted to serve in North Las Vegas! And it's kind of a unique situation because we're being double transferred in. This is really unusual for Zone Leaders. The reason for it is because until now, the zone leaders in the North Stake have been Spanish speaking, but because of the decrease in Spanish missionaries we've been having, they're switching it back to an English area. The funny thing is, so far all of the members that I've told that I'm moving to the North Stake all sound kind of nervous for me. It was kind of like, "oh, that's... Exciting..." North Las Vegas is definitely a sketchier part of town. I'm excited though! I'm also definitely a little nervous about all the new responsibility, but I know that through the Lord, I'll be able to do all things!
My new ward! Sunrise Terrace!
And on top of all that, we had a baptism Saturday night! Nadiya B. was baptized by her husband, Andrew, who was previously less active. It was really great to see! The ward has really wrapped their arms around them, and they're already thinking about working towards the temple!
Nadiya's Baptism!
I have lots to get done today, but know that I love all of you! Thanks for all of the support!
Elder Excell
The Clauson's

Monday, July 18, 2016

It's a Cooker! 114 Degrees in the Shade!

Hey everybody!

The Pocatello crowd at Black Mountain/
Green Valley zone conference!

This last week has been pretty crazy! Again! It included: zone conference, a trip to the temple, exchanges with the zone leaders, a member missionary night put on by the sisters in our district, and other crazy stuff as well!

Zone conference was really good! President talked about how, although our mission is doing really well compared to other missions, it's still not doing as well as it has in the past. We talked about some things that we need to change to be as successful as possible in the work of the Lord! We also heard testimonies from all of the missionaries that will be going home this transfer. There's a really big group of missionaries going home soon, so even just in our zone there were quite a few. It's always interesting to hear the thoughts of people who are near the end of their mission. It's given me some new determination to really make the best of my time out here!

Elder Leakehe and Elder Excell - 
A much needed day to "dust off" at the temple!
Our trip to the temple was amazing as well! I like to compare the feeling of going to the temple with dusting. If you think of a shelf that has some knickknacks on it, over time, dust naturally settles on the shelf and the knickknacks. Although it's incredibly gradual, eventually the shelf becomes more and more dusty, and you're less able to make out the things on it clearly. Going to the temple is kind of like dusting. Over the weeks, my mind and soul just start to feel "dusty". It feels like all of the stress and worries of the world start to cover up the things that are really important. But going to the temple is is like cleaning all of that off so you can see things clearly again! I definitely needed it!

There was nothing too super eventful about exchanges. I was with Elder Risk, and we had a good time! I really admire how much he loves the people he serves and the people he serves around. I hope to be able to have more love towards everyone!

Temple trip!!
Also, the sisters had a member missionary night this week. They've been struggling with getting support from members, and wanted to have a night to get everyone excited about missionary work. They asked us to help out since one of our wards shares the building with their two wards, and they wanted to get everyone involved. It definitely started off a little slow, with only one person showing up on time, but thanks to some late arrivals, it turned out alright! The sisters did a great job of putting it together!

Thanks you so much for all of your love! I miss you all!
Elder Excell

Q&A - 07/18/2016
1.) Last we heard, you were struggling to get hold of Malik. Have you been able to make contact with him again? How is he doing? --Still no luck. We finally got ahold of his grandma that he was living with, and she was able to tell us a little bit of what happened. Apparently Malik's parents are divorced, and are both trying to convince him to live with them, but he really just wants to stay with his grandma. Anyway, apparently he's staying in a hotel somewhere else in Vegas with his dad right now, and we got his dad's number, so we're going to try to contact him that way since his phone isn't working.

2.) Also, an update on Nadiya and Jennifer, please. --Nadiya is being baptized this Saturday! Jennifer still has some reservations, so she won't make this Saturday, but she's been really feeling the spirit lately, and we think that she probably won't be far behind Nadiya! Especially with the undoubtable spirit she'll feel at Nadiya's baptism.

