Monday, July 17, 2017

Final Thoughts as a Full-Time Missionary

It's really strange thinking that this is the last email that I will write as a full-time missionary. I've been pondering a lot lately, and I wanted to do something I don't usually do: include an entry from my journal. This was from Friday night.

"I've been pondering a lot today. Starting tomorrow, I only have four days left in the mission field, and it's really made me think. As the
time grows shorter and shorter, I start to think about all of the things I'm going to miss. I even think of things, that at times, I haven't been very fond of, and feel really sentimental when I think about them being gone. It's really starting to sink in, and I'm realizing just how much I'm going to miss this place, these people, and this calling. It makes me really glad, that although I've made plenty of mistakes, and occasionally taken things for granted, by and large, I honestly believe that I've done the best I could, and thanks to the amazing gift of repentance, I can know that it's enough for Him. I think back to some of my previous areas, and how sad I was to leave them, and the fact that the Lord always had a place prepared for me with new lessons to learn and new people to love. I know the Lord will do it again. It doesn't make it easy to leave, but it does give me a lot of comfort. I've never been so torn in different directions, but I know that all of the blessings I've received and the changes that have taken place in myself, are only because I tried my best to follow God and be in the places he needed me to be.”

I'm grateful to everyone for all the support and prayers! They've been felt many times!

I love the gospel! I love this mission! I love the Lord! And I love all of you!

I'll see you soon!
Elder Excell

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Baptism & my last ever District Council


Hey everybody!

This last week has been a good one! We had another baptism!
And, I went to my last ever district council! Our district leader asked me if I would share some of the wisdom I've gained over the course of my mission, haha. It’s crazy to think I’m to this point!

We also started teaching a lot of great people this last week who are excited to be baptized. I might not ever be there to see it, but the important part is that they'll be able to find the gospel! And it will leave whichever missionaries come into the area behind Elder Holmes and I in a really good place!

I have a lot of things to get done today so I’m sorry this is short.  Soon I’ll be able to tell you everything in person!


I love you all!


Just a bit of a size difference between
Elder Holmes and Elder Tocigl


Monday, July 3, 2017

Lift them up so they can feel the Savior's love

It's finally happened...
Hey everybody!


This last week has been a good one! There were two really cool things I want to share.

The first is the new investigator/upcoming baptism we found this last week named Elizabeth. She's awesome! She's a referral that we received from some missionaries in the west mission, and she had already been taught everything and was ready to be baptized. Nothing like a little miracle baptism popping up to make your week! She and her member roommate Jamie read a chapter from the Book of Mormon every day, and she always has great questions for us every time we come by.

The second thing is the Saunders family. I think I've told you lots about them in the past, but there's been a few new developments. Just to recap for those who haven't heard before; it's a mom (Angela), her 13 year old daughter (Realena), and her 9 year old son (Levi). They live in the same house as a less active member named Eric and his Mom, Candi.  The family has been learning for a while now, and they're all amazing! Levi had an especially cool experience this last week. He's such a cute kid, and he always cracks me up too. The only thing holding them back from being baptized is their father’s permission. He just wants to make sure that his kids know enough. For a few weeks now Levi's been praying to know if Joseph Smith is a prophet. And we found out yesterday that he finally feels like he's received an answer from God that it's true! He's amazing! The whole family has had a really tough time the last few days though. Eric went to the hospital and might possibly have colon cancer. We've been praying for him a lot. Angela's also been really stressed out with everything going on lately, but last night we had a great lesson with her that helped her to feel peace through the gospel. I think that's one of my favorite things about the mission is the frequency with which we find people who are just in terrible places in their lives and lift them up so they can feel the Savior's love.

I love you all!
Elder Excell
A picture we snagged while Levi wasn't watching. The first time we taught about praying to know if what we taught is true, he said, "hold on one second". And ran out of the room on to the porch. We snagged this picture, and when he came back in and we asked why he left, he said he had to hurry and pray. Such a great kid!

Q&A -- 07/03/2017
1.) Do you know if anyone else is leaving the same day as you? Will you be traveling with someone else or by yourself? -- There's one sister missionary, who's going to Rexburg, but I don't know if she's on the same flight or not.

