Monday, January 25, 2016

Week 10

Good Morning Friends and Family,

The past week has been pretty hectic. Between transfers, exchanges, and the weather, this will probably be one of the most unique weeks of the mission. Elder Talbot is officially my companion and he is a phenomenal missionary. He is always striving for perfect obedience and has really fine tuned his teaching skills. I know that there are so many things that I can learn from him. We transferred on Wednesday at a world wide mission conference that we got to watch. The last time we had a missionary conference happened more than a decade ago. The title was Preach Repentance and Baptize Converts. I learned so many things about how to be a more effective missionary.

Right after district meeting Elder Allred went on exchanges with Elder Jenson so Elder Staheli joined Elder Talbot and I. Normally exchanges last about 24 hours, but around noon on Friday the storm kicked in. About 2 hours later we got a call from the Zone Leaders asking us to stay inside because road conditions were too dangerous. With no more than two inches of snow on the ground pretty much everything was shut down. It wasn't until last night that we were finally ungrounded and were allowed to exchange back.

I have never been so board and antsy in my life. I wanted to go outside and work so badly, but we just stayed in side and played board games all day. I also got to read Jesus the Christ for several hours. The only way to read that book is with a dictionary. Elder Talmage's wording is so precise and elaborate. He is pretty much the modern day Isaiah.

Church was also canceled, which was a unfortunate. I was asked to give a talk in sacrament meeting about some chapters in the Book of Mormon. It is the part where Nephi is receiving the interpretation of his Fathers dream of the Tree of Life. As I was reading it, a question popped into my head. "I know what the rod is, and what the tree is, and what the great and spacious building is, but what is the path?" As I started to think about this, I realized that it represents, to me, Christ's Atonement. There is no way by which man can be saved except through Christ. The scriptures help us stay on the path, or use the atonement to the fullest. There are other paths, that may look correct, but they were not paved by Christ. If you hold to the Rod, especially the Book of Mormon, you will remain on His path and you will be able to taste of the fruit of the tree.

Lessons I Learned:
  • Study with purpose: One thing I have started doing to increase the value of my studies is have a study journal with me. After that, I always study with a purpose. When I don't have a question I would like help answering I focus my studies on the Atonement of Christ. I ask myself what does this verse, chapter, story, teach me about the Atonement of Christ. There is a quote in Preach My Gospel that says the more you understand the Atonement, the more you will have a desire to go out and bring people to Christ. I started doing a deep read of the Book of Mormon, which means that I picked up a spare copy in my apartment and I am going through the entire book marking and annotating anything that teaches me about Christ's Atonement.
  • The most mentally taxing, emotionally draining, and physically exhausting thing is idleness: Being grounded the past couple of days was quite literally the worst. It was killing me being stuck in a small apartment with 3 other dudes being forced to find ways to entertain ourselves. Over time you could see everybody's moral slowly dissolve. Saturday night, after 48hr of being inside, we decided to take out the trash and check the mail. It felt so good to just be outside in the freezing weather I started making snow angles. Sunday we went out and tracked and we were rejected at almost every single door, but it was so much better than being stuck inside.
I love y'all,
- Elder Shill

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Week 9

Hello Family and Friends!

First and foremost I want to apologize to those who were anticipating an email yesterday. It was Martin Luther King day and the library was closed so I wasn't able to email.

As for my week, It has been pretty exciting! I have officially been out 2 months and it feels like last week I was on my way to the MTC. Time is flying by quicker than I would like it to. I have successfully survived my first 6 weeks and we got our transfer calls on Saturday. I will be staying in the hood with Elder Allred, and Elder Davis will be transferring down to North Carolina. My new companion is going to be Elder Talbot, who has only been out six months. I don't know him yet, but I'm excited to get to know him.

The weather finally figured out it was winter. It was weird biking around in a short sleeved shirt in the middle of January. On Sunday, we had a pretty good snow storm that ended church early and prohibited us from biking (It was a pathetic snow storm by Utah standards :) ). It was weird being stuck in an apartment with nothing to do, so Elder Davis and I pulled out a 1000 piece puzzle we found and started solving it.

Early this week, Elder Allred thought he saw something run across his foot and we all sarcastically said it was probably a mouse. Elder Davis, who has a serious phobia of mice, decided to set up traps... just incase... Lo and behold, when we came home from proselyting there was a dead mouse. Both of my companions shuddered in disgust and quickly left the room. Both of them looked like they were about to throw up. I did what any good scout would do and picked it up. Holding it by the trap, I started roaming the house. Every where I walked, my companions would plaster themselves against the opposite wall, or under their covers. Our poor neighbors probably thought there was an axe murderer in our apartment because of the blood curdling screams this little creature was causing. I, being the bravest of all, was given the responsibility of disposing the vermin. The next morning, a mouse ran over my foot. Once again the traps went out and we killed another mouse. There is still at least one more mouse in the apartment, but they are smart. They have eaten all of the bait on the traps and not a single one has gone off.

