Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Teaching Refugees

Hey everybody!

This last week has been a good one! There was a 6 zone conference, which meant I saw just about everyone in the mission! It was really good to see so many old friends, but weird that for more and more of them, it's the last time I'll see them in the mission.

As I start to settle into more of a routine, it's becoming a bit harder to know what to write again.  I do want to tell you about my favorite highlight though. 

This last week, we finally got a translator to come with us to the family of African refugees! It was actually a member from Robindale that I was able to get hold of who went to West Africa on his mission. The lesson was super cool, because we started to also teach a new family of 8, in addition to the family of 6 we've been teaching.  The lesson was partly us teaching and Paul translating, partly Paul teaching, and the best part - the dad from the family we've been teaching testifying to the other family about how important it is to go to church.  It was awesome!  

I love you all!
Elder Excell

Our new favorite Mexican hamburger place -
we can do our laundry while we wait for food!
Now that's convenience!

Q&A -- 04/24/2017

1.) Do you feel safe tracting in your new area? Are you pretty careful about sticking to safer areas after dark? Sorry, had to ask… ;)  --  Yes, we make sure we're safe, and I feel very protected, :)

2.) How are things going with Elder Holmes?  --  Really well!  He's actually a really great missionary, and we've
been seeing a ton of success.

3.) Is it true that you are the DL over a Spanish speaking area? I think I remember Dad saying something about that. I'm curious what challenges you face in a situation like that where you weren't called to be a Spanish speaking elder.  --  Yeah! It's really not that weird, just means I go on more exchanges where I don't know what people are saying, haha.

4.) What was your biggest success of the week?  --  17 people at church this week! We're slowly climbing!
Elder Holmes with a Tupac impersonator

Monday, April 17, 2017

Teaching Amazing People

Hey everybody!

I love the people we’re teaching right now and wanted to let you know about a few of my favorites!

First, there’s Chandra. She got baptized this weekend! She's the one I mentioned last week who lives right by the Stratosphere. She's so awesome! She was getting baptized for all the right reasons. And she even overcame a pretty heavy smoking addiction to do it. It's something that I've learned is not an easy thing to do, so I asked her what helped her to be able to overcome it, and we loved her response. "Well, I'm getting baptized!"  For so many people, it seems like just knowing they should or having a desire to be baptized isn't enough. But she knew how important it was, and that's what helped her to stop smoking!  

Also, the Chavez family. They're such a special family. It's a mom and her 3 kids. They've been through a lot, and they've felt the power of the spirit, and they have such a yearning to live the gospel! Let me explain by telling you about our last lesson with them. We showed up, and started out by following up on whether or not they'd read what we left with them - a pamphlet about the law of tithing and a pamphlet about the law of chastity. The mom and the two girls aren't the best at reading, but the 10 year old boy, Angel, is crazy smart! So when we asked if they'd read, Angel told us that he'd read both of the pamphlets AND taught the contents to his family! We asked him if they had any questions, and he said, "No, I read through the pamphlet really carefully, so I was able to answer all of their questions. And we really enjoyed he pamphlet! We were just amazed by it! Now we've been changing the kind of music we listen to and lots of other things!" And when we followed up on it, they really did understand everything! That kid is going to make an awesome missionary someday!

It's such a blessing to teach so many amazing people!

I love you all!
Elder Excell
Chandra's Baptism

 Q&A – 04/17/17

1.) Do you have a lot of anxiety about getting everything lined up for school? How can I help to ease that anxiety?  --  Honestly, I don't really think about it too much. I might start to freak out when it gets a little closer, but for now, it's not usually on my mind. I know it may not seem that way from the amount of emails I've sent you asking about it, but really, this mission has just made a planner out of me, haha. President Snow was a corporate executive for a lot of years, and was also in the military for a lot of years, so his strategic planning mindset has definitely rubbed off on me. So, I don't really think about it much, but the only way I'm able to not think about it is to know that it's all taken care of. So, thank you so much for helping me with it so much!!! 

2.) What is your biggest goal for the last three months of your mission?  --  I've been thinking a lot about that. Like I just mentioned, this mission has made me a big planner, and we focus a lot on having visions, goals, and plans. Just like Elder Ballard's talk from Conference! In fact, Elder Foiles and I gave a training almost identical to that talk a few weeks before conference at a zone conference, haha. But as I've thought a lot about what my vision, goals, and plans are for the last few months of my mission, and as I've pondered on it at the temple, this scripture kept coming back to me. "His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord."  -Matthew 25:21
So, I guess you could say that my goal for the end of my mission is to be able to have the Lord say this to me. When I go to the temple for the last time here in Las Vegas and I pray and account for my time here, this is the answer I want to have. Obviously there are some sub goals that go along with it, but this scripture pretty much sums it up!

3.) What was your best moment of the week?  --  I learned how to pray in Swahili this last week, using google translate, and surprised the family of African refugees we’re teaching with it! They were all really surprised and touched by it, and the mom was almost in tears! I think it meant a lot to them to be able to hear a prayer that they actually understood. Don't get me wrong, it was a really simple prayer, but I think it still meant a lot to them.

