Displaying items by tag: Returned Missionary
Star Wars Day 2015 – Week 17
So today is STAR WARS day! And it is a P-Day. This should be fun, as I can celebrate this momentous holiday within reason. I should be able to enjoy the combination of these two events by doing something Star Warsy. This past week has been exciting. Elder Mahler and I got to go to the Temple which was awesome, as it always is when performing work in the Temple. We also met the Yeafoli Family. They are recent move in’s to our ward and they are SUPER missionary minded, meaning they love being able to help with missionary work and enjoy doing missionary-like things. Brother Yeafoli's 90 year old Grandma is living with them and she isn't a member. We hope to be able to teach her.
We had a really unique service opportunity this week. The Anchorage Public Library throws a massive book sale once or twice a year. And by massive, I mean massive. The lady said that through this sale they are able to gain between $20,000 and $30,000 for the Library. We probably moved close to 2000 books or more for them. This service was really fun, and they let us pick two books from the sale pile for helping them get all of them set up. That was really nice of them.
Other than that, not much else exciting happened this week. Oh, and May the force be with you this great Star Wars day.
Emergency Transfers – Week 18
So, this week has been pretty Chaotic. My Companion's headaches have gotten worse, much worse. We spent a great deal of time in and out of Hospitals and Clinics. It was so strange. I also was able to have several emergency exchanges with Elders Brock, Goodsell, Clark, and Vang. This is so that I could get out and do some missionary work while my companion was resting/sleeping.
So we actually had some really good lessons this week. Everyone is working to help me get out and work as often as it is logistically possible. I am so grateful for this chance and for those who make it possible.
He had another MRI on Friday, and the results came in this morning. He is going home on Medical Leave. I don't know if that reality has actually hit me yet. I've spent the past 3 and 1/2 months with him, and the last 7ish weeks taking good care of him. I have no idea what is going to happen to me, this area, or anything really. It looks like this is the end of my time with my trainer, Elder Mahler. It has been amazing. I have learned and gained so much from his tutelage and I will be forever grateful for my time serving with such a great missionary. I have a feeling that this is not the last I will see of him though.
Onward to Klatt – Week 19
Elder Mahler left the mission field last Monday night, and President Robinson flew out with him to Seattle. After he left, I went with the Klatt Ward Elders, I and am now sharing their apartment. The three of us Elder Clark, Elder Vang and I are now covering both the Klatt and the O'Malley Wards.
As you might imagine that means that this week was extraordinarily busy. We quite simply did not have time to worry about the menial things of this world. We tracted, and we actually found some people who are willing to listen to what we have to say, which is way cool. I had a blast, working in a Trio is the best (most of the time). We get to visit single sisters without having to make sure someone comes with us. However, there are a few downsides, such as the adjustment to teaching people in a trio, which is not as easy as one might think, but it still is fun. Other than that it is a blast!
It is strange covering two wards, but I since it is only till the end of the Transfer (May 25th). I expect that it will be just fine. Some exciting stuff is going down this week. The Missionaries all get our iPads on Wednesday. And we find out what is going down with transfers on Friday, it should be good. Also, I heard from Elder Mahler, he seems to be doing better now that he doesn't have that strain of being a missionary while trying to deal with the headaches.
So his work continues – Week 20
This week has been great! I have absolutely loved working with Elders Clark and Vang as we further the work of salvation. We have been covering both the O'Malley and the Klatt wards the past two weeks. It has been keeping us very busy. Another thing that has kept us extremely busy has been the acquisition of our iPads, and all that we have to do with them.
On Wednesday the 20th of May, Elder Nielson of the Seventy came and gave us some training on these iPads and how missionary work in the digital age will commence. The Alaska Anchorage Mission is one of 89 pilot missions for the iPads (out of about 400 worldwide missions) this means that we are very lucky to be able to use this technology in our work.
The training, from Elder Nielson (who gave a talk at last General Conference if you recall), was not what I expected which is very good. There was a deeply spiritual side to this training, and there was very little of showing us how to use these devices (which I am thankful for). We have been given safeguards that, as we follow them, will protect us from the garbage that is out on the Internet. It was such a good day.
The thing that stuck out to me the most from the day of training was something that Elder Nielson had said. He said that the Brethren Trust Us. This is very comforting, that the modern day Prophet and the Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ trust us to use these devices how they are meant to be used. This is just the beginning.