Our investigator is still set for baptism!!! Every time we meet with her she is brighter and happier. Every time she comes to church, we find tears in her eyes because she feels the spirit. She is completely ready to be baptized and enter the Lords kingdom. I can just tell that she is going to be a strong member.

Lessons I learned: 
  • People take Missionaries seriously as representatives of Jesus Christ. People look to missionaries as a source of light that helps them overcome their problems.  It shocks me how much people are willing to tell me about their life. I know so many random tidbits about so many people's lives that, in reality, there is no reason I should know. Yet, because they are willing to share and open up to us, we are able to help the gospel come into their life. It really is amazing watching people learn and grow. Watching people countenance change is such a special blessing.
  • Reach out to recent converts and less-actives as well as non-members. There are so many people here that get baptized and then disappear for one reason or another. About 75% of the branch is less-active. The Church is so good at building strong community between active members but often times less-actives get left out. They are the people who really need to be part of the community. They are the ones who need the extra support and fellowshipping. They need constant out reach. Joining the church is a complete life change and people need help enduring to the end. We have started visiting less-actives and they all love meeting with members and being part of the community. Rarely will people invite themselves to an event. If someone's name just popped into your head, please reach out to them! Invite them over for dinner, come to church, go to mutual, or just hang out. I can promise that is the spirit prompting you to act, and if you act, you will see miracles.
  • You get out, what you put in. This saying is true no matter what the activity is. If you put a lot into school, you get a lot out of school. If you put a lot into studying, you get a lot from studying. If you put a lot into sacrament meeting, you get a lot out of sacrament meeting. The past several weeks I have started taking notes during sacrament meetings. Every time I sit down I fully believe that I will receive revelation to help me through the week. As the meeting progresses I find my self writing thoughts and impressions as well as notes on what the speaker is talking about. I am proud to say that since coming on my mission I have not experienced a single boring sacrament meeting. Meetings that every one complains about being a waste of time I find my self edified and closer to Christ. One thing I like to do is walk into a meeting with a question on paper. During the meeting I ask my self how this applies to my question. Every time I get an answer.
I love and miss y'all so much,
- Elder Shill

Monday, January 11, 2016

Week 8

Hello Friends and Family,

I love my mission, I love the people, I love this gospel, I love Jesus Christ. I love constantly being in the service of others, I love biking, I love the weather, I love the members, I love the scriptures, I love watching people fill with light as they choose to live the gospel.

The people here have incredibly unusual lives. Almost every person I know has had a period of time in their life where they had no food or were homeless. We pass people all the time, wheeling their carts to local churches, where they hand out free food. Most of the people that go to school, go so they can eat a free meal. So many people seem to be stuck in the social habit of poverty because they don't know how not to be impoverished. Yet, there are roses among these thorns. I love seeing our message ring true in peoples hearts. It fills their souls with hope and provides a way for them to escape this hopeless culture. Every investigator (and even the members) that comes to church comes because of the support, friendships, and love they feel. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day saints is the true church of Christ.

Recently I met a 94 year old man (his dad lived to be 102) and he is honestly one of the most selfless men I know. He shares stories about how he would feed the children going to school breakfast if they didn't have money. It is evident in his countenance that he has followed Christ the best he could throughout his life. On Sunday, he came to church. He said it was beautiful. He loved the spirit there and told us he will come back next week, and he is a man of his word.

There are several things people don't tell you about preparing for a mission. Everyone focuses on the spiritual aspect, which is good, but they forget the temporal skills needed:
  1. Learn how to cook. Life is so much better when breakfast, lunch and dinner are not the same thing. It is also easier to buy more for less. (Your companions will also love you)
  2. Learn how to clean. You don't have to live in a spotless home on a mission, but you don't want to live in a pig sty either.
  3. Learn how to exercise. Learn different ways to strengthen your body. Luckily I have been able to follow my companions work-out routines.
  4. Learn how to write neatly. Its difficult writing an address for someone and having them not be able to read it.
  5. Learn how to manage stress. For many missionaries, life becomes stressful. Learn how to manage your stress and take life, one day at a time.

As for things I learned this week:
  1. Preach My Gospel is an invaluable and inspired tool. It is flexible to any need and situation. At the start of the new year, President Baker said we would be going through Preach My Gospel as an entire mission. I have loved going through and reading all of the lessons it has to teach.
  2. There are a lot of misconceptions about the Book of Mormon. Several people this week have told us that they have heard pretty negative things about the Book. I'm actually grateful so many people are learning about it because they then come to us. We tell them that the only way to know is to read it and ask God. If God tells you something is true, then no else's opinion matters.
  3. The Book of Mormon brings light into peoples lives. We have two investigators. One was excited to be baptized and one who was not. The one who wasn't read from the Book of Mormon. Every time we came back there was another layer of light in her eyes. She is now set with a baptismal date in February. The other one did not read. She isn't really progressing, but still wants to be baptized. Her countenance isn't increasing.  I challenge you to read the Book of Mormon for one week, every day, and asses how your life has improved, because it will.
  4. Keep a journal at all costs.  There are several days where I didn't write anything down, and I regret that. Writing in a journal does a couple things. First, it records your life for future generations. Second, it gives you time to reflect on the day and see how the Lord guided your day. If your doing what your supposed to, every day is purposeful, but it may not be obvious. There is a lesson to learn every day, so write it down. Third, it gives you a reminder of how the Lord has blessed your life when things get tough.
I love y'all

