Monday, December 28, 2015

Week 6

Hello Friends and Family!

I'm pretty sure that bad weeks just don't exist. Every day there is something amazing that happens. Every day is an adventure. Every day I learn how to become a better person and missionary. Every day I come a little closer to Christ.

What I learned:

Don't be afraid of offending people: Now before I go any further, DO NOT BE RUDE. My entire life, I have strived to end every encounter with every person positively. I hate offending people and I still do. What I am learning is it is harder to offend people than I thought. People are generally open and at least willing to listen to us and then politely dismiss us. Only rarely is there someone who is angry at us.
A couple days before Christmas all of our appointments fell through. To fill in the time, we started to knock on doors. At the second house, an old lady came and answered her door. She said that she was busy then, but we could come back another time. We received her contact information and went on our way. The day following Christmas was awkward for me. I felt like families just wanted to be alone and be with each other for the holidays. I know I would be frustrated if people showed up at my door and asked if they could share a message. Nevertheless, I followed my companions example and we knocked on the door of this older lady. We were surprised to find that several people came to the door. When we asked for the lady, they said that she wasn't home. About here I was reaching for my bike because I felt like they wanted to just be with family when Elder Davis asked if we could share our message with them instead of the lady. 3 of the people did the usual "Sure .... (so I don't seem rude)", but there was one woman, who enthusiastically said, "Yes! I need to hear your message and I have a lot of questions." A bit taken back I set my bike back down and entered the house full of friends and family celebrating the Holidays. We started to teach the restoration....

The spirit is incredibly powerful: ... This lesson was going pretty well. We were being asked lots of questions, and the people seemed to believe everything we were saying. They had obviously gone to church for quite some time because they were very knowledgeable in the scriptures. I had never seen people just accept the restoration so easily before. These people had a genuine hunger for knowledge. Normally when we teach the restoration, we save the Book of Mormon for its own lesson. However, this time I felt like we needed to give them a Book of Mormon. I pulled out the Book and started explaining its history, and its importance. As I was doing this, the talkative family hushed and for a moment and I had their complete undivided attention. I watched their eyes light up with curiosity, hope, and wonder. I could see their yearning for the book. The lady sitting next to me, who had not been completely on board with what we were teaching, eagerly asked for a copy...

Having the Holy Ghost as a constant Companion is Amazing:  Coincidentally, we had 4 Book of Mormons with us, and 3 people wanted a copy. There was no reason for us to have 4 because there was only one lesson that entire day we had planned to give 1 Book out. Because we were just being "good boys" the Holy Ghost was able to guide us in the morning and help us be prepared for the unplanned lesson.  As we were handing out the Book of Mormons we felt like Santa Clause hand delivering a child's most anticipated Christmas gift. Each person received it with an ear-to-ear smile. I know that there is nothing I could have said to make people want to read this book. Their desire came from the Holy Ghost touching their hearts.

This family has not accepted baptism... yet :) But if they continue on this path they will become very strong members of the church. We will be meeting with them soon :)

-- The end of that story --

People are always watching: Whether you realize it or not, everybody is watching you. They watch what you say and what you do. When you were baptized you covenanted to take Christ's name upon you. I have the opportunity to quite literally take his name and wear it on my name tag every day. More important thou is weather we wear his name in our countenance. One of our investigators is continuing the investigate the church because of how loving the members are. A convert told me that she joined the church because of how loving the members are. A guy on the road said that if he ever became Christian he would join our church and I know that is because of the example of the members in fallowing Christ. As followers of Christ, we really do have a light in our eyes.

Pray for Miracles to Occur: "The Lord is able to do all things for the children of men, according to his will, if it so be that they exercise faith in him..." We have one investigator who has accepted baptism and is striving to come to church. The mission has a rule that investigators have to come at least 3 times in order to be baptized and she had only come twice. As much as she wanted to come, she had to give her son a ride to work. In a seemingly impossible situation she found a way to come and is now qualified for baptism. We just have to officially teach the commandments she is already living. The next miracle was her son. He isn't against the church but believes that he does not need religion. On Sunday we learned that his heart has softened up enough to accept a priesthood blessing.

I love you all! Thank you so much for your love and support!

