“Thank you for all your birthday wishes! Not too many missionaries get to have both their birthday both on preparation day. My mission president and his wife called me this morning to wish me happy birthday. He said my birthday present is preparation day. I reminded them that what they gave me last year and he agreed but said they wouldn’t be changing preparation day for me next year! To celebrate we’re going to go to my favorite spot in San Diego-La Jolla Cove. The ocean is so pretty there in azul and emerald green colors and there’s lots of upscale shops and antique shops that are fun to wander in. Seals also bath on the rocks there so that’s fun to see.
I’ve been so excited for General Conference since last October. Like I’ve said before, it’s like going to a huge movie premier for missionaries. This week in our lessons we’re focusing a lot on the lesson “Follow the Prophet” to get the people we teach excited about hearing from the prophet speak this weekend. Having a living prophet is such a blessing because we know that while the world may be in turmoil around us, we know that God will reveal everything we need through his servants the prophet.
We received 3 referrals yesterday for people that want to learn more about the gospel so we’re excited to contact those and see what that will bring. Three in one day is really exciting.
We had a kinda neat experience yesterday at the Battalion that just goes to show how love can soften hearts. There was a senior sister here by the name of Sister Stutz that just went home. She had a remarkable ability of making others feel just so loved in her presence. The two of us got to be very close. So Sister Stutz made friends with an older couple when they visited the historical site one time and they continued to come back several times because they loved the site and how they felt here so much. Now they’re both not members of the Church. So yesterday was the woman’s 80th birthday and her husband brought her here as part of her birthday celebrations. Sister Stutz arranged everything so that we would have flowers and a card for here. Then all of us sister missionaries sang her Happy Birthday and I Am a Child of God. They were a beautiful couple and she was really touched by what we did. They kept saying that was the best part of the day. And then she told us that her and her husband were seriously looking at the Mormon religion and asked for where the nearest church building is. It’s just so neat because most 80-year olds aren’t looking to change religions by any means and they had the appearance of being affluent. But through just kindness and love, people’s hearts are softened.
Sister Nelson and I are struggling a lot together. I’ve spent the last month focusing on more patience and charity but we still but heads almost daily. Honestly this past month has been the worst month of my entire mission. It’s nothing against Sister Nelson, I’ve been so impressed in her as a missionary. It’s just that our personalities don’t mesh. We function and work hard but I don’t think it’s supposed to be this hard. It’s like we bring out the worst in each other. I finally mentioned it to President Donaldson in my weekly letter to him.”
“Things are going pretty well here; we’ve got some good things on the horizon especially; some potentials and less-actives that are wanting to make changes in their lives. Yesterday was a especially good day that makes you feel like, “Man! I love being a missionary!”
I have yet to explain the pilot training program I’m involved in. What all missionaries will be experiencing come August is radically different then what they’ve done in the past at the MTC and while being trained in the field. Instead of focusing on learning the lesson content and practicing with that material, it will all be focused on 8 fundamentals: The Doctrine of Christ, How to Begin Teaching, Revelation by Prayer, Teaching People Not Lessons, etc. Missionaries now will spend their time in the MTC with 400 teaching practices based on the fundamentals. It’s when they get to the mission field that they’ll learn the lessons and continue to focus on the 8 fundamentals during their studies. And to help facilitate this, new missionaries and their trainers are given an extra hour of companionship study a day to study these basics. That extra hour has been great for me and a huge help for Sister Nelson. The only challenge we face is that with our Battalion responsibilities, it’s really hard to fit in this extra hour of study. It cuts into precious time in our area but we have to trust that the Lord will magnify our efforts.
Check out my sweet pic! Sunday Brother Owens came into the Battalion and one of the senior sisters noticed the incredible ring on his finger. Turns out it was a Super Bowl Championship ring. And being the really nice guy he is, he posed for pictures and let us even put the ring on. Wow! It was covered in diamonds. He played for the Oakland Raiders back in the 80s when they won the Super Bowl. He said he had a fellow teammate who was a member of the Church and his last year with the Raiders him and his wife started investigating the Church which led to their baptism.
