Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Crazy Week

Me & Elder Cecil, the financial secretary.
He finishes his service mission this week.
He was a band teacher for his career!
This last week has been absolutely crazy! I thought it would be pretty calm, because I didn't really have any meetings, and I didn't have any exchanges either. But somehow, a little crazy drama of one of our investigators, and an emergency transfer with some elders managed to spice things up! I won’t talk too much about the emergency transfer - just some missionaries weren’t getting along very well, and it was starting to lead towards violence, so we separated them. The investigator drama, however, was pretty crazy and kind of sad. 

I think I've talked about Tresten in the past, and talked about how he was going to be getting baptized soon. Well, something kind of crazy happened this last week. I'm not sure if I mentioned before, but Tresten's family was never very supportive of him being baptized. He has been pretty nervous to tell them about it, and when he did tell them about it, they started asking all sorts of questions to try to get him to doubt the spiritual witnesses he'd had. However, he still felt very strongly that he needed to be baptized because it was what God told him to do. He's had so many amazing spiritual experiences that he really just can't deny them. However, things came to a head with his parents this last week. His mom told him that they thought he was moving into this way too fast, and that they wanted him to wait until August to be baptized to show that he was really committed. Tresten really didn't want to because he felt strongly that God has commanded him to be baptized now. When he shared how he was feeling, his mother said that she and his father would disown him if he got baptized before August. We had a lesson with him just hours after this happened, and he was really shaken up. He was in tears throughout the lesson, because what his family wanted him to do and what he felt God wants him to do weren't matching up. We had a really spiritual lesson talking about the power of prayer and being able to receive answers. The spirit was incredibly strong, and essentially we told him that we couldn't be the ones to make any decisions for him. This had to be his choice. He met with Bishop Tuke on Sunday as well, and got some advice from him on how to move forward. Now he's praying about it and trying to decide what to do. We have another lesson with him on Wednesday, so hopefully he’ll know a little better what he's going to do by then. I've come to really love this guy, and it makes me sad to see him in such a difficult situation. 
Me and Elder Foiles

There is one thing, however, that it’s helped me to remember - it definitely makes me very grateful for the support of loving parents, and I have always had that support in everything that I've wanted to do. I will always be grateful for that! And also, even more than that, I will always be grateful for the support of a loving Heavenly Father in everything that I do! I've come to learn more and more over the last few weeks that I truly can't do anything without His help. He strengthens me every day, and raises me up to the measure that He needs me to be. I will forever be grateful for the things that I've learned on this mission, for the ways that it has changed me, and for the person that it’s helping me to become. And, I know that this all happens because of the atonement of Jesus Christ. I know that He died for each one of us. And, I know that He lives! And because of that, all of us will live again and be reunited eternally with our families! That struck me multiple times in Sacrament meeting the other day. It was fast and testimony meeting, and so many people testified of the power of eternal families. It was really special because, in a lesson with Tresten, we had just talked a lot about how being baptized means he is taking the first step to be with his family forever, and that's how he can show the greatest love for them. 

I'm so grateful for all of you, for all of the prayers that I receive from each of you every day. I love you all! 

Elder Excell
Surprise Text Message Greeting - sent from an awesome member in Vegas!
"I just ran into your son working hard! Thanks for sending
such an amazing missionary into the field!"
Q&A - 3/27/17
1.)  Are you getting any indications as to whether or not you will be continuing to serve in the office this next transfer?  --  Not yet, but hopefully I'll know soon.

2.)  What is your favorite thing about serving in the office?  --  There's always some kind of adventure going on! Sometimes it's a little crazy, but I love always having something different to do.

3.)  What is the biggest thing you've learned so far from your time serving in the office?  -- I think it's probably a tie between two things. 1. Being organized and knowing how to manage my time. 2. Knowing how to deal with people.   I know those both sound like pretty basic things, but being so close to President Snow all the time has given me a lot of expertise with both! It's a constant process of refining those skills ever since I've been here, and I finally feel like I'm starting to figure it out.

A baptism in North!  Diego was part of a less active part member
family.  He's such a smart kid!
4.)  Tell us a little about Elder Foiles.  --  He moved around a bunch, but most of his life he lived in Oklahoma and for the last few years he's been in Rexburg. He's been out for 14 months, which used to be an old age to me, but now he seems young! It's kind of freaking me out!