Merry Christmas!
 - Elder Shill

Monday, December 21, 2015

Week 5

Hello Friends and Family!!!,

Holy cow this week has been amazing! Every day is such an incredible adventure of expecting the unexpected. We have had so many bike problems this week its bazar. Almost every day someone's tire was flat, which really slowed us down. We always tried to patch it, but the patches seem to only last one day. I think there is something wrong with my bike because I have already gone through three inner-tubes. I brought my wheel to the bike shop and I believe its fixed now. I had no idea how much fun, scary, and time-consuming biking would be. (I always wear my helmet mom)

Both of my companions got sick... One of our investigators was sick and I think she gave it to us. The disease was nothing serious, but it did wipe out a day or two of work. Instead of proselyting, I had the opportunity to keep my nose in the scriptures. I can testify that they really do bring the spirit. Both days were still extremely productive because I stayed purpose driven and focused on the investigators we are teaching.  There is always something to learn in the gospel. I have started reading Jesus the Christ. It is amazing! I highly recommend learning about Christ with that book. It explains everything so clearly and goes into so much depth.

Turns out I can cook :) Aside from my usual pancakes and mac n' cheese, I made some pretty good chicken noodle soup. It was a pleasant surprise to find out my concoction of ingredients I found around the apartment tasted pretty good. I'm finding ways to eat pretty well. Some times I feel like I'm on some sort of Food Network Challenge.

Today I played the greatest sport ever! Its called Umpa. Its a combination of Football, Ultimate Frisbee, and Basketball. You play this game on a basket ball court with a football. To score you shoot the football into the basket ball hoops. Instead of dribbling the ball, you throw the ball like ultimate Frisbee with Ultimate Frisbee rules. It was honestly one of the funnest sports I have ever played.

This week we were led to the perfect family! As we started talking to this young mother she started explaining how the world was going crazy, how it is almost impossible to raise kids with strong moral compasses. She was so confused why there were so many churches. I have never seen (with my limited experience) some one so "white and ready to harvest." I know that the gospel is exactly what she wants and needs in her life. We asked her if she would like to be baptized and she said yes. Then she asked if she could get her children baptized. I don't think she completely understands the meaning of baptism yet, but I am so grateful that she is willing to work towards it.

Lessons Learned:
- Christ did not teach like the scribes, who were put into a position of authority because of their knowledge of the scriptures. Christ taught with authority. Because I represent Christ, I need to be bold with my testimony and state things as they are.

- Talk to Every One: One thing I love about my companionship is Elder Allred is the District Leader. As district leader he gets to go on exchanges with the missionaries in the district which means I get to meet a new missionary almost every week. This last exchange I met Elder Anderson and through his example I learned to talk to everyone. Almost every single person we passed on the streets we would talk to and share a quick message with them. Then, because our exchange goal was asking for referrals, we would ask the person if they knew anyone that needed our message. Most of the time we did not get a referral, but there was one person who did. He told us to talk to a group of guys next to the store a couple blocks down. Unknown to him, we had skipped passed these men because we were trying to get to an appointment. When we went back, we asked if we could share a message. Quickly one man started exclaiming that he had Jesus and he didn't need us. As he was rambling on, my companion asked if anyone else would like to hear a message. At first no one answered, but then a man sitting in a wheel chair rolled forward. He started to tell us how he was researching religion. We gave him a Book of Mormon and every time we started to bear our testimony about it he stopped us and said, " I will read this, and I will find out if it is true for my self." We were all astonished.  I cant wait to run into this man again to see what he has learned.

- Priesthood is real: I had the opportunity to seal a blessing for this sick and afflicted this week. I know that God is at the helm of all of our lives. He wants to bless us. Christ said, if we being evil know how to give good gifts, then how great are the gifts our father in heaven gives us. Do not be afraid to ask for a blessing. If you need comfort and counsel, ask for a blessing. It really helps.  

- Record your sacred experiences: Since coming on my mission, I have started to keep a sacred journal. In it I record all of my most precious experiences and lessons I have learned. I read through it last night and found my self reliving those experiences with the spirit I felt. A journal becomes a place to remind yourself of your testimony at its highest moments.

At church, the speaker shared a story about the true meaning of Christmas that I thought was really amazing. I really liked this story and I hope you do as well:

"The "W" in Christmas

Each December, I vowed to make Christmas a calm and peaceful
I had cut back on nonessential obligations - extensive card writing,
endless baking, decorating, and even overspending. Yet still, I found
myself exhausted, unable to appreciate the precious family moments, and
of course, the true meaning of Christmas.
My son, Nicholas, was in kindergarten that year. It was an exciting
season for a six year old. For weeks, he'd been memorizing songs for his
school's "Winter Pageant." I didn't have the heart to tell him I'd be
working the night of the production. Unwilling to miss his shining
moment, I spoke with his teacher.

