Note from mom:
I fell a little behind on the E-mail's and Journal Entries that Kyle had been. So this is my attempt to catch up.
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Today I write concerning a matter that has been on my mind since I was set apart as a missionary on April 15, 2013. In my blessing President Wight mentioned that I would be blessed with opportunities to develop my talents. Although I could not comprehend what he had meant at that time, that statement stood out to me and has remained in my thoughts ever since that evening. I believe that I have finally come to understand what the Lord meant. Over the course of these last two months, I have improved in my musical talents by practicing the organ and the piano. I have expanded my athletic capacities by participating in the morning sports (getting up at 5:30 a.m. to play sports at the park) and by biking. I have improved in my social skills by communicating with a wide range of people. I have expanded my doctrinal understanding and knowledge as well as my general study skills as a result of the many hours of studying that I have completed. I have improved my teaching skills, as well as my public speaking skills. I have strengthened my testimony. I have improved in my writing abilities. I have become less picky in my diet and more appreciative of meals that others prepare and share with me. I have done many difficult things and carried burdens that I never thought I could. I have learned to care about other people more than myself-and to think about them and even understand how they think. I have made friends. I have overcome emotional barriers and negative mindsets.
Work is very closely knit with the concept of happiness because heaven is a state of mind that comes through progression. God has said that his “Work” and “Glory” comes from bringing about the immortality and eternal life of man(Moses 1:39) Note 3: See “Things How they really Are” –David A. Bednar, “The importance of Work” Chapter 27, Gospel Principles Manual) To achieve this degree of glory as high as God’s, we must in turn work as he does. I imagine that transforming a natural and carnal man into an eternally progressing and spiritually glorified man is not an easy task. (I suspect it would require an incredible amount of work). As I have consecrated and separated myself from worldly distractions and sought to lose myself in all forms of work, I have discovered my many hidden and suppressed talents. I am not boasting of them, for I recognize that I’m not all that great at any of the things listed earlier when comparing myself to others, but rather to myself. I am measuring my own personal progression, acknowledging that joy I have experienced, and rejoicing in the greatness of my God for blessing me with opportunities to develop these talents. As I have developed this more positive mindset, my obedience has been less strict, keeping in mind that I am still striving to be obedient, (I just don’t despair when I sleep in 2 minutes in the morning) however, my heart has been more fully behind my actions and my mind has been at peace as I have recognized my progression. My progression has accelerated and I have experienced a greater level of happiness. By allowing myself to progress, I have a greater level of happiness. By allowing myself to progress, I have opened myself up to future opportunities to help others progress. (I speak of selfish interests rather than selfishness).
While all missionaries are physically removed from the worldly distractions I mentioned earlier, not all missionaries remove the distractions from their hearts or their minds.
Something that I’be wanted to mention for a while is that I think the family would benefit fro reading/studying the Preach My Gospel lessons. I especially think that this would be beneficial because of Tyler’s upcoming baptism, as well as the family’s involvement in the missionary lessons. Also, I believe that the missionaries will continue to use you in lessons because they have become familiar with you and witnessed your testimonies. Not only will reading Preach My Gospel help you to be Missionary minded, but it will bring many other blessings. The Lord will bless you with missionary opportunities if you are prepared for them. I believe that there was a general authority who stated that Preach my Gospel was the most divine and inspired thing to be released by the Church since the Doctrine and Covenants. Anyways, I just wanted to share that.
This is the guidance that I received as I reflected on some troubling experiences. It is directed towards myself, however, it is possible that others might benefit from it.
Out of the Furnace: Blessings come from enduring trials.
