Wednesday, January 27, 2016

27 January 2016

Dear All,

This week was crazy but also kinda slow at the same time. 

I'll start with a funny thing that happened. We went through the turnstile to get to the train (just FYI, you have to swipe your metro card to get in.) Three cops were at the subway and as they left, they exited out the emergency exit (the emergency exit is a door, and if you open it from inside the subway you can get outside, and vise versa,) and it's free to get into the subway. The purpose of it is really so that people with strollers or other large carts can get to the subway with their carts. So the three cops opened the door and a man was coming down the stairs to the subway. The cops look at the guy and motion him to come through the emergency exit: essentially they were letting him come in the subway for free - they were being bros to this guy. Now this isn't the first time I've seen that happen, but this time was very funny because the man comes over and I'm like, "That was nice of them." His response was, "Yeah man! They arrested me last Tuesday!" Just another New York moment. 

We walked past a guy handing out pamphlets about saving the earth I think, like being green. He stopped us and said what's your guys' cause? Are you Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses? And we explained that we're Mormon and missionaries and such. His response was pretty funny, he said, "Yeah, I figured you were one of those two. Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons are all that care anymore." He was a really nice guy and respectful too. It just reminded me that some people will know who we are just by looking at us, so the way we act and what we say or do really matters. People will judge The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints based on how its members/missionaries act. It's extremely important to make sure our conduct is always in line with Church standards.

We had a lesson with Luis V., one of our less actives. He obviously didn't understand a lot of what we said , so we super simplified everything and he still struggled. It really makes me sad because of how many people here are like that. The education rate, especially for deaf people, here is super low. We try so hard to help these people understand our message of Jesus Christ, but a lot of times we try our best and they just don't understand. They'll often nod their heads and go along with what we say, but then respond with something completely random or unrelated, and oftentimes we try again to explain and they just don't get it. This is really hard for me because I think about how their lives must be, their friends and family trying to communicate something but they can't understand each other. How hard that must be, how sad it must be. Maybe I'm being dramatic, but honestly there's just so much from their lives they must be missing. But it helped me remember that we can teach and teach and teach as much as we want, but if we don't invite the Holy Ghost into our lessons and conversations then that lesson is pointless. Our job as missionaries is to allow people to have spiritual experiences, that's what they'll remember. They're not likely to remember what Elder West said about the Book of Mormon that one day in January, but they will remember how they felt. As long as we are being obedient and living righteously, that's all we can do. I seem to be happier and more successful once I've accepted that my role in the conversion process is pretty insignificant, and I don't mean to say that I can just do whatever I want because of that. I also don't mean that I'm useless, but that the amount I can help someone vs. the amount the Holy Ghost can help someone is just not comparable. The Holy Ghost is the messenger of God. I am the vessel for the Holy Ghost. 

More New York Moments: 
We had another strange train ride on Friday. We were just sitting there signing, and in walks a blind guy. He had a make-do blind cane and honestly looked like he was faking it, then I saw his eye. He got on the train and ran into a guy and was super apologetic to everyone and announced his story. He said he was recently stabbed in the eye and robbed,. He later said that his other eye has started to go blind and it was fully closed and didn't look too healthy either, so it seemed believable. I just felt so bad for the guy. Judging by how his eye looked, I wouldn't doubt that his story was true. He was probably in his mid-to-late 20's. As he was walking down the train with his jar of money hanging around his neck, the famous DVD woman came by. There's an Asian woman who comes down the train pretty often, always selling pirated copies of the latest movies. A lot of the movies aren't even out of the theatre yet, so I have no idea how she has them. She's always selling those as well as some other random stuff for super-super cheap. I think I've seen her 5-ish times by now. Elder Holloway and I have decided to call her Dee Vee Dee. Then once she moved on to the next train car, an argument started between two guys pretty close to us. I'm not really sure what happened, but it sounded like one guy was sleeping and the other guy accidentally hit his foot and woke him up. These two guys were talking like "Oh you wanna see some hands?" "Nah man I don't wanna go back to the penitentiary." "Come on man, you don't just kick someone when they're asleep; what are you doing?" It was pretty much two 35-ish year-old men wanting to argue and act like 12 year-old boys. I'm surprised they didn't get in a fight, because the guy sleeping stood up and was like, "Come on man, let me see some hands. You're all talk. Let's go." The guy eventually was just like, "Alright I'm finished." Eventually he just walked off the train and his wife or gf or whatever got off with him.

I've seen quite a few people come on the trains and announce their stories, begging for money or food or something to help them get by. I just realized how generally, they say something like, "If you can find it in your hearts to help me then God bless you. If not, God bless you too." These people are so humble and obviously life's not going too great for them. I always just wanna yell back, "We can't give you money, but we can give you salvation!" But often times they don't care much about their salvation, probably because they don't realize that the statement is true. Man, I've seen the richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor here. In fact, this mission has the richest and the poorest zip codes in the nation, as of 2014, or so I've been told. New York is so, so diverse. It's so different from what I'm used to. I think Heavenly Father wanted me to be out of my comfort zone when he sent me here. But hey, I've already learned so much that I wouldn't trade it for the world.