I also met this guy and his family when they came into the Battalion Saturday. Him and his wife were really neat people. You can watch his video from mormon.org. http://mormon.org/me/2PGJ
It’s so sad to hear of all the suffering in Japan. The prophet has been telling us to have food storage, be prepared for emergencies and get out of debt for decades. It’s so clear that we can’t wait. I’m anxious to start my own food storage but then I have to remind myself that I have other things to focus on for the next couple of months.
I can not believe how expensive gas is currently! Out here it’s $4/gallon. I just hope this isn’t permanent. I understand it has to do with all the upsets in the Middle East.
I know that this is the true church of God with the gospel of Jesus Christ in its fullness once again on the earth. It’s only through Jesus Christ that we can be healed of all of our pains and transgressions. Our Heavenly Father loves each of His children so much. A love that we can’t even begin to understand but makes it possible for us to be redeemed and return to live with Him someday.”
“Last week we had a meeting with Stephen B. Allen (Director of the Missionary Department) and Tracy Watson (Director of Proselyting for the Missionary Department and the man who wrote Preach My Gospel). They came down to talk with us about the training program we’re piloting and get feedback. They’re both just amazing men and I’ve always loved talking with them. At one point I raised my hand and said I felt the instructions for the 1st week were confusing and we got a little lost. Once I said that everyone in the room agreed and Brother Watson actually looked at his notes for that section and saw that he had a note penciled in next to those instructions that said, “Confusing”. It was so nice to know that I wasn’t the only one feeling confused.
At the end of April Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles is coming to our mission and the CA Carlsbad Mission, the mission just north of us. So we’re going to have a combined mission conference with Elder Perry and it’s in the other mission. Which means we get to travel outside of the mission boundaries! Such a big deal to a missionary. I actually met Elder Perry when he went through the Battalion back last spring but it will be great to hear him speak to us.
It’s so sad to hear all the terrible things going on in Japan. Of course we can’t watch the news so we just pick up things here and there. We just know that the Lord has a purpose in everything. Like with the Tsunami in Thailand several years ago, the Church was able to come in with so much relief effort and now the Church is a lot stronger there then it was before. Saturday Sister Nelson and I actually stopped by a former investigators house and she had the news on with all the terrible things going on around the world. It was a loud signal that the end is near and I think will actually help her. There isn’t time to waste and we all need to be getting our lives in order. For those we think they don’t need the gospel of Jesus Christ in their lives, I don’t know what other signs you need.
I’m guessing you all know about BYU suspending one of their basketball players right before one of their big games for violations of the Honor Code. What he did to our world isn’t considered wrong and consequently it’s thrown the sports world for a tizzy. One of the senior elders that serves at the Battalion used to work in the football department for the University of Utah doing something with media relations and he’s very well connected in the sports world. When all this stuff was going on about BYU the other week he arranged for some of the sports reporters to come to the Battalion and interview a couple of the sisters that are BYU students. The clip follows. They both did a fabulous job and in the footage you get some great shots of the historical site. I’ve talked to this senior elder and he said that BYU suspending the student has actually been really good publicity for the Church. We must always stand up for truth and right, even if we’re considered old fashioned or narrow minded. The Lord’s standards don’t change.