She assured me there'd be a dress rehearsal the morning of the

All parents unable to attend that evening were welcome to come then.
Fortunately, Nicholas seemed happy with the compromise.

So, the morning of the dress rehearsal, I filed in ten minutes early,
found a spot on the cafeteria floor and sat down. Around the room, I saw
several other parents quietly scampering to their seats. As I waited,
the students were led into the room. Each class, accompanied by their
teacher, sat cross-legged on the floor. Then, each group, one by one,
rose to perform their song.

Because the public school system had long stopped referring to the
holiday as "Christmas," I didn't expect anything other than fun,
commercial entertainment - songs of reindeer, Santa Claus, snowflakes
and good cheer. So, when my son's class rose to sing, "Christmas Love,"
I was slightly taken aback by its bold title.

Nicholas was aglow, as were all of his classmates, adorned in fuzzy
mittens, red sweaters, and bright snowcaps upon their heads. Those in
the front row- center stage - held up large letters, one by one, to
spell out the title of the song. As the class would sing "C is for
Christmas," a child would hold up the letter C. Then, "H is for Happy,"
and on and on, until each child holding up his portion had presented the
complete message, "Christmas Love."

The performance was going smoothly, until suddenly, we noticed her; a
small, quiet, girl in the front row holding the letter "M" upside down
totally unaware her letter "M" appeared as a "W". The audience of 1st
through 6th graders snickered at this little one's mistake. But she had
no idea they were laughing at her, so she stood tall, proudly holding
her "W".

Although many teachers tried to shush the children, the laughter
continued until the last letter was raised, and we all saw it together.
A hush came over the audience and eyes began to widen. In that instant,
we understood the reason we were there, why we celebrated the holiday in
the first place, why even in the chaos, there was a purpose for our
For when the last letter was held high, the message read loud and
"C H R I S T W A S L O V E"

And, I believe, He still is. "
I love you all,
 - Elder Shill

Monday, December 14, 2015

Elder Shill

Week 4

Hello Family and Friends!

Virginia is amazing. I absolutely love it here. I love the people and the culture and the geography. I'm serving in the Newport News mission right next to all of the major military ship yards. The boats are absolutely amazing here. I love biking down the road and feeling the nice cool breeze coming off the water.

I learned that everybody in my area wants to be baptized (or at least they say they do). Every time we teach the 1st lesson and extend the Baptismal invitation, the investigator says yes. It really shocked me the first time, but now I realize that they really don't understand what we mean and they are too nice to say no. We do have a solid investigator who just committed to be baptized yesterday during church. She came to Gospel Principles and Elder Davis was like " This is a bit out of the blue, but will you be baptized?". She is really busy on Sundays so she has a hard time coming to church, but she definitely wants to progress in the gospel. Her baptismal date is Jan. 16 :)

My Companions are amazing. I am so thankful that I was put in a trio to be trained. I have two phenomenal examples to look up to, each with different strengths that I admire. Elder Allred is the Senior companion, he has been out for 17 months. What I admire most about him is his ability to testify boldly and powerfully. Every time he bears his testimony the spirit floods into the room and confirms every single word he says. He has also really refined his teaching to make it crystal clear and concise. He also happens to be the district leader. Elder Davis is extremely outgoing and fearless. I wish I had his ability to talk to people on their porch or on the road and teach them a lesson. He's not afraid of jumping in to any situation. Elder Davis has only been out for 3 months.

The Branch here is really small. There are only 35 people that come to church (on a good day). However, this branch has an incredible spirit. I have rarely had a sacrament meeting so powerful as the one the branch regularly has. I love how willing the branch is to help out with anything.
Biking is quite exhilarating... I've almost thrown myself in front of a car twice. Its more like mountain biking, but with quickly moving vehicles driving past you. I'm slowly getting the hang of things though.

I really love how people like to see the elders (if they know who we are). My companions and I were at Walmart buying a bike tire and a small family saw us and was so happy to see "Elders!" It was really special looking at the children and seeing admiration in their eyes. We quickly greeted them and then continued to shop. There was also a lady who stopped us in the parking lot and gave us water bottles because it was kind of hot that day. People's generosity is amazing.

Things I have learned:

- Be grateful for what you have! The people in my area have so little. We were talking to this one guy on the street and his friend came up and just started admiring my bike. I quickly realized that he would do anything to have a bike like mine. To him I was driving a Tesla.

- Everybody needs the gospel! Serving in this area, I can easily see how the gospel will greatly benefit the people's lives; how living the commandments are a real protection. Some of these people are trapped in addictions and bad situations that could be prevented and can be fixed through Jesus Christ.