This evening we experienced divine intervention in the form of Sister Stevens spending an hour discussing missionary work with us. She began brainstorming solutions to our lack of success and productivity. I realized that it was not enough for me to receive guidance, but that both of us needed to receive the same revelation. As we headed back, I discovered a thumb tack in my front tire. Out of my flawed logic, I of course resolved to remove the thumb tack (Elder H of course would have told me to leave it in). Within seconds my bike tire was almost entirely deflated and we realized that we would have to walk to the nearest member’s home and ask them for a ride back to our own home. On the way home, the member explained to us his conversion story. The story served as an inspiring reminder of my purpose as a missionary. Once we returned home, Elder H helped me to repair my bike tire. As I finished working on repairing my tire, Elder H prayed for guidance from the Lord. As I walked into the other room to join him, I immediately was touched by the presence of the Holy Ghost. The presence of the spirit was strong and it guided us to seek revelations from the Lord as a companionship. As we pondered and prayed, we reached a point of silence where each of us began to be taught by the Holy Ghost. After a time Elder H told me of the answer he had received. Essentially it was the same exact revelation that I had received in the past as well as again this evening. If we had completed and implemented our companionship constitution (and it had been successful) then it would have accomplished what we discussed this evening. However, what I realized was that my insights were meaningless until Elder Hearn could receive the same revelation for himself. Together we can help each other overcome these challenges and we can become the missionaries that the Lord needs (as well as the missionaries that this poor struggling ward needs). I am the one with the flat tire, but it is hindering both of us, and it is delaying the Lord’s work. I need Elder H’s help to repair this tire so that we get moving again. Neither of us can overcome these challenges alone, but together, we can be representatives of Jesus Christ. The famine is about to end. Our prayers are being answered. There is truly no greater happiness than that which follows the recognition of an answered prayer and a fulfilled blessing.
The Furnace of Affliction
“For, behold, I have refined thee, I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction” (1 Nephi 20:10, see Isaiah 48:10). Today I join Nephi by quoting the words of the prophet Isaiah. For today truly was a furnace of affliction, both literally and figuratively. I have never experience such intense heat in my life-I truly felt as though I were in a furnace, and it did not help that we had to bike today. We brought in the car to the dealership for a recall on a computer part in the car. We expected to be without the car for a few hours at the most. However, as we went throughout the day (on our bikes) we were contacted by the dealership and then informed that one of the pistons I the engine was misfiring-which essentially meant that we would be without the car for about a week. The news was even worse because this next week (starting today) is supposed to reach record breaking temperatures. In addition, the other car in our district is also currently at the dealership for repairs (leaving us with quite a lot of inconvenience as far as traveling is concerned-especially when taking into consideration the amount of traveling we do on Sundays and Mondays (between Church meetings and grocery shopping, etc.).
Note: In addition to losing the car-we lost our meal calendar and tomorrow’s dinner appointment cancelled (all of these events happened within the space of about 10min).
As we left a members home that we visit something very peculiar happened (I might even call it a miracle at the expense of Elder H); Elder H suddenly crashed while riding his bike in the middle of the road (it was a less-busy neighborhood street). Although it is still unclear what caused him to suddenly collapse in the road (considering that there was nothing around him-he sort of just tipped (over), I am grateful that he did (and not because I was happy to see him suffer).
This little accident seemed to have a profound impact on him. This was evident by his reaction, which was an immediate outburst of resolute cheerfulness (there is a possibility that he finally snapped and crossed the line into insanity). In this moment my eyes were cleansed and my vision returned to me so that I could perceive Elder H as the Savior sees him-by his virtue. I suppose that this even may have humbled Elder H with its awakening effect, because there was a very obvious change that occurred in his conviction to the work. Initially he suggested that we should go to Wal-Mart and purchase some new pants (since he had just ruined the ones he was wearing), and then return to the apartment for a break (especially since we were miserable and couldn’t find anything to do other than knock on doors of absent members’ homes). However, Elder H than changes his mind and decided that it would be better to take care of those things later and he resolved that we would continue to labor in the Lord’s vineyard despite his “battle scars”, as he called them, and his slightly shocking appearance (it was quite obvious that he had taken a spill). I was willing to support his decision either way, however, I was fonder of this decision. Over the course of the day, we saw very little success come from our labors and our afflictions. However, we continued to press onwards and I began to finally recognize Elder H’s strengths rather than his weaknesses. I began to finally excuse his mistakes and see beyond his superficial flaws. I began to see his potential as a servant of the Lord and I gained insights into how I could better work with him. Our companionship improved. Our obedience improved. Our missionary work improved. The Holy Ghost once again returned to our companionship. We were refined by the furnace of affliction that we endured today. And as ridiculous as it may sound, these trials allowed me to experience a greater degree of happiness as a result. I am beginning to understand why Job might have felt inspired to praise the Lord and give thanks rather than curse Him for his afflictions. I am beginning to comprehend the purpose of mortality.