So I had a pretty amazing thing happen with my camera this past week. I took my camera into the camera shop last week to get the sensor cleaned. It’s had dust particles on it for a couple of years now but I’ve just tried to always Photoshop them out. Finally I broke down last week and paid the $60 for the cleaning because it was just getting worse and worse. They said it would take about a day and they would call me. Several days had gone by and still no call. Finally they called me yesterday and said that the chemical they used to clean the sensor actually removed part of the low pass filter on the sensor and consequently ruined the sensor. The weirdest thing is that they’ve cleaned thousands of sensors with this product and my camera was the first to have this problem. The guy was so nice and really wanted to take care of me. His suggestion was to instead of putting $250 repairing my sensor when my “camera was on it’s last leg” (I didn’t think it was quite that bad!) he suggested putting that money instead towards another camera. So we considered the options and it ended up with me getting a brand new Canon Rebel XS with a memory card and new lens cap for my old lens all for $250. They applied the repair of the sensor cost to my new camera and then sold it to me at their cost. That is an amazing deal and I feel really blessed to have it happen. Even though I don’t have much money right now. It was clearly the best option.
Speaking of photography, here’s the sweet district picture (without any editing yet of course). Guess who’s idea this was?”

So Sister Story went home and now I’m training another sister straight out of the MTC. It’s been interesting…The 1st couple of days Sister Nelson and I were really butting heads and it was causing some big problems. But we had our first companionship inventory after about 36 hours of being together and things have been a lot better since then. She really is a good missionary but she just has her own ideas about how things are supposed to be done and she wasn’t letting me be the trainer. Still we’re very different people so it hasn’t been an instant friendship like with most of my other companions but that’s ok. This will be a good experience for the both of us I think. Another thing that has really made this an interesting companionship is that we’re involved in a training pilot program for the chruch. I’ll explain how it works next week but basically it boils down to us spending an hour extra each day studying together focusing on the fundamentals. Well with our additional responsibilities at the historical site, an extra hour of study really cuts into our time to teach and find. But the Lord will bless us.

Last week we were meeting with a less-active/part member family and the dad who fell away from the church for many years and is coming back told us that we’ve always been in the church so we don’t know what’s like in the world. That’s is a very scary place that we don’t want to ever experience for ourselves. And for us to tell other less-actives that it’s never too late to come back. I just thought those words were so true.
We had a really spiritual experience with 2 investigators we’re teaching last week. They’re 11 and 12 and their mom is a recent convert. They were set to get baptized a few weeks ago but the dad tried talking them out of it. He’s not a member and by no means an example of a Christian follower. So the kids were feeling a little torn, especially the little boy. We had a lesson on baptism this past week and he told us that he planned on getting baptized but he didn’t feel ready. He’s been taught a lot and know’s the doctrine so well he was practically teaching the lesson. So we talked about it being a commandment and why would he want to delay keeping the commandments. And then I commited him to choose a date in March to be baptized and that we were all going to kneel down together right then and he would offer the prayer to ask our Father in Heaven His will for him. So the boy did and then we all sat quiet with our eyes closed focusing on the feelings of our hearts. It was amazing. We all felt such peace and warmth in our hearts. Even this 11 and 12-year olds said they felt so warm inside. It was such a powerful witness from the Holy Ghost that this is what the Father wants. They still are going to continue to pray as a family and individually as the date draws closer.
Here’s a picture with me and all of my mission companions up until last week.”
“News here: My companion died today or in other words she went home. Weird. Her mission is over! In fact 8 Mormon Battalion sisters and 5 other sisters in the mission went home today. It’s really sad to have them all gone. We’ve been together since the opening of the historic site and have become such good friends. Our family on the mission really is the historic site missionaries.  I think our visitor center director cried a little this morning when we sent them off in the mission van. Last night we had a sweet going away party though, organized my our directors. Lots of pictures, yummy treats, song, and testimony. There were many wet eyes last night. But while saying goodbye on the mission is hard, it’s only see you later. There are lots of plans already made for after the mission. It’s really true what they say, you become best friends with those you serve with on the mission.
I am a little nervous that I’ll be training. There’s like a 90% chance of it but only time will tell. It would be a lot of work but probably really good for me to train. One of the reasons is that if I got a new missionary, I couldn’t talk about going home and that would be better for me. If I did it would probably be really annoying to her since she’s just starting. But with Sister Story since our departure dates are only 3 months apart, it was a topic of conversation more so then normal.