(Inside joke from the infamous Farming Game -
and Ty says this in the best farmer voice ever!
It's funny how a single phrase can make me 
smile, yet really miss this guy in a crazy
serious way!)
3.) I've also been wondering about Elder Leaheke - has he been feeling better since his episode of losing his vision? Hope all is well with him! Tell him I've been worried about him. :) --He's doing fine!

Random Crazy of the Week:  I've seen the nonsense surrounding Pokemon Go this week! It's so funny to see! There are actually a lot of missionaries who are capitalizing on all the people who are outside to take the chance to talk to them. Haha!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Keep an Eternal Perspective

Hey everybody!

4th of July Dinner!!
I guess I'll start off this email by telling everyone about the 4th of July!  It was actually a way cool day!  The P-day was pretty normal (which means it was kindof boring.  There's not much that happens in this stake on p-days, because it's made up mostly of sisters who don't like to play sports.  This means there's not much to do, but I've taken to bringing music and playing the piano!) but after the P-day, we went to one of our ward mission leaders houses for dinner.  We had some of the most mindblowing BBQ I've ever had!  I figured it was worthy of some Limpy pics, ;).  Then after dinner, we went around and visited a few people, and before the end of the night, we found this big hill, and from the top of it you could see almost the whole valley!  We weren't out late enough to see the big fireworks over the strip, but in a big spread out city like Vegas, you could see fireworks going off everywhere for miles! 

On Tuesday, we had kindof a unique service project opportunity.  There's a lady in our ward who is involved with a big project every year for children with cancer.  Every year, there's a camp for cancer patients and their siblings to go to, just to get away from all of the chaos of having your world turned upside down.  As a part of this camp, every camper is given a homemade quilt, and the member in our ward is in charge of making all 250 of those quilts each year! So we got to help her cut, sew, pin, and quilt for a few hours!  It was a ton of fun!

We also had expanded MLC this last week. Normally MLC is only for zone leaders and sister training leaders, but once every couple of months, the district leaders all get to attend as well! That meant that I, along with about 40 or 50 other missionaries, got the chance to be trained by President Snow and other mission leadership!  I don't know if I've mentioned this before in my letter, but President Snow is a genius.  Before the mission, he owned SEVERAL businesses, and is one of the smartest people I know. That goes for planning, management, spirituality, and just about everything else!  I'm really lucky to get the chance to learn from him on such a frequent basis!  We talked about a lot of different things, including strategic planning, how to influence change, and how to make the mission sustainable.  And we have zone conference this week, so I'll get the chance to learn even more! 
I had a really cool moment in church on Sunday. Lately I've been letting myself get stressed out by a lot of things: the work not going as well as it should, whether or not I'm doing everything that I can, things that I need to improve on, etc.  But in priesthood meeting on Sunday, the lesson was about the temple.  Elder Leakehe and I will be going to the temple this week, so it was an especially cool lesson.  Anyways, the teacher mentioned how in the temple we learn more about the plan that our Heavenly Father has for us, and about our place in it.  He talked about how having this knowledge can lead to a lot of clarity.  This clarity comes from having an eternal perspective and remembering which things are really important.  His comment really struck me, and made me remember which things are really important in life, and it really helped me to not get wrapped up in the little details of day to day life.  I'm so grateful for the eternal perspective that the gospel gives us!

I love you all very much, and am so grateful for everything that you have done for me!
Elder Excell
Our Apartment!
Q&A - 7/11/2016
1.) I am getting a package ready to send to you this week. Any requests? --Nothing that I can think of. 

2.) How was your Mission Leadership Conference meeting? We'd love to hear all about it either here or in your letter to us.  --It was really great!  I'll try to tell you a little bit about it in my email.

3.) Do you still get letters in the mail from friends and family occasionally? Any lately that you've been surprised to receive?  --I still get some stuff occasionally.  I get a package every once in a while from you, and some from Grandma Hyde.  But the real shout-out goes to Grandma Excell!  She's been amazing, and has written me every week without fail since I've been on my mission! Thanks Grandma! I haven't really gotten much other than from you guys and the odd letter from a few other people, but to be fair, I've been really awful about writing letters!