This was a better week. I have received many blessings, and I have been able to acknowledge the Lord's hand in my life. My companionship has been gradually improving, and we have been able to become more engaged in the work. It has not been easy, but I have been making progress. I suppose it never was meant to be easy though.
Summer is about over. The schools in Las Vegas opened up today. I had the opportunity to participate in giving a few different father's blessings for students returning to school.
It is odd that it has been dry there because this last week has been really overcast here. We have gotten as low as the 80's several times and it has even rained a few times. Last night it rained a lot and the wash was full of water (the wash is the giant storm drain that I sent you a picture of last week). The wash turned into a river and my companion wanted to jump in and float down it in an inner tube.
(I told him about the three service activities that we did in the ward this summer and shared with him the experiences that our family had with it)
I am impressed by the missionaries in your ward. It sounds like they are really working hard and doing a good job at working with the members of the ward. Those kinds of activities rarely turn out as great as the one portrayed in The District DVDs. But I think that God acknowledges all of your efforts and that He is pleased with them. I have no doubt that the Lord will bless your ward with more missionary opportunities because if nothing else, that experience strengthened the relationship between the ward and the missionaries and earned the trust of God. I'm grateful that you shared your missionary experience and for the example that you have set for me. It has strengthened my own faith that I can do more to serve my ward.
Sincerely, Elder Jensen
I have learned that the members of the ward are so much better at finding and converting investigators than missionaries are. I am more and more convinced as my mission has gone on that missionaries are called to assist the members of the ward rather than the ward assisting the missionaries.
Here is a picture of Brother Fernandez's baptism. He is was an investigator that was baptized my first week in the Shadow Creek ward. I never got to teach him (and I only met him the day before his baptism - just enough time for him to ask me to give a talk at his baptism).
I was assigned to serve in the Shadow-Creek Ward with Elder Kyle James Claridge from Oregon. I am going to be in a new district, but the same zone (and the same Stake). In fact, I will still be meeting in the same church building. It's kind of funny because we recently had 3 or 4 families move from the Mountain Shadows ward into the Shadow Creek ward, so I've actually already met a few of the families (we helped them move). I believe that one of the families was the Cardall family (the ones that sent you a picture of me). My ward is a little upset that they are losing me to the Shadow Creek ward - they said "not you too!"
As far as my companion goes, I already know a little bit about him since I see him every morning at morning sports. Also, I see him on Mondays at the Stake Center when we come to do emails. It was interesting that I was assigned to him because he was one of the few people in our zone that I hadn't really ever talked to.
This weekend our Stake had a pioneer day celebration on Friday and Saturday. Apparently it is the Second biggest pioneer day event (second to Utah). However, this year we had remarkably terrible weather. At first it started out as a normal cloudless sunny day (well over 100 degrees). But then out of nowhere there was a blast of sandy wind followed by the biggest storm that I have ever experienced. I thought I knew what heavy rain was back at home, but I never could have imagined this. We were drenched with water instantly, and the pavilion did nothing to protect us because it came sideways. There were hailstones the size of walnuts and lightning all around us. I have never seen lightning so close up. A car in the church parking lot was struck by lightning and all of the power went out. The food was carried away in the newly formed rivers that covered the sidewalks. I had just started dinner at the time and my plate became a bowl of soup within seconds (then of course it kind of just fell apart).