5.)  How are your clothes and shoes holding up?  --  Pretty well for the most part. If you wanted to send a few more short sleeve white shirts that are the fitted cut, I wouldn't complain, ;). I happened across some good pants and shoes in my new apartment, so I'm doing pretty good on those, haha

A picture I took of Elder Aitchison on exchanges.
Sometimes you have to get creative with where you sit
when you're teaching people!

This is how you know it's starting to get warm again in Vegas!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Busy Week of Zone Conferences

Hey everybody!
Me and Elder Foiles in the office

Sorry it's been a little while since I've gotten a letter off, the last few weeks have been crazy! This last week we did all of our zone conferences for the transfer! There are 7 zones in the mission, but we only did 3 zone conferences: a Vegas north, Vegas south, and out of valley conference. There was a lot of travel involved, and some long days, but it was still a lot of fun! But it did mean that we only got about 3 hours to proselyte in our area most days last week. But that was still plenty of time for us to see some huge miracles!

We had 3 amazing people at church on Sunday. The first one is Tristen, who I may have mentioned before, I can't remember...  He was a member referral, and is really motivated to get baptized! He's still trying to talk to his family about it, but he's so ready! He keeps saying how he wants to read the Book of Mormon every day, because it's a promise he made to God when he found out it was true!

Another person who came is Eric. He comes almost every Sunday, and has been investigating for about 9 months. His dad isn't a member, but his step mom is, so he decided to start learning about it. He has mild autism, but is really high functioning. He understands everyone really well, but it just takes some time and repetition for him to be able to understand concepts. Anyways, we were talking to him this last Sunday, and he made a big announcement: after 9 months he finally feels ready to be baptized! And he talked to his parents about it, and they both support the decision! I've grown to love Eric a lot since I've come to this area, and it's so exciting to have seen him learn about the gospel and finally feel ready to make that promise with his Heavenly Father!

Me, Elder Branning (who goes home in a
few weeks), and Elder VanSlyke at a
zone conference.
The third person's name is Api. He's a big Polynesian guy.  He was investigating in the family ward recently, because a lot of his family are members, and he was going to church with them. The sisters finally convinced him that he would be able to progress better in a YSA ward. He was kind of reluctant and didn't trust Elder Foiles and I at first, or really want to come to YSA, but we had a great member at the lesson with us, and that member picked him up for church on Sunday. And then he found an even better fellowshipper at church! We have a recent convert who got baptized just before I got into the area named Cameron, who comes from kind of a rough background and really had to work on some things in order to get baptized, but now he's an amazing member of the church! He even got to bless the sacrament for the first time this last Sunday. But he and Api were swapping stories about their crazy street days, and then Cameron mentioned that he "makes music for Christ." We were thinking Api might think it was a little weird, but then he said he liked to rap also! haha. So then we had our recent convert Cameron and this big Polynesian guy covered in tattoos start rapping in the middle of the church foyer after 3rd hour! It was hilarious, haha. And in addition to that, our Bishop (Bishop Tuke) helped to answer a lot of Api's questions about the Plan of Salvation in Sunday School, so now Api feels totally welcome and at home in our ward, and is going to be baptized in April!

We've met so many cool people lately and seen so many miracles! This next week we don't have any meetings, but we have 3 exchanges planned, so it will be a little less crazy, but not much!

I love you all, and am so grateful for all of the support! 
Elder Excell

There are these cool trees that have been blossoming all over Vegas! I don't know what they are, but they're really pretty! Springtime at the end of February!
1.) We're curious what prompted the request for a booklight? -- I guess the simple answer is that another elder had one and it seemed like a good idea, haha. I mentioned a few weeks ago how I sometimes don't get as much time to study the scriptures as I would like since being in the office. But I've made a commitment to myself that even in the days when I don't get time to study, I don't want to go a day without studying at least a little, so I wanted the light so I can at least read a chapter or two in bed before I go to sleep, and not have to get up to turn off the lights, haha.
2.) How did MLC go last week?  What are your responsibilities during something like that? -- There were a couple of crazy things, but overall it was pretty good! My responsibilities are to make sure everything about the meeting runs smoothly - which is a big task when it comes to organizing a meeting that big with that many moving parts.
3.) What is your favorite treat these days?  What do you crave? -- I'm trying pretty hard not to crave anything, haha. I'm now in the time period that missionaries refer to as "6 months to sexy". Haha. I need to try and start shaving off some mission weight!
The transfer van.  We call her Big Mama.