4.) What is your favorite part about your responsibilities as a district leader?  --My favorite part actually hasn't really been as prevalent this transfer.  My favorite part is the opportunity to go on exchanges with other missionaries.  It's a great chance to work one on one with them and really get to know them and help them!  But this transfer, the only other elders in my district are the zone leaders, so I don't go on as many exchanges as usual.  They still exchange with us, but they have a lot of other people to exchange with as well, so we don't see them as often.

5.) Our weather has been quite a bit cooler, even some rain showers, this last week. Just wondering if you also had some relief from the heat? --It's been quite a bit cooler!  The high's have all been below 105!  In the evenings, it even gets as far down as the 90's!

6.) Dad gives me grief everytime I ask this question, but oh-well. Are you healthy and happy?   --Definitely happy!  Doing my best on the healthy part, haha. Trying to lose some weight right now, but who knows how that's going since we don't have a scale. ;)

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

A Bit About Green Valley

I'm going to start trying to take some pictures of the area so you guys
can see how posh it is here.

Happy Independence Day!  Not quite sure of any 4th plans yet! We have dinner with one of our ward mission leaders, so I'd be willing to guess there might be some BBQ, :). If nothing else, we'll probably be able to see the fireworks over The Strip from where we're at. 

I spent a lot of time replying to individual emails today, so I don't have much time to write a big letter, but I'll do my best! I thought, for this week, I would try to tell you more about the people and area where I'm serving! 

Our car's thermometer last week. Granted
it had been in the sun for a while.  After
we drove for a while and it had some time to
cool down, it only read 118.
Let's start with Elder Leakehe: although you may not guess this just from looking at him, Elder Leakehe is probably one of the best beatboxers I've ever met! He loves to beatbox, and pretty much any word you say, he can probably think of a rap song that goes along with it. He can be really shy and quiet when he first meets people, but he's really energetic and full of life. He's a ton of fun to be around, and we love joking with each other about things. He's also really insightful. Some people think that just because he doesn't say much in district councils and zone conferences he doesn't have much to say, but he has some of the best insights into the scriptures I've ever heard. He's sort of like this really deliberate thinking wise Tongan chief, haha.

Next one of our investigators: Malik. He's 17, and we met him on my first day here. By the end of that first week, he had a baptismal date! He's awesome, and so prepared to hear the gospel! We've been having a hard time getting hold of him this week though, so hopefully all is still going well.

The Breakfast Cake I made this morning.
Excell family recipe!
We also have another pair of investigators that we set with a date recently. Their names are Nadiya and Jennifer. A mother and daughter. Nadiya is the younger of the two, and her husband was a less active member. Missionaries have been working with them for a long time. When we invited Nadiya to be baptized, we read 2 Nephi 31 with them, and it really touched her. She said that she had been thinking about being baptized a lot lately, and was just waiting for a sign. She felt like the scriptures we shared with her were the sign she was waiting for! And then when we set her with the date that we had prayed about, she got really emotional. We set her date for July 23, which apparently is a very significant day for her, because it is the day her baby was born. And her baby is a little bit of a miracle because of some health challenges she had. We had no idea, but Heavenly Father knew that it would be meaningful for her. Nadiya's mom Jennifer is a devout Catholic, and is a little more on the fence than Nadiya is just because it will be so hard for her to change, but she said that she's willing to work towards that day as well. We really hope she can receive an answer!

That's about all I have time for this week. As always, thanks so much for your continued love and support! I love you all!

Elder Excell
Dakota and Rebecca's baptism.  They're a family we were teaching in Dolan Springs
that got baptized the Friday after I left.  Awesome family!!

Q&A -- 7/4/2016 
1.)  What was the best part of your week?  -- Elder Aitchison and his new companion came up to stay the night! All of the new missionaries always go to the temple in their first transfer together with President Snow along with their companions. Since Elder Aitchison and Elder Alfred live so far away, and the session is usually really early, they got permission to come up the night before. It was really good to catch up on what's been going on since I left.

2.)  What are you most looking forward to in the week ahead?  -- There's going to be an expanded MLC (mission leadership conference) this week! Normally MLC is just ZL's and STL's, but every once in a while the district leaders get to go as well, like this week!