On Friday, I found out where I will be for the next six weeks and who my new companion will be. I will be staying in the O'Malley Ward and will be heading back to my apartment. My new companion will be one Elder Miller. I Haven't met him yet, but I will tomorrow. I’m so excited to be with the people of the O’Malley ward for another six weeks. I love them.
The Next Transfer – Week 21
So this week was great! I met Elder Miller shortly before Transfer Meeting on Tuesday, and we had an absolute blast working with each other this past week. Elder Miller is an amazing missionary. He works hard, and he loves to serve people. All great attributes in a missionary. On Wednesday we went by a potential investigator named Sandy. She is prepared for the gospel; I can tell. We had a great lesson; we left her with the Restoration Pamphlet and a return appointment for this coming week. She said that she would read the pamphlet and the scriptures it points her too. Hopefully we are able to have as good of lessons with her as our first one.
We also knocked on a few doors and were able to find a couple people willing to listen to the message that we share. It was extremely hot this week, but it was so much fun. During this hot time we ran into a man who thought those that Believed in God were either fakers or not intelligent. We talked with him a bit, and testified of what we know. That was all we could do.
One of the families in the ward moved out to Utah this past week, the Lemmons. They were one of the best families in the Ward. It is sad to see them go, but they said to keep in touch. I plan on doing just that. On Saturday, we did some service for one of our investigators, Sarah. She is elderly, and we mowed her lawn and weeded her garden. It was fun. She made us lunch afterwards, and we had a great lesson with her.
Later that day we met with the Hughes family, and we had a great time visiting with them and teaching them. Their son Josh is getting ready to be baptized, so we are helping them out with that.
Service and Finding – Week 22
This week has proven to be magnificent. We visited quite a few people and met with even a few that we’ve never met before. One of the greatest things we had happen this week, is that we got 2 new investigators, Janice and then later Yemeli. They are both strong in faith and devout members of their church. But they’re open to learning about the Gospel. Later we did some service for a member in another Ward, helping them move. That was quite a lot of work but incredibly fun. We also got a chance to help the Rilke Schule (a German School across the street from our apartment) move the stuff out of the building they were in. They are moving the school to a new location. And I did not mind helping them at all. The work here is moving along fast, and also time is flying so fast while I’ve been here.
Extra Service Miracles! – Week 23
This week was an absolute blast. All the missionaries in the Anchorage Stake got to go to the Temple on Wednesday, and that was amazing. The Temple is always amazing, but something about this time made it stand out to me. This time was most definitely spiritually edifying and very uplifting; it made me feel more motivated to get out and find people to teach.
Another highlight of this week was when Elder Miller and I got to help the German School, close to our apartment, move out of the location they were in and into trailers to await the completion of their new location. That was a really fun experience, especially since it was a German School. Also on that day (Saturday), we helped this nice lady named, Becca, move out of where she was staying into a new place. It took a while and the results of that even made the title of Today’s email. It was a great opportunity to help someone in dire need.
I believe that she didn’t have very long to move and had to be out that day, so apparently our help was paramount to getting her to where she needed to be. I hope everything goes well for her. Yesterday, in Sacrament meeting a Brother Pintar gave a talk. Now this was no ordinary talk. It was his conversion story, and it is an amazing story. He’s come so far in such a short amount of time.
Time to do some finding – Week 24
This week we had some pretty miraculous things happen. We did some service for a part member family. This service involved tearing out some insulation from the ceiling in their basement. It was itchy, but worth every fragment of fiberglass that got stuck somewhere on me.
I also got to know a missionary a little better than I did, and I found out that he likes Bionicles (though not as much as me). We chatted about that while on Exchanges this week. It was fun to talk to someone who knows about the wonderful thing that is Bionicle. However, that is just a temporal blessing to my missionary service. Now, onto some more of the Spiritual types of blessings
On Thursday we got to go to the Temple again since they have such a long backlog of male names. It was fantastic as always. I know that the blessings of the temple are great and that I don’t fully understand them, but that is okay. Then on Friday we had Zone Meeting where we received some training about how we are supposed to find people to teach and baptize. One of things was that we should be more specific about what we pray for. For example, some missionaries shared an experience that they had had earlier that week. They said that they prayed and asked Heavenly Father to place someone in the path at such and such a place and at a certain time. Then they found some really solid investigators that are truly prepared for the Gospel.