- Elder Shill

Monday, January 4, 2016

Week 7

Hello Friends and Family,

Days feel like weeks and weeks feel like days! Time is just flying. Once again I had an amazing week, and I leaned so much. Finally the weather decided to cool off. I was getting tired of the 80 degree weather during Christmas. Feeling the brisk wind on my face as I bike down the road reminds me of skiing down the mountain. I'm going to have to buy a face mask to prevent my face from becoming numb :)

New years was pretty atypical. We met up with another companionship in a non-member's home (he pretty much is a member though) and played apples to apples and ate snacks. By about 8:30 we were all pretty much ready for bed and headed back to our apartments. Every one was sleeping by 10:30. It was so weird not staying up till midnight watching the clock strike 12. We just pretended like it was any other day.

Sickness has hit many of our investigators and we are having a hard time meeting with them. They say they are going to call us, but that usually means that they told their pastor about us and he disapproved...

Our investigator is getting baptized the second week of February!!! She is totally prepared to make the changes in her life. Originally she was scheduled to be baptized the first week, but then she realized that it would be a fast Sunday and "it would be hard to celebrate with food". This means that she is already planning on fasting! She is easily quitting tea. I am so excited to see her join the church! She will be an incredibly strong member. The only thing she is still struggling with is getting to church, because she has to take her son to work Sunday mornings. Even with this obstacle, she is finding ways to come.  

We haven't seen the man in the wheelchair yet. Every time we bike by, it has been raining so he has not been outside. I really want to know how much he has read. He seemed pretty convinced that he would be able to receive an answer.

The family we gave the 3 Book of Mormons to, we have an appointment to meet with them. The Holidays make missionary work difficult because everybody is out of town or too busy to meet with us. I know they have a lot of questions and if they read, they are going to want to learn more.

There are so many things I learned this week:

Christ brings hope:  Every investigator we have has serious trials in their life. Many people in the branch knows what its like to live with out food. I love hearing peoples conversion stories because they all follow this pattern:

1) I was seriously struggling with... (addictions, depression, finances...)
2) I broke down
3) Missionaries came by
4) This Gospel saved me

On the outside people seem to be doing fine. To a point, life is manageable; But eventually everything is going to leave our control and we will need help. Believing in Christ and following his teachings is what is bringing people out from the pit of despair. I bike by people who literally have no hope in there life and a belief in Christ and his Atonement would change that. They do not see their value as a person. They don't realize that every soul, including theirs, is great in the sight of God.

Give yourself ample time to do things: The moment you start pressing your self for time is the moment you start loosing opportunities. Don't do things as fast as you can do them because you will miss something. Quality is often more important that quantity. 

Personal Study is absolutely critical: I have grown to absolutely love studying and learning more about the Gospel. Personal study is one of my favorite parts of the day because I have the opportunity to learn more. It is becoming so easy to fill an entire hour by studying 3 paragraphs in Preach My Gospel. It is so easy to become engulfed in the Book of Mormon. The more I read, the more I realize my potential as a missionary. The more I read, the more I realize my potential relationship with our Heavenly Father. I love that solid hour of personal revelation that helps me become better and draw closer to Christ.

People have free agency...:  The easiest way to fix a problem is to let other people know what you need help with and what your concerns are. If you do that, then you can start to grow. When I was teaching with Elder Tolman, we visited a Less-Active to try and help him come back to church. We started talking to him, and he was very knowledgeable. We shared scriptures with him, bore our testimonies, explained blessings, explained the purpose of the commitments we made and everyone was feeling like we were one the right track. We could feel the spirit in the room and we knew that he knew the church was true. When we asked him to come back to church, he firmly said "Naaa."  Everyone in the room was taken back. He seemed totally on board with everything we were saying and then just dismissed it all. We tried again. We taught from the scriptures, bore our testimonies, and tried to address his needs in every way we could. When we asked him to come back to church he simply stated that he didn't want to come. It was frustrating watching someone who knew exactly why they should come, have no desire to come.

Scripture memorization is paying off: There is a saying that the Spirit cannot pull from an empty well so, for those of you who didn't know, at the MTC I set a goal to memorize a scripture every day. Unfortunately my brain is not that good so I end up memorizing one or two a week. Even though I am not memorizing as much as I would like to be, as I listen to the investigators needs, scriptures come into my head that I can either recite or have the investigator turn to and read. I know that there is power in the scriptures. There is nothing that can bring the spirit like the scriptures can. It is amazing to watch someone read a scripture and then look up and say, that is exactly what I needed. Its amazing to watch peoples testimonies start to bloom and see the value of the scriptures. I encourage y'all at home to really search, ponder, and pray about the scriptures. They hold the keys to unlock every answer to any question.

I love y'all,
     Elder Shill