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