Elder Miller and I decided to do the same, and tell Heavenly Father where we are going to be, the place he told us to go, and when we were going to be there and that is when our greatest Miracle of the week happened. We came across Jeri. She had just gotten home from the vet and taking care of her really beautiful dog. Then we started talking and found out that she is friends with some members in our Ward. We had an amazing first lesson, and we have a return appointment. She took a Book of Mormon and said that she would read it and pray about it. It was such an amazing miracle to see find someone so prepared to receive the Gospel
Flattop – Week 25
So last Monday some missionaries in the Anchorage mission, Elder Miller, and I all went to Flattop. Flattop is a mountain that you hike, and it was quite fun to do so. The sun beating down on me caused that I drank all my water before too long. If it were not for the cooling towel that was sent to me by my mother, I would not have made it to the top. The top of said mountain is flat, hence the name. It was a fun hike. Not sure I would do it again so soon.
District Meeting this week was a blast, complete fun. We received some training on how to better find people to teach, and it is doing wonders for us. This week we finally got to move on to Stage 2 of the iPad use. We spent some good quality time cleaning up the records that have been left here for the past however long. We watched some training videos on how to use the new area book planner app that we will be getting very soon. It should be a fun experience.
Yesterday I gave a talk during Sacrament Meeting! It was a great topic from one of my favorite Speakers. President Uchtdorf’s talk, “Are you sleeping through the Restoration?” I had lots of fun preparing for and couldn’t help but toss in a quick Pokémon reference when talking about sleeping. The O’Malley Ward has been great thus far, and I look forward to whatever new adventures I get to have.
The Final Week in O’Malley – Week 26
So this past week was my last week in my first area, the O’Malley Ward. We got our Transfer Calls on Friday, and I found out that I’m off to the Willow and Memory Lake Wards. I will be covering two wards out there along with my new companion, Elder Wang. I haven’t met him yet, but he sounds fantastic. Willow is a small little community in the Wasilla region of the State; it is also where those Forest Fires were. I’m looking forward to some new experiences there.
At the same time, I am nervous about leaving the people here in the O’Malley Ward. I have made a lot of Friends, and goodbyes are really hard. Especially, if you love the people you have to say goodbye to. I have enjoyed my six months among these people, and I am sure that I will be able to keep some of these new friends for a long while yet.
I will greatly miss the Hughes Family, and I hope that I will get to see them once more. I will also miss the Jenkins Family; we had gotten rather close since they had us over nearly every week. Brother Pintar, I shall miss as well. He is amazing and so strong in the gospel. Also I shall miss the Powers Family. We did our Mother’s Day Phone Calls here, and we also ate with them often. They are an incredible family; I wish good fortunes upon them.
I have truly enjoyed my time among so many wonderful people, and I feel extraordinarily blessed to have known each and every one of them. They are all so dear to me. This coming week should bring many surprises and a great deal of excitement.
Retrospective – Interlude
With the many people that I have met and all the influences at this point, my final six weeks in the O’Malley Ward were some of the happiest times I had on my mission. I greatly treasure my experiences that I had during this time. I learned about hard work from Elder Miller, and I am grateful for his example to me as I strive to become a better person now that I am home from my full-time service. As I look back upon this time of my life it becomes clear to me that my time in the O’Malley Ward shaped my outlook in such a way that I became a more service oriented person. I enjoyed this time immensely. I wish I could thank in person each of the people that helped me along my way during this time.
By word of introduction, I have recently returned home from serving a two-year full-time mission in Alaska for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To clarify, I was not paid; I did not get to pick where I went, or when I got there, nor did I get to do a great many things that I would have liked to do with my time. I would now like to share my feelings about my experience, and how my service to others has truly changed my life. I have seen myself grow and change as I carried out my labors, I am not a different person because of my time in Alaska, but I am a better person. I want to share how I got to where I am today with those who may have questions about my time in Alaska, or who have questions about missionaries in general, or even those who have questions about the church.
To begin, I am at heart a child of God, a storyteller, and a gamer. My mission did not remove or add to these aspects, but it shaped and made me into who I am today. I will share a little bit about who I was before, but will not dwell on that subject as it is of little consequence.
I was your average teenage gamer guy – always playing something. I had strong violent opinions that I would post on the internet in the comment section of YouTube or Reddit. I will not apologize for that way, as it is in the past now. I would merely talk of writing, starting a blog, creating things. My ideas were childish and incomplete. My dream had no shape. I was foolish and naïve, my previously mentioned strong opinions were often formed by the words of others.