- Don't be afraid of "No" ! It is far better to ask some one something and learn their perspective than to regret not asking them. Being new, I pass by a lot of people and sometimes I have the courage to talk, and sometimes I don't. Just do it. The worst thing that can happen is you will understand where they are coming from and their perspective on the situation.

- Satan is real. My first day, my companions and I were roll-playing the restoration. Elder Davis said, "almost every single time we teach the first vision and read Joseph Smiths account, something happens that disrupts the spirit." Latter that day we were teaching an investigator the restoration and when we got to the first vision, a car drove by blasting music. He and I just look at each other in amazement. I then witnessed it happen several other times throughout the week.  Prepare yourselves for when Satan will try to disrupt your spirit. Build up your fortifications.

- Just like the investigators, I need to have faith in what I am teaching. There is one lady who was about to lose her house and we told her that if she came to church and kept the Sabbath day holy, her needs would be met. At that moment, I realized how much faith I had to have, and how much faith she had to have. Its easy to say pay tithing, go to church, don't do drugs, but when reality hits these simple requests can seem impossibly hard.

- The Lord gives us experiences to help us grow. The Atonement is so much more than a way to be forgiven of sins. It is Jesus Christ's ability to make us better people and help us overcome our weaknesses. I love Ether 12:27! One thing I have started doing, and I invite others to do, is to kneel down in prayer and honestly ask for help becoming the person the lord would like us to be and to place experiences and people in our lives to help us learn and grow. Literally everything is an opportunity to grow. Never let an opportunity pass by.

- The scriptures are amazing! Really take time out of your day to study the scriptures. They are filled with answers to prayers. You just need to find them.

I love you all! If there is anything I can do for you, please let me know,
- Elder Braden Shill

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Week 3 Arriving in VA

Dec 8, 2015
Dear Brother & Sister Shill,
Sister Baker and I were delighted to welcome Elder Talmage Shill to the Virginia Chesapeake Mission on Tuesday. He arrived in good spirits and has been assigned to labor in the Newport News 3rd Ward of the Newport News VA Stake.  His trainers are Elders Braeden Davis and Brayden Allred .  I have attached two photos of your missionary: one with his trainers, and one with Sister Baker and me.
Thank you for sending us such a fine missionary,
President Baker
Virginia Chesapeake Mission
1115 Cherokee Road 
Portsmouth, VA 23701

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Week 2 MTC

Dec 3, 2015

This week has been such an amazing week! There is rarely a dull moment at the MTC. There is so much to do and so very little time to get everything done. I find it amazing how busy I am. I am slowly starting to retrain my brain to think like a missionary and focus on the investigators needs. Its hard transitioning from an educational presentation of doctrine to personalizing the gospel to every individual's needs. I'm slowly figuring it out though.

I had an amazing experience with one of my TRC investigators (Training Resource Center). Normally companions only teach a TRC investigator for one week, but we had the opportunity to teach ours for two weeks. We were struggling to explain everything. We went through the Plan of Salvation, Restoration, and The Book of Mormon. He told us two lessons ago, that he was just confused. During daily planning session, my companions and I did a Book of Mormon read to try and learn what he needs to do and feel to come closer to Christ. We created a list of things he was confused on and we picked a couple of topics we could re-teach. We also thought that maybe he should do a Book of Mormon read with us. Our last lesson with him, we went through the usual introduction and then all 3 of us felt like we needed to do a Book of Mormon read with him (This is the clearest prompting I have ever received). We had him open up to a random page and then we went opened up to that page. He opened to Alma 50. We started reading each verse slowly and pausing for about 5 seconds between each verse. Periodically, one of us would speak up and share something we got out of a verse. After a couple of our comments, our investigator started to make comments on the relevance of the Book of Mormon to today. As missionaries, we shut our mouths and let the spirit open his. At the end of the lesson, he knew that there was more to the Book of Mormon than he had thought and when we asked him to read it, he said yes with conviction. Before, he was reading it because we wanted him to. Now, he is reading it because he wants to. 

We had another investigator who was reading the Book of Mormon and really enjoyed the genealogy. He got board over Thanksgiving and read all the way to Enos. He had been praying to know if the book was true, but he never received an answer. After reading Enos, he decided to read with more intent and pray longer. He then told us that he felt an overwhelming sense of peace; that the Book was true. We asked him to be baptized and he said yes (unfortunately it's only fictitious). 