There hasn’t really been a ton of new things this past week. Just one funny story:
We had 2 new investigators Saturday only to have them drop us Monday morning. They were such characters and Sister Story and I loved them. Here’s the story. This lady, Karina, approached the elders in a parking lot Saturday afternoon. Told them she has a friend that is a member of the church in Russia, Karina’s originally from Russia, that told her to look into the Mormon faith so she wanted to see if the missionaries could come visit her. The elders thought she was a single lady so they gave the referral to us. So we called her that afternoon, no answer, but then she called us back a little while later. Two of our appointments canceled on us so when I suggested that we could even come over that evening much to our delight she agreed. Fifteen minutes later we’re looking for her house but the one we thought was it didn’t have a number on it. It was then that I noticed the garage door had onion domes, a style of architecture typical of Russia, carved into the wood so I knew we had found the place. Karina lets us into a very, very cluttered/pink home and we see Mark, her roommate…., sitting in the corner like a mute. He did actually talk later on. Both of them are in their early 50s and unemployed but Mark is looking for a job. However, they’re quite involved in multi-level marketing. In fact, Karina said she knew a lot of Mormons from multi-level marketing and they’re very good at it. But she could always tell there was something different about them. Karina stays busy with her “art”. She has a very unique style unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. She creates these massive paintings out of beads, lace, glitter, glow in the dark paint and other materials. She showed many of them to us and our favorite was her homage to Bill Gates. She told us to loved Bill Gates. Her painting to Bill Gates was about 9 feet tall, had a giant heart with his face on one side, her eyes on another and various other little things worked into it. So anyways, probably the best part about Karina is that she has green hair. Oh, also she told us she wanted to build the world’s largest museum but she just needed to find people in power to make it happen. I told her in a very sincere way, “Wow! You have some really big dreams.” To which she told me she didn’t like the word “dreams” because dreams don’t always come true. She prefers the term “plans”. But you know as missionaries you love everybody and the love just increases with their oddities. On Saturday evening we got to know them, introduced the Book of Mormon and invited them to church. They were super open and humble so we just loved them. They actually did come to church on Sunday and seemed to love it. They did look very strange with Karina having her green hair right on top of her head like a Dr. Seuss character but some of the superstar members of the ward really did make them feel welcome. I asked Karina how she liked it and she said she liked it a lot. So imagine our surprise when Monday morning she calls and tells us they don’t have time to go to churchs anymore. They don’t have any money, they don’t have any food and they have to spend all their time finding a job. It was a really strange phone call, almost hostile. I told her we’d call her in a couple of weeks to see how they were doing and she finally agreed to that saying it couldn’t hurt. Sister Story and I talked about it afterwards and you hate to think this but there’s a good chance they wanted us to come over so they could get some handouts. They never asked us about it though. We still thought they were the coolest investigators ever but looking back, they were very strange people.”

“There hasn’t been a ton of things going on this week. Just missionary work like normal.
I told my companion a few days ago that I’m really glad that things have taken a dive for our area while she’s still here. I would feel terrible if it started happening after she went home and I was training a greenie. At least she can testify that we’ve been trying really hard and working the best way we know how. If it was just me and a greenie I would feel like it was all my fault and that I was a terrible missionary. Ha, ha! But we’re keeping a positive perspective. Don’t get me wrong, we stay busy. It’s just not with those we want to be spending our time with as much. As in there’s no end to less actives that need our help but few new investigators if that makes sense. But it’s through those less-actives that you so often find new people to teach.