2.) Do you have any special plans for the 4th of July?  --  Just missionary work and BBQ!

3.) How many investigators did you have at church this week?  --  A pretty low number this week. Only 5. Which is crazy, because that would be a high number in most of my other areas, haha. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Pictures

Katrina's Baptism! And this is the family that fellowshipped her: the Simons

Hey everybody!

This last week has been crazy! On Tuesday, I went to the temple for the last time and went to departing testimony meeting! Normally you would do that the day before you fly out, but since I'm leaving part way through the transfer, I did it with the previous group! It was an awesome experience being able to reflect over my mission in the temple, and I felt a lot of peace while I was there. 


I also saw President Snow for the last time before he goes home! There was a "Why I Believe" fireside this weekend, and I saw them there. It's so strange! Can't believe their time in the Nevada Las Vegas mission is at an end, and mine is just around the corner.

We're still seeing lots of miracles! I love all of you!

Elder Excell


P.S.  Not a lot of time today but sending lots of pictures.
Susie and Demiris's baptism!
Nevada Las Vegas Mission Presidency


Q&A -- 06/26/2017
1.) How will you be spending your P-day? -- The usual. Email. Basketball. Etc. :)

2.) Is there a special farewell party planned for the Snows? Don't they leave this week? -- Nothing crazy, haha. They'll leave on Friday right after they pick the new mission president and his wife up at the airport.

3.) Have you met your new mission president yet? -- Not yet. Soon!

4.) What was the best moment of this last week? -- Departing temple and testimony!

Elder Holmes and I found an MRE this week, and made it up for lunch!
"How do two missionaries of average intelligence figure out how
to turn this into a beef taco?" Haha!

Monday, June 19, 2017

French

Hey everybody!

This last week has been great! On Saturday, I received my last transfer doctrine ever! It's so crazy! Elder Holmes and I will both be staying in Sandhill! Which means we'll be together until the end. We're both really excited to be sticking around for the baptisms we have coming up! 

Katie and Kyle's baptism was this Saturday! It was pretty great! Kyle asked me to baptize him, and that's always a really special experience. It reminded me of the first people I personally baptized, and the special feelings it gave me knowing that because of the priesthood authority I've been given, I was standing in the place of the Savior to extend "the first fruits of repentance" to someone. What a great experience!

The other highlight of the week was a couple of really cool experiences on Sunday. First of all, obviously, Katie and Kyle were confirmed, which was great! Secondly, we broke our record for number of investigators at church this week with a whopping 20 investigators! We're getting close to breaking mission records! 


I think my favorite experience of the day was after Sunday school though. Claude, the father of the refugee family came to Gospel Principles with us, like he usually does. Usually, we just let him use one of our iPads and give him the Gospel Principles book in French so he can read the chapter while the teacher teaches, since he doesn't understand a ton of English. This time, he actually ended up looking at a different chapter than the teacher was teaching, but it was a chapter that addressed a question he had, so we just let him stay on that chapter. It was all about modern day prophets. After the lesson, he had some questions about what he had read. Now for those of you who don't know, I took two years of French in school, but my French wasn't very good then and certainly hasn't gotten better with age, haha. I hardly remember anything. But somehow, yesterday I was able to understand all of Claude's questions in French, and answer them all in French as well! It was an amazing couple of minutes! I don't know exactly how it happened, but I know it was the spirit. The gift of tongues is real! I was so grateful to be able to have that experience. 

I love you all! Til next week!
Elder Excell

Our cars thermometer last week.
(Our car was parked firmly in the
shade when this was taken too)
Yep! That really does say 122!

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Gospel of Jesus Christ Changes Lives

Teaching some cute kids!
Hey everybody!

This last week has been good! Especially church! We had all of our people who are set with a baptismal dates at church! And a bunch of
others besides! 8 people with a date, and 6 others! We have five upcoming baptisms in the next two weeks, and hopefully some others behind that. And all of our investigators loved church! I'll tell you about the ones who are supposed to be baptized soon.