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
- The largest fire in the United States this week was just on the other side of the mountains and I could see the smoke all week. For a couple of days the entire sky was blackened and it blocked out the sun and lowered the temperature several degrees. I believe that it got as low as the 80s and it actually felt a little cold outside. The smoke even caused it to rain for a couple of minutes twice this week. But even when it rains here it still feels dry because of the low humidity. Since it doesn't rain often here the roads get really grimy and then the brief periods of rain just make the ground sticky and messy.
- One of the days it actually started raining down ash (the cars got covered in ash and it was difficult for some people to breathe).
- Our stake dedicated a brand new girls camp this summer and the Stake President prayed that the camp would be protected from natural disasters. So far the camp has been preserved despite the fire.
- I've seen more bugs here than anywhere else in my life. But I saw my first black widow the other night. They are pretty sinister looking - I wish that I could have gotten a picture to send but my camera battery died at the exact moment that I tried to take the picture. Apparently it has been living on the web just in front of our front door this whole time, I just never saw it because it hides during the day time.
- We had a lot of training meetings this week. It is always nice to get to see President and Sister Neider. Just being in their presence is inspiring and uplifting. Sister Neider showed us a few scenes from the football film "facing the giants". That was pretty neat.
- This is my last week of training, so next week I will be getting a new companion and I might be going to a new area as well.
As I have continued to develop the communication skills that I have lacked my whole life, I have improved my companionship with Elder H. In addition, every aspect of the work has likewise improved. My challenge now is to continue to not only endure but to strive for progression. I won't deny the fact that I am really struggling at this stage of my mission, however, I am optimistic about the future and I am striving to find the faith necessary for the miracles that are necessary for me to become the missionary that the Lord needs me to be.
Mondays have been really stressful for me (there is always a lot that I want to get done, and it is hard to adjust my schedule around all of the other missionaries - I never really know ahead of time how much time I will have to email or write letters).
We got our car back, but the A/C wasn't working for a few days (but today we realized that there was just a button that we missed or something because it worked for the other missionaries that borrowed the car from us). However, we still have been biking a little to conserve miles.
The good thing is you sort of get used to the heat (it isn't comfortable, but I at least don't feel like I am dying all of the time).
That is so cool that you got to go with the missionaries to a discussion. I wish I could go to a discussion (it seems like it has been forever since anyone let us come and teach another lesson). Honestly, I've been a little down because we have so few investigators and the few that we have wanted a break from the lessons. Hopefully things will pick up more this week.
One good thing that has come out of all of this is that one of our less active members has started to come back to church. She told us that it has been a wonderful blessing to have us come by and visit her every week, and that simple act of visiting her had inspired her and reminded her of her testimony. It was nice to be able to see something good come from all of our efforts.
As far as your speaking fears go, I don't have a whole lot that I can say right now. But one thing that has helped me is prayer. I pray that I can have the faith necessary to rely on the Lord and trust that He will guide me to say and do the right things. I have found that to be able to speak up in lessons, I need to speak up everywhere else. I can't just walk into a lesson and become a missionary; I have to be a missionary everywhere. It is hard, but as long as I don't become discouraged and continue to push myself, things have worked out.
Jahmari is getting baptized this Saturday, and things are starting to pick up with Melissa (she has been opening up and we are now up to about 3 lessons with members a week with her).