Monday, April 10, 2017

I Love This New Area!!!

I LOVE THIS NEW AREA!!!  This place is amazing! I've always liked serving in the ghetto, and this is the ghetto of ghettos. I'll start with a few interesting observations we've made:
--Were straight up serving on Fremont Street! We have an investigator who's getting baptized next week who lives almost right under the Stratosphere, and yesterday, we were proselyting right next to the Golden Nugget, haha.
--Our area is MASSIVE!!
--On our first night, we were informed by our Elders Quorum President who came out with us to never sit down in someone's apartment unless it was on wood or plastic, because there are bedbugs everywhere.
--All of the strip malls here have some kind of a liquor store in them, haha. It's super funny to see the combinations of the strip malls. I'll try to find a funny combo to send a picture of haha.

All funny things aside, this area really is amazing. For one thing, the members in this area are probably the closest I've ever seen to living the law of consecration. They all have so little to give, but they give all of what they have. There are almost no active members of our ward that don't give a ride to at least someone else who has less than they do to get them to church.

And this is a blessed place for missionary work! We've found so many people this week who are practically begging to be baptized! We had 14 investigators at church yesterday, and we already have baptisms lined up almost every week of the transfer, many of which were set this last week! We even found a family of African refugees that we started teaching! It's a family of 6, and most of the family only speaks Swahili. The kids have picked up English pretty well in their first few months, but the parents haven't been as quick. The dad speaks French in addition to Swahili, so I've been trying to muddle through and translate as much as I can, haha. But even with limited understanding, the whole family came to church after their first two visits! 

We also had kind of a crazy lady come to church and hijack our gospel principles lesson that we found out we would be teaching just before church. She was a less active member, and interrupted our class to rant for 10 minutes about how the church's welfare program wasn't doing enough for her and how wronged she had been by the church. It was exciting, but I think we managed to get back to teaching about the priesthood ok, haha.

Anyways, suffice it to say, I definitely was heartbroken to leave my old area and assignment, but I love my new one so much and know this is where I am supposed to be!

I love all of you!
Elder Excell
We've decided that when people think of getting a mission call
to Las Vegas and proselyting in casinos and on the strip,
that's actually basically what our area is, haha!

Q&A – 04/10/17
1.)  We want to hear more about your new companion.  -- His name is Elder Holmes! He's a really good missionary! He actually served as a zone leader for several transfers. We've already seen a ton of success together! He's from Spokane Washington.

2.)  Was there any special reason for the double transfer into your new area? -- Well, part of the reason was I suggested it, haha. This ward is one that I've really wanted to serve in, because they recently took two of the biggest, most ghetto, wards in the mission, and combined them into one ward. We cover a big chunk of Las Vegas Blvd, and all of Fremont Street! There was a district leader there that we were thinking of pulling up as a ZL, and so I suggested that if President double transferred me in, he could put me there with anyone he needed to.

3.)  Have you found new people to work with this week? -- So many! This area is blessed beyond belief! I’ll tell you more in the main letter.

4.)  Do you have a car in your new area or are you getting some use out of your bike again? --  We've got a car, but a huge area and not a ton of miles, so we'll be doing a little of both.

5.)  How are you feeling about your new assignment? -- I really love it! I get time to study more, to focus on my investigators more, and to just relax every once in a while. But still work crazy hard!! 
We've decided to make a goal not to eat at a chain restaurant
all transfer, because there are so many amazing "hole in the wall"
restaurants around here. The bottom left dish is Tacos de Lengua
or cow tongue tacos!

I'll try to send more pictures of our apartment next week,
but this one pretty much describes it.  Our dryer's ON knob
is broken, so we use this monkey wrench to start it.
I love staying in ghetto apartments!

Monday, April 3, 2017

This will be short, but hopefully for the last time!

Hey Everybody! 

Big news! I found out this weekend that my time serving as an Assistant to the President has come to a close! I honestly can't describe the feelings I have. There were definitely things that frustrated me from time to time, and there are definitely things I missed about being a normal missionary, but the time I spent in the office has such a special place in my heart. I could go on for pages on the list of things that I'm going to miss about the office -- from all the excitement, to spending so much time with President, to the Robindale YSA ward, to everything else.  As seems to be the norm, I finally was starting to feel like I had the hang of how to be an AP, which meant it was time for me to be transferred I guess, haha. But as always, I feel really torn, because not only am I going to miss this assignment a ton, I'm also really excited for my new assignment! I'll be serving as a district leader in the East Stake! I'm going to be double transferred in with a missionary who came out with me! It will be in the East Stake, and it's called the Sandhill Ward. It's pretty widely known as one of the most ghetto areas in the missions, and actually covers the Stratosphere! I'll send more info next week, and hopefully a longer letter, since today's a little crazy, but just know that I love all of you and I love what I'm doing right now!