Barber Excell giving Kyle a haircut
Katie and Kyle are age 11 and 12. Their mom is a less active member who has been trying to come back. They've all been coming to church for the last few weeks. I even cut Kyle's hair last week!   Kyle has a lot of OCD and ADHD, but ever since we started coming by, he's been a lot calmer. He used to compulsively swear sometimes, but now it almost never happens, and when it does, he just goes off to the side for a minute and prays and asks for forgiveness! He and his sister Katie should be getting baptized this Saturday.
 
The next investigator we're teaching is Katrina. She's 19, and is dating one of the members of our ward. The family is one of our favorite families in the ward, and they've done an awesome job fellowshipping her! She's been reading in the Book of Mormon a lot. I think she's about to finish Mosiah. She's a great example of someone who completely made her own decision just because of the things she felt when she was around the family and the answers she got through prayer.

Surprise Text Message Greeting from another
awesome member in Las Vegas -
"Thanks for sharing these wonderful missionaries
with us!"
Then Susie and her son Demarius are also getting baptized on the 24th. They've been doing an awesome job of preparing themselves! Susie basically just showed up at church and said she wanted to be baptized! She and her son ended up staying up until 2 in the morning the other day studying the scriptures. She's been through a lot, but is super determined!

It’s so great to see the changes that are happening in the lives of all these people because of the gospel of Jesus Christ!

I hope you're all doing well!
I'm loving the work!
God bless!
Elder Excell

P.S. I got my travel plans today! I'll be home before you know it!
"It's a Cooker!" -- part 2 -- Again!
Q&A -- 06/12/2017
1.)  I'm curious what kinds of things are in your "my plan" for post-mission. -- There are six sections. Remember and become; my plan; continuing Discipleship; self reliance; dating and marriage; and I don't remember the last section. I also had my departing council with President Snow this last week! Me and Elders Holmes, Aitchison, and a few others were there. He gave us a ton of great advice! I'll have to tell you all about it once I'm back home!

2.)  I'd love an update on the refugee families you've been working with. Do you still see them regularly? Do they come to church? -- We still see them quite a bit. And we found a Swahili translator this last week! He's a recent convert from a neighboring stake. He came to a lesson and it was great!

3.)  What fun thing will you be doing today for p-day?  --  We went to a nearby mall and checked out some stuff!

4.)  I haven't heard you mention playing the piano for a long time. Do you still get the chance to do that occasionally?  --  I get to most p days! I've got more time than I know what to do with now that I don't have so many meetings on Mondays, so I had to find something!

5.)  What are you looking forward to this week?  --  Katie and Kyle's baptism!
One of our dinner appointments last week spent
about 30 minutes explaining to us how Nephite
currency was the predecessor of binary code.  Haha!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Beginning the "Lasts"

Hey everybody!

This last week had some definite interesting things! For starters, I went to what might be my last zone conference! It was also President
Snow's last zone conference! I'm so grateful to President Snow for everything that he's done for me over the last two years! He is one of the best, most hardworking, most spiritual men that I know, and has taught me so much! He deserves a chance to finally go back to Idaho and be a cattle rancher like he's wanted to for so long! It was really strange to be at my last zone conference, and they even had me give a departing testimony! You spend your whole mission watching others do it, but it never feels like you're going to be the one up there! A lot of the things I shared in my testimony came from the other strange thing that started this week. I started doing "my plan". It's a program the church has come out with recently that helps missionaries getting ready to go home to set goals and plan for the future. The first section, which I had to complete this last week, was centered around remembering the things you've learned during your mission, and pondering how you can apply them to life after the mission. In the program, it had me read through a few talks and scriptures, and one of them by Henry B Eyring really touched me. He shared this story:

“When our children were very small, I started to write down a few things about what happened every day. Let me tell you how that got started. I came home late from a Church assignment. It was after dark. My father-in-law, who lived near us, surprised me as I walked toward the front door of my house. He was carrying a load of pipes over his shoulder, walking very fast and dressed in his work clothes. I knew that he had been building a system to pump water from a stream below us up to our property.  He smiled, spoke softly, and then rushed past me into the darkness to go on with his work. I took a few steps toward the house, thinking of what he was doing for us, and just as I got to the door, I heard in my mind--not in my own voice--these words: “I’m not giving you these experiences for yourself. Write them down.” I went inside. I didn’t go to bed. Although I was tired, I took out some paper and began to write. And as I did, I understood the message I had heard in my mind. I was supposed to record for my children to read, someday in the future, how I had seen the hand of God blessing our family. Grandpa didn’t have to do what he was doing for us. He could have had someone else do it or not have done it at all. But he was serving us, his family, in the way covenant disciples of Jesus Christ always do. I knew that was true. And so I wrote it down, so that my children could have the memory someday when they would need it.