We have gained two new investigators since last week. One is named Reggie, and the other is named Faith. Reggie is a truck driver that travels from Las Vegas to Utah everyday (he leaves at 1 am in the morning and gets back in the afternoon). Reggie delivers to a man in Utah named Chris who is LDS, and so he has had many opportunities to discuss the church with him. Chris decided to refer Reggie to the church, and we were sent by his house. Although it took a while for us to finally contact him, we were able to get into his house and talk to him a little about the gospel. We were also able to give him a copy of The Book of Mormon and a pamphlet about the Restoration. Unfortunately we won't be able to teach him for 2 more weeks, and then even after that he only wants us coming by on Saturdays. So I doubt that we will be able to make very much progress with him (he may go through several missionaries before he starts to progress - unless he really goes the extra mile in keeping his commitments, which is yet to be seen). As for Faith, she is a very intelligent and religious woman that would like us to come by and share a message of the gospel with her family. When we talked to her last, she asked us what message we would be sharing with her family, and so we basically taught her the Restoration on her doorstep. The biggest question that arose from our discussion was: "why do we need prophets today if we already have the scriptures - especially if they are saying the same things that the prophets said in ancient times?" In response, we referred to Amos 3:7 and I then explained to her that although God never changes, the world is constantly changing and as a result, we constantly need guidance that is applicable to our daily lives.
Jamari is going to be baptized on June 8th.
We have not had many teaching experiences so far. We have found a few potential investigators through having lessons with members, however, we haven't been able to schedule very many lessons. That is our biggest challenge right now - finding people to teach. Apparently President Neider has instructed the missionaries not to tract. I believe most of the baptisms have come through member referrals. This week we have a few appointments scheduled with potential investigators. However, in past weeks, most of our appointments have fallen through. It is a lot of work to find people, and so far our efforts haven't seemed to be paying off. On a positive note, President Neider gave Elder H and I a car a couple of days ago (we were spending the majority of our time biking). Hopefully things will begin to pick up speed soon.
Yes we are teaching Melissa, but I can't remember what I said about her in my letter. We have mainly been joining the Dahl family's scripture reading twice a week with Melissa up until this week. This week we did some yard work for Melissa (she has been sick and she may have cancer and she keeps herself busy - basically she wasn't able to mow her lawn or take care of the yard for a while) and we invited her to start coming to church again (she has a long history of working with the missionaries). She came to church yesterday, which was wonderful.
My schedule is consistently inconsistent. However, here is the basic outline:
Wake up at 6:30 (unless we decide to attend morning sports in which case we get up at 5:40)
Prepare for the day (eat breakfast, shower, etc)
Studies from 8-10 am
The 12 week program at 11 am
Lunch 12 pm
Then we visit members of the ward from 1 - 5 pm (we go off of a less-active and part member family list that the bishopric put together)
Dinner around 5 pm
Then we probably just return to the list until 8:30 - 9 pm
We return home around 9 pm and then plan for the next day (I usually get to bed around 10:30 pm)
(We had really hoped to have more people to teach at this point to fill in our schedule, however, for now we are just going to try and get to know the ward better)
We have not been attending ward council, however, we have been attending the beginning of P.E.C. every week.
I have found that there are a ton of inactive members in this ward, but the members that attend church regularly are very strong families who are actively engaged in missionary work. We have found that they really have been doing all that they can to help out their missionaries. This will be an easy ward for fellow-shipping investigators and new converts.
We have been fed nearly every night since we have been here (with the exception of the first week or so due to the impression that the last missionaries left). Occasionally members will cancel dinner appointments on us, however, as we have gotten to know the families better, we have found people who are always stepping in to help us out when members cancel. One family invited us over tonight to join their barbecue since our original appointment failed. It is the same family where we skyped from a few weeks ago. Also, there is another family that fed us twice last week that cooked us two of the most delicious meals I have had in a long time (they believed that if they fed us well then their daughter who was also serving a mission would be fed well).
My companion is a lot like Tyler - he wanted to do the same thing the other day - he said that he wanted to catch one of the jack rabbits here and bring it back to the apartment as a pet. I pointed out that we couldn't keep pets and he resolved that he would just catch one and then cook it into a stew. I guess he isn't as friendly as Tyler.
That is funny that you would say "keep being obedient and you will be blessed" because yesterday my companion and I had to teach the Elders quorum lesson and the talk we used was Thomas S Monson's talk "Obedience Brings Blessings" from this last conference.