I have gained a huge testimony on Priesthood Blessings. I wont talk about this much because some of these experiences are very sacred to me (Don't worry mom, they are in my journal). There is nothing (quite literally nothing) like feeling God's power, love, and concern for an individual. God and Jesus Christ are real! They love and care Deeply for each of you. If you need comfort, get a blessing! If you are really sick, get a blessing! Exercise your faith. I am certain that God is acutely aware of everything that transpires in our lives. If you feel like your problem is to small for a blessing, you're probably wrong.

I love my companions to death! I would easily take a bullet for each of them. I'm now part of a trio because one of the Elders had some medical problems and needed to return home. I'm now paired up with Elder Reeves and Elder Eddards. They are such an amazing example to me. We each have our strengths and we try to let each others strengths shine. I've learned that all three of us are so similar and yet polar opposites. I know that we were not randomly thrown together but Heavenly Father guided us into each others lives. We have started trying to memorize a verse of scripture a day. We aren't perfect but in 5 days we have 4 scriptures memorized: Matthew 4:17, 1 Nephi 10:20, 1 Nephi 7:12, and D&C 88:119. I bet with my busy schedule I can memorize more than you can :P

Our district is still incredibly close. We always try to plan our schedules so we can all be together. We go to the Temple together, eat together, and gym together. We are all really fond of each other. 

Week 1 MTC

Nov 25, 2015
Hello Friends and Family!

So much has happened the past week! I cant believe how much I have learned and grown. I love the MTC. Its hard, but its wonderful. There is sooo much for me todo an hardly any time to accomplish it, but with practice and through Christ's help I can do anything. Like Nephi said, "I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commanedth them."

I'm in district 44D, which pretty much means that I'm with other English speaking missionaries. We are incredibly close to each other. I feel like I have know everyone for years, but it has only been a week. I consider each person one of my best and closest friends.There are 4 other companions in my district. There's Sister Write and Sister Habner, Sister Garlitz and Sister Harington, Elder Reeves and Elder Harmon, Elder Scully and Elder Zvirzdin ( Ze-verz-den). 

My favorite part about the MTC is probably the overwhelming optimism from everybody here. Every one is so excited to serve the Lord. There is a special Spirit here that just brings comfort, peace, and happiness. Its weird how friendly everyone is here. I also really enjoy teaching investigators in TRC (Training Resource Center). Its where the MTC brings in people to act like investigators so we can practice teaching them. Not all of the TRC trainers are LDS. Some of them are actual investigators so it is a completely real experience. One thing I'm learning is that every missionary has a set of experiences in his/her life that helps them connect to the investigator. I believe that's another reason missionaries are in companionship. Im also learning that missionaries need two things to be effective: Love for the investigator, companion, and gospel; and hard work. If you love the people around you and honestly try your best the Lord will turn your weaknesses into strengths. 

When I said our district is close, I mean really close. Several of the Elders, including myself, have had the opportunity to give priesthood blessings to some of the Sisters and Elders. There is really no better way to describe being the voice other than Love. We were terrified, inexperienced, and feeling inadequate, yet as soon as we built the circle, there came an overwhelming sense of love for the individual. It has been, to this point, one of the most sacred and honored experiences of my life. 

To anyone preparing for a mission, learn your purpose as a missionary. You will be called to "Invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through 1) Faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, 2) Repentance, 3) Baptism, 4) Receiving the Holy Ghost, and 5) Enduring to the End." Learn how to truly make this your purpose in life and the rest of Missionary work will come naturally because the Spirit will be guiding you and helping you along the way. I may wear Jesus Christ's name on my badge as an official representative of Him, but each of you wear his name in your countenance. Adopt the "Character of Christ" into your life! I also know that it will help with what ever part of life you are struggling with.

There are quite a few people I have run into at the MTC. I have seen Elder (Preston) Palmer, Elder (Stephen) Funk, Elder (Daxton) Wixom, Sister (Sara) Frandsen, and Elder (Zach) Valliere. Some of them I didn't even know where going to be here. 

The only things I need are some stories about our ancestors. I have an investigator who is looking into the Church because of the genealogy program. If you use I will get the emails within a day instead of a week. You will need one of these numbers, I'm not sure which.  

I love you guys,
- Elder Shill

P.S. The MTC handed out the wrong schedule. I will be in the MTC for 3 weeks instead of 2. The date I originally gave the bike shop was correct. Sorry for the confusion, but nobody really knew what was going on. My departure date is still the 8th. 

P.P.S The computers at the MTC are super locked down and I can't upload photos to the email. Ill try to figure out how to send photos as soon as possible.