I wrote down a few lines every day for years. I never missed a day no matter how tired I was or how early I would have to start the next day. Before I would write, I would ponder this question: “Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?” As I kept at it, something began to happen. As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done. More than gratitude began to grow in my heart. Testimony grew. I became ever more certain that our Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers. I felt more gratitude for the softening and refining that come because of the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ. And I grew more confident that the Holy Ghost can bring all things to our remembrance--even things we did not notice or pay attention to when they happened.

It made me ponder a lot about the ways that I've been blessed on the mission, and I can't even begin to count them! I think it's funny that
when I decided to serve a mission, part of my reason was because I wanted to do my best to pay back some small part of what the Lord had blessed me with. But as I spend more time on the mission, I’ve realized that the many ways He’s blessed me while serving a mission has just put me further into the red! I will always be in His debt.

I'm so grateful for this mission, and the love and support  I receive from each of you.  I love you all!
Elder Excell


Q&A -- 6/5/2017
1.) Have you had, or are you scheduled to have an exit interview with President Snow? I'm anxious to hear about it!  --  I'll still have to have my final departing interview with President Youngblood, but President Snow is doing some small group departing interviews for some of the old missionaries. Hopefully we'll be able to get one scheduled soon!

2.) When do the Snow's leave?  --  They'll leave on June 30.

3.) Did you by chance get a visit from Elder Branning this week? I understand he is back in Las Vegas visiting the mission with his parents.  --  I did get a chance to see him for a bit! He's still in town right now, so we're hoping that he might have some time to come out teaching with us!

4.) What was your most memorable moment of last week?  --  Probably zone conference!

5.) What are you most looking forward to in the week ahead?  --  I'm still excited to continue spending lots of time studying the scriptures!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Expiration Dates

Hey everybody!

This last week has been really good! We have a couple of great baptisms coming up! The first one is Katrina. She is the girlfriend of a member of our ward, and is so prepared! She's been reading the Book of Mormon and is starting Mosiah! She even set her own baptismal date!  There's also a couple of kids in a part member family named Katie and Kyle, and they've been learning about the gospel. They're both a little crazy, but it's cool to see how they get more peaceful when they're at church and learning about the gospel.


Something happened that made me realize that my time as a missionary is coming close to an end.  At the beginning of my mission, I would look at the expiration dates on food, and I had a longer expiration date than just about everything. But over the course of my mission, there are starting to be more and more things that I expire before they do. It started with the canned food, then stuff like peanut butter, but now it's starting to be juice and tortillas that last longer than I do! Pretty soon it's going to be eggs and milk and bread that have a longer expiration than I do!

Elder Holmes and I have been cheffing it up!

I've also had a revelation of sorts this last week. I was listening to a talk that was given by a former mission president, and he talked about one time that Elder Bednar visited their mission, and for an entire hour, he did nothing but a question and answer portion about the atonement. He said that that was the most important thing that he wanted everyone to understand, and the more I've pondered on it, the more I've realized that I need to know more about the atonement. I definitely have a testimony of it, but if there was ever one doctrine that I would want to understand backwards and forwards, it would be the atonement! I'm anxious to spend my study time to learn as much about it as I can. I'm so grateful for the sacrifice of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and want to understand it even more.

I love you all!
Elder Excell

Elder Holmes writing down our weekly plans
We gave the refugee kids some knock-off light sabers
we found.  They love them!
Some exclusive Thai  restaurant a member took us to. Apparently it's
one of the most famous ones west of the Mississippi!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Quick Letter Home

Hey, this will have to be short because I'm running out of battery! I forgot to plug my iPad in last night! 