Now, I am different. I am still a gamer. I still love playing games. I collect a lot more games now than I did then, and I play them a little less often. I am intrigued by the stories and the worlds of games as I was before, but now I can sift through the good and the bad on my own. YouTube is not as frequent of a visit as I had made in the past, I still watch some, but it is all related to my industry and to uplifting messages and stories.
My worldview changed as a result of a set of experiences that I had while serving a mission in Alaska. Let me say this just for the record: missions are hard.
I do not say this lightly. My two years as a missionary were grueling and challenging in every way, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. These were also the two most rewarding years of my existence to date. The value of the experience is far beyond the financial cost of serving, of being away from home for two years – putting my whole life on hold. Regardless of how difficult it was, all of it as a whole was worth it.
The physical effort was to be expected. I received countless advance warnings regarding this. Physical strain was the easiest of the bunch to overcome, as it merely took sleep and some rest to bounce back, and even though there were times when it was more difficult than I had anticipated, rest still came and my physical strength still returned.
Emotionally, it was beyond exhausting. Trying to deal with not only your problems, but those of everyone else simply because you had a nametag and were far from home with a calling that made you somehow responsible enough to deal with all those problems at once was more than exhausting. You had so much responsibility trust upon your shoulders and you still might have had your own emotional problems to deal with, and maybe something was going on at home that also caused distress. Sometimes it was maddening and sometimes infuriating. This was a lot more difficult to overcome, as my usual tried-and-true methods of dealing with stress and anxiety (gaming, reading a fantasy novel, and other such things) were not available to me while I was still a missionary. It was an issue that simply never went away, and I cannot begin to explain with words that I currently know how much relief came over me when I finally realized that I would not have to deal with this level of intense emotional stress once I returned home.
Honestly, I could spend thousands of words to describe all the ways in which the emotional drama of serving a mission was seen as a nigh impossible obstacle to overcome. Nevertheless, even with all the hurt and many hours spent in emotional pain, the growth and experience from it was worth it. Serving others in nearly any way, teaching people about Jesus Christ, and being able to share my love of people with them was worth every ounce of pain, drama, frustration, illness, weakness, and trial that it cost.
From there, mental struggles were minimal at best and disastrous at worst. Sometimes I would go weeks without being able to release my mental creativity and that was probably the second most difficult thing to deal with, which also then fueled all the emotional stress that was going on. For the most part I was able to jot down ideas and create some small simple things. Even so, I was not actually able to sit down, staring at a blank page and with black markings create beautiful vivid stories. However, I am able to do just that to the fullness of my heart’s content now, so that pain while a sacrifice, was short-lived. It was reasonably easy enough to overcome.
Now, I do not mean to complain about my mission, or make you care about my personal struggles. I merely mean to relate my feelings, so you can understand the environment I was in while these changes were happening to my outlook and my desires and how that affects the way I live now.
Spiritually, while being exhausting, the time spent away from home serving those around was actually refreshing and energizing. For the most part I enjoyed this most out of all my other responsibilities. Service was the one task that no matter the day, even if things were rough emotionally, made living apart from those I cared about joyous and worth every tiny molecule of sacrifice. As long as I was serving others my spirt could rejoice and find happiness. This is where the majority of my growth has come from.
I love to help others, and I choose to see the good in people. I give other the benefit of the doubt, even when all others see only the black part of what could be and choose to think the worst of them. I choose to embrace all cultures and people regardless of where they come from, and I choose to be generous to everyone I can be. Being nice instead of rude, and being genuine and happy instead of fake and miserable. I choose how I live my life.
I have gained much knowledge about the world, the way people are, and the gospel. I know that regardless of the hard times and unpleasant memories and feelings I was meant to go the great Last Frontier and to serve the Lord and his children there for a while. I have completed that chapter of my life and I have returned to apply what I have to become the best version of me that I can be. I hope that you will enjoy this journey you will take with me.
Over the course of the next year, I will recount my experiences, and will share how I grew from each chapter of my mission. I will be revisiting each of my weekly letters home, grouping them by section and then posting each as a chapter of the full chronicle of my mission. The purpose of this series is not to convince or coerce anyone to believe anything; nor is too make anyone feel anything for me. I am merely sharing my personal feelings and experiences that have shaped how I view the world.