We actually had a really interesting experience with a less active last week. We had noticed her for the first time a few weeks ago and I felt really drawn to her. Like we needed to go visit her. I thought it was just because she’s Hispanic and they’re usually a lot more willingly to share the gospel so we needed to go over there and help her with member missionary work. So we finally got a appointment set up with her for last Friday. She had tried calling us a couple of times right before we came over but both times we missed her call and then when we’d call back she didn’t answer. So we go over and she explained that she had tried to call to cancel on us because she needed to go back to work soon but she felt bad for canceling and wanted us to come over. So we’re getting to know her and she told us how she got baptized when she was 13 (she’s early 30s now) but had been inactive for a long time. So I asked her when she started to come back to church and she started crying. Then she went on to tell us how she’s been going through such a hard time and has been so depressed. That she wanted to cancel on us but felt like she needed us to come over. Then she asked us if we knew that she a tribunal soon and that she was probably going to be excommunicated. This was a shock to us. She didn’t share the details but just that she was really feeling the pains of the decisions she had made in her life. She shared her testimony with us just how she knows the gospel is true and even if she’s excommunicated, she’ll still be at church because there’s no other place she would rather be. And she also shared with us how much she wants to share the gospel with others but she doesn’t feel worthy. The air was very heavy in her apartment if you can imagine. So we testified of the atonement and I felt that we should read the conversion story of Alma the Younger from the Book of Mormon. She read it out loud and during the verses where he’s feeling the weight of his sins she could hardly read she was crying so hard. Just at the point where she started reading the verses on Alma the Younger remembering the atonement of our Savior and felt his burden lifted, this young, buff guy strolls into the apartment, said hello and then goes into the bedroom. I think Sister Story and I would have been less shocked had Santa Claus walked into the room. It was one of those, “Who in the world was that?” moments. As it turns out it’s her live-in boyfriend that she met at the gym. She made it very clear in our conversation previous that she was a single mom, she has a 6-year old and a 8-year old, and was divorced. So we were a little surprised to see her boyfriend living there. But the good thing is that she wants him to start meeting with us so maybe something will come out of that.
My companion and I are so excited about the new Boy Scout leader. It probably sounds a little strange that we’d be excited about the Boy Scout leader but he’s awesome. We started working with him this past week because we have a couple of boys that we’re working with to be baptized and they’re in his age group. First we told him about an investigator that’s supposed to be baptized soon that could be in their troop. We told the leader about him Sunday and told him we’d talk to his mom to see if he would come to their laser tag activity today. Yesterday, one day later, he called us to see what had happened with the boy and if him and his wife could go by and visit him or give him a ride to scouts. We didn’t think it would work out for that one boy for this week but we told him about another boy from a part-member family who’s mom is inactive and his dad won’t let him get baptized. We talked to the mom about scouts Sunday and she was hesitant to get her boy involved. But we gave the information to the scout leader when he called us and an hour later he texted us to say that the boy was coming with them to scouts tonight. On the phone he said that their goal is to involve as many non-members and inactive boys as possible in the troop. This scout leader gets it! He’s excited about the work and he’s not content to allow just the active boys to be his focus. He’s going the extra mile and it is amazing! That’s exactly the leader I’m being trained to be hopefully after the mission. You just realize out here how important callings are and how there’s so much more we could be doing. I think anytime we fulfill our callings and really reach out to the lost sheep, it’s because we love the Savior. At the end of Matthew the Savior admonished Peter that if he loved him, to feed His sheep. We don’t magnify our callings because we don’t have anything else to do or because we want recognition. We magnify our callings because we want to assist our Heavenly Father in His children coming back to Him. When I get home I’m going to tell Bishop to assign me to visit teach a bounce of less-active sisters. I’m used to people avoiding me and I’ve gotten very persistent! 🙂
My MTC president and his wife came into the Battalion this past week, President and Sister Smith. They’ve been the MTC presidents for probably about 80,000 missionaries I would guess. They were released last month and were in town for a wedding. Since they’re friends with the Evans, our visitor center directors, they came in for a tour. Of course they don’t remember me but I did get them to take a picture with me after their tour.
Here’s a picture of us outside of the temple a few preparation days back.”