This last week has been good! We met lots of great people who seem really prepared! We met a man who had previously been homeless for 23 years, but just recently got into a home about a year ago. He's been wandering around Vegas going to different chapels for the last 15 years, and knows a ton about the gospel, as well as about half of the bishops and stake presidents in the valley! 

Elder Holmes and I are really excited to be staying together and work hard until the end! 

I hope all is well back home! I love you all!
Elder Excell
Surprise Text Message Picture from Lexi,
a convert baptized in August 2016 by Elder Wightman
who was a member of the Temple View Ward where
Elder Excell served.  We love getting these surprise
greetings from the good people of Las Vegas!
Q&A -- 5/22/17
1.) Best moment of the week?  --  We had a really cool chance to go to a family search library in our area for a proselyting activity! It's one of only 14 in the world, and it's really huge! Our investigator Angela is really interested in family history, and was able to find some information about her long lost grandfather! And we even got to learn how to do family history better ourselves! I found a couple of names to reserve!

2.) What are you most looking forward to in the week ahead?  --  It may not be in the coming week, but I just found out about it recently. For missionaries who will be departing soon after President Snow leaves, he won't have time to do departing interviews with each person, but if you can get together a group of 4-5, he's going to do some group departing interviews where he'll give all of the advice he normally gives in departing interviews!

Monday, May 15, 2017

A Few Pictures After Mother's Day

Our District!
Q&A -- 5/15/17

1.) Do you have lots of new missionaries coming into your district this transfer? Does that mean any additional responsibilities for you when you do get new missionaries? -- Not really, other than making sure they make it to their new area ok.
2.) What will you be doing today for P-day? --  We visited a member and he showed us his massive collection of Star Wars action figures, haha. (Notice his awesome He-man shirt - haha)
3.) Are phone calls home a boost for you or do they tend to make you nostalgic and homesick? I know they affect people differently...  --  This one was kind of weird. Normally I feel sort of sad afterwards, but his time I didn't really feel that way at all. It will just be a little while before I see everyone again!
I'm sending a video of Elder Holmes and one of our new little friends.  We like hanging out with them a lot!


Sometimes we get random homeless people staying outside the chapel.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Pictures from the Field

97 degrees compared to blizzards in Idaho
Hey everybody! 

First off, the weather report. I had heard from my Mom last Monday there had been a small blizzard in Rexburg, and just thought I'd help everyone to appreciate the weather contrast!  It actually jumped up over 100 for the first time this year last week! The crazy thing is, in another month or so, 100 degrees will be a nice cool day! Almost even scarier is the fact that when the temperatures dipped back in the low 70s for a day or two, I wanted to start wearing a jacket! This next winter might be difficult.

In other news, I've started frequenting the Hispanic food carts that roll around Las Vegas! They come in all shapes and sizes, from big white vans to big carts somehow fastened to bicycles. But they all use the same old fashioned bike horns to get people's attention as they drive around. If you hear honking, you know there's one close! My two favorite options are the mango on a stick, or the elote, known to white people as street corn, or ghetto corn. They smother the corn in this stuff called crema that's kind of like mayo, and then cover it in butter, Parmesan cheese, and chili powder. So good! The mango is cool too, but I'm not a fan of getting everything on it. Who would want to ruin a perfectly good mango with chili powder and hot Sauce? But it is cool that they peel it and cut it into a cool shape right in front of you!


This last weekend was a baptism in Robindale! His name is Eric Ridenour, and I think I've mentioned him before. It was really cool to get to see him finally be baptized! Neither of his parents are members, but his step mom is. It was so cool to see both of his parents here to support him though! And his dad even gave a really nice prayer at the end of the baptism!
Eric and all the missionaries who taught him
It was also really cool to see some people from Robindale! I didn't get much of a chance to say goodbye when I left, so it was good to see everyone!
Robindale friends: Landon, Brice Cook (aka the Big Cookie), and Amber

I'm sending some pictures of us with our African friends. The last one is of them with a member who came to let them ride their horses for FHE! It's been quite a struggle to remember all of the names. Here are a few: Theogene, Mitamba, Rehema, Fazila, Ajebu, Abebo, Kabango, etc. They're so much fun though!  I really like spending time with them!