So the big event for the week was certainly Winter Storm Jonas. It was super, super awesome. There was actually anticipated to be about 5-8 inches in our area, so I was certainly excited for that, and then later in the day on Friday the predictions kept on going up. There was about 5 inches of snow when we woke up. For exercise we decided to shovel snow out from the walkway. That's something I've never gotten to do before and it was a pretty good experience. Then about 3 hours later we were heading out for correlation meeting and our work was all covered up in snow again, another 6 inches or so. So we shoveled again. The branch president for our branch let us know that the buses would be shutting down at noon and all above-ground trains would shut down at 4;00. The problem was that we needed to go to the Olmstead Chapel at 6pm, which is about 35 minutes from our apartment by train. So we went early in order to have the train take us, but we knew that we'd have to walk back. It's about 3.5 miles from the Olmstead Chapel to our apartment. It's supposed to be an hour's walk, but that's calculated in ideal weather situations. I was super not looking forward to walking home in the blizzard, but I knew it would be something I could tell as a story for a long time: "That one time in 2016 on my mission when I walked home through the biggest blizzard in New York in years." It was super intense. The wind was crazy and cars were stranded. We even experienced fire raining down on us simultaneously with snow pounding down upon us. A train came over the top of us (we were under an elevated train rail) and as it did, giant sparks started falling down right above us, so we moved over so we wouldn't burn alive. It was a fun thing that I will never forget. It totally felt like one of those surviving-the-storm movies because of all the chaos. So all in all, there wee about 2-3 feet of snow in less than 24 hours.

On Sunday we went out to see if we could find people to help shovel their sidewalks or driveways. We met one of our neighbors, Samuel. We helped him clear his driveway. He's from The Dominican Republic, has been here for 5 years, and is a super nice guy. He offered us coffee or juice, and he then later tried to give us money, which we couldn't accept. We also helped a family get their car out of the snow completely surrounding it. I must say, when we were offered money, I really wanted to accept it, because well, money. But we didn't, and it honestly felt even better not accepting it. It helped me remember that Christ served all people, and He did a lot more than some snow shoveling. He never accepted money or any kind of praise. He did it just to do it. That's something that I am leaning on my mission, I need to just serve. That's the best kind of help, serving people out of love for them. 

I finally used my Jamba Juice knowledge today! I made a spinach drink. Holy cow it's expensive to make. I calculated it at about $1.55 which, is more than my average meal! Just a fun fact I thought to throw in there. I made the drink because we were teaching a lesson to one of our members, Sister Q. She was sick and decided it would be a good idea to cough in my direction without covering her mouth. I was worried that I would get sick, and that worry was justified because I started to feel it last night, and then this morning I woke up feeling destroyed. I'm just happy I'm sick on a P-day rather than on a day where we have a ton of appointments. 

It's amazing how much your schedule can be effected when you get on the wrong train. We got on one wrong train because we were so pre-occupied and ended up being about an hour late to an appointment: it stunk. On the way to that train we saw a mother with what appeared to be her three kids. She was probably around 25-30 and the kids were like 4-9. She was legit getting in the youngest one's face and cursing at her, she used a lot of choice words and was very loud. That kid was wrecked. I've seen plenty of examples of parents I don't want to become out here. 

Now I've got a long story:
 On the way home we were on a train and sat down across from some guy. Elder Holloway says to him, "That's a good book." He was just trying to start a conversation about Jesus, I'm sure. The guy was reading the Bible. His response was, "Yes it is. But you guys don't know as much about it as you think you do." At that point it was pretty much game over. I was curious as to what he meant by that so I asked him, "What do you mean?" He wanted to share a scripture with us, and then he proceeded to tell us about how our ancestors enslaved black people and that the Bible says how the captors will become captive and that we're gonna be destroyed because we're white (he was black btw). He just went on and on and on about how we're evil and that we don't actually follow the words of Christ. He never really allowed us to respond or even talk at all for that matter. To be honest, it's better that we didn't talk. He would ask us about a scripture or about what something meant, and we just couldn't or chose not to respond, because we knew that responding would only make the outcome worse. He just continued about how white people are evil and will be destroyed because they have enslaved in the past. He kept on saying, "Oh you guys are young, you don't understand." It honestly didn't bother me, like at all. At first I wanted to respond with this scripture or that scripture proving my point, but as we went on I realized that that would only make things worse. It was best to just allow the man to continue about how racist and evil we are, as he is mocking us because of our skin color...this went on for about 15-ish minutes and we just bore it patiently. It definitely crossed my mind to try to help people see that he was crazy (he mentioned that the government killed JFK because he was trying to solve racism), but I think he was doing a mighty fine job himself. A woman probably in her 20's sat down next to him and I don't think she knew what she was in for. He continued to just throw stuff at us as we never responded. She would kinda roll her eyes every now and then and she gawked a couple times. We made eye contact at some point and she looked annoyed. I just smiled back. At some point the man just threw this in the mix, "Oh and Jesus was black too. Does the Pope teach you that? No. Because that doesn't get him any gain." I mean we're not even Catholic but I mean it's cool. Once he said that, the girl did a double-take. She never joined in, just kinda sat there in disbelief. Eventually Elder Holloway decided there was no reason for us to be on the train so we got off at a stop. As we left I apologized to the man and said something like, "I'm sorry if we said or did anything to offend you, I promise if we did, it was an accident; that's not our purpose." He responded, "Apologize to Jesus, not me." So as I left I said, "I'm sorry again, have a good day." That was my first time experiencing real mocking for being a missionary. Elder Holloway and I discussed it a little bit and we were very proud of how we handled it. Of course part of me wanted to retort with something, but I'm glad I didn't. Elder Holloway reminded me how Jesus Christ composed himself as he was in the process of being crucified: 
Mark 14:61-62 "But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? And Jesus said, I am".
Now I'm not saying that Elder Holloway and I are equal to Jesus Christ, I'm simply saying that we did our best to follow His example. It was actually an awesome experience because I felt totally good afterwards. I didn't have negative feelings towards him and I