“It doesn’t seem to be just Sister Story and I that have been struggling a bit lately. Our whole district is feeling it. But I’ve noticed that because so many of our plans aren’t going through that I’ve had to really work on developing my faith and expect miracles. As a missionary you are very helpless without the Lord’s help. We just have to try our best and then let Him work the miracle because otherwise few things would happen. But yesterday was a really good day so I think things are starting to look up.
Our mission president has a job waiting for him when he finishes in July. He will be the Director of Proselyting…for the world. No big deal. I had a chance to talk with him a bit more about this last week and he said one of his main responsibilities will be to train all the mission presidents. Yep! I’d say he’s got it down. He also told us that he had a really sweet job lined up for when he got back outside of the Church but then the Lord had other plans. I don’t know what that would have been but I’m thinking something along the lines of training at a management level for some big company since that’s what he was doing before the mission for the Church. And I’m betting he would have been making bank. But nope, he is too powerful of a resource for the Lord’s army. It just goes to show how we make planes and then let the Lord work his magic with what we really need to be doing….
So Sunday night I had a pretty funny/embarrassing experience. It was the monthly mission president’s firesides that we do here for investigators, members of the church and friends of members. There’s always a missionary choir that is powerful, a speaker and a few recent converts bear their testimony and share their conversion experience. I always love going to these because they’re very spiritual and I get to see members from the previous areas that I’ve served in. Well the 18 year old boy that I taught and who got baptized a few weeks ago was one of those asked to share his experience. So he starts sharing his experience and mentions that it was Sister De La Cruz and I who first started to teaching them. Then he looks right at me because I was on the front row of the choir and says, “Now I’m being sincere here.” and then while looking at the audience says “I just listened to them at first because I thought they were hot.” He said that to hundreds of people and the audience erupted into laughter so hard. My companion told me later that she almost wet her pants. I started blushing like crazy while laughing so hard. It was pretty embarrassing if you can imagine it. But it was neat to hear the rest of his experience.
Sister Story and I were not going to let Valentine’s Day pass us by without celebration. We made a big, fancy dinner with sparking cider (my favorite!), homemade bread sticks, stuffed jumbo pasta shells, salad, and Nutella cheesecake. Dang was it good! And of course no Valentine’s dinner is complete without candlelight and classical music. 🙂 It was a fun excuse to do something out of the ordinary.
OK, OK, in every email someone sends me I’m asked if I’m ready to come home. So this is how I feel about the matter. First of all, I have no idea where the last 15 months have gone. It’s been crazy. I’m worried that I’ll come home and feel like it never happened. That’s really scary. I’m so glad everyday that I made the choice to serve and I’m grateful that Heavenly Father wouldn’t give up on me. But I think when my year and a half is done I’ll be ready to move on with my life knowing that “I did it! I finally did what I wanted to do for so long but was too scared or preoccupied with other things to do.” Not bad things by any means but I know that serving a mission was what the Lord wanted for me. There are definitely long days and times when I long for the things I left behind but I’m doing really good I think about not getting too trunky. With me companion and 7 other Battalion sisters going home in 2 weeks and 5 more 6 weeks after that the theme of home is a lot more rampant. But I wont lie that fighting off the trunkyness is getting harder and harder to do. But for me it just reminds me that my turn isn’t that far off and I’ve got a lot of work to do. My companion and I were talking about a sister who went home in October. She was so trunky and ready to be done. But guess what happened when she got home. She cried so much for 2 weeks and really just wanted to come back to the mission. I really hope that’s not me. Like our district leader said last week, “You leave your family knowing you’re coming back. You leave your mission knowing you’ll never come back.” Wow! It’s so true. I have to “magnify every moment” as Elder Holland said and make sure that on my mission I was a missionary. So I can go home with no regrets and when I’m on that plane feel the Spirit whisper to me, “Well done thy good and faithful servant.”