It's been another great week in the Nevada Las Vegas Mission! 
I love you all! 
Elder Excell


Q&A -- 05/08/2017
1.)  I might be getting a little antsy, but have you been given an official release date? Have you gotten travel plans?  --  I just found out on Saturday ( I was having a temple recommend interview with President) that my official release date is July 19! No specific travel plans yet.  Those will probably come about 6 weeks before.

2.)  When you forwarded the email from the Sister in the office who arranges travel, I noticed that one of the questions was which airport you'd like to fly into. I'm curious, how did you answer that?  --  I answered Salt Lake.  I'm looking forward to taking a drive through Logan Canyon on the way home!

3.)  So, our Mother's Day call!!!!!  What time works best for you?  --  4:00 (5:00 your time) should work for me and you should be home from church by then.  Let's plan on that.

4.)  What event from this past week will you want to remember for a long time?  --  Eric's baptism!  More details in the letter.

PS - We visited a pawn shop today that you might recognize!
It's in our area. Cool p-day sightseeing.


  

Monday, May 1, 2017

Street Art


Hey Everybody!

I'll start with the funny, then move to the crazy, and save the spiritual for last.

So Monday night, we were visiting an investigator, but were interrupted by a couple people asking to borrow our car jack. We agreed to let
them use it, even though we are in an interesting neighborhood. We had to stay there while they were using the car jack, and ended up being there till about 9:30 PM. They started borrowing it at about 8:30 PM. There were a couple of funny things about the experience. First off, ghetto people are just funny to be around. They're always doing crazy things! Secondly, they were doing a very bad job of jacking up the car. They kept trying to put it on a plastic part of the car instead of the place that you are supposed to put the jack. I didn't really feel like I had the street cred to tell them that they were doing it wrong, but luckily, the Tupac impersonator from the other day came over and had plenty of street cred to solve the situation!
Sending pictures of some of the street art we've found.
There's tons of it everywhere. It's pretty cool!


Sunday was crazy yet again this week! We had 17 people at church again! That's actually starting to be kind of normal, but the way that they all got there was the crazy part! 12 of the people who were at church were families of African refugees, and although we have been getting them rides the past few weeks, the ward isn't really very financially stable, so we’re trying to find more sustainable options. The plan was for this to be the first week that we would walk to church with them. We saw them Saturday, and told them that we would come by at about 10:00 Sunday morning and walk together. However, we dropped by the church just before 10:00 to drop off our suit coats, and we found a large crowd of them standing outside of the chapel! With language barriers, we spent a good 30 minutes trying to figure out how in the world they got there already.  They said someone had given them a ride, but we hadn't set anything up for them. Eventually, we found out that they had started walking without us, and that a member had seen them, picked them up and brought them to the church! That combined with some other crazy things, made for an interesting Sunday!




The spiritual highlight for the week happened with a woman who we are teaching. Her husband had passed away a couple days before, and she was in inconsolable grief. She was in tears most of the time we talked to her, but we shared a lot of scriptures from the Book of Mormon and talked about where we go after we die.  We testified to her about eternal families. I don't know exactly what will happen to her as far as investigating the church, but what I do know for sure is that she felt the spirit comfort her that day, and was able to feel the love of the Savior. 

I’m having some very memorable experiences!

I love you all!
Elder Excell


Q&A – 5/1/2017
1.)  I was amazed at the number of people you had attend church last week. Do you feel that this week was as successful?  --  Well, we had 17 again this week, so I'd say it was still pretty alright! There are still about 10 others who were supposed to be there that weren't though, so we'll keep working harder!

2.)  Best moment of the week?  --  Probably when we took 10-15 minutes to just toss a football around with some of the refugee kids. They're all really awesome people, and it's funny how certain things you don't even really need to communicate very well in order to create a bond!
They're painting our apartment today!  I don't know if you can tell by the
pictures, but it could really use it.  The walls are almost more black
than white in some places. Haha!  Hence, we've moved everything
to the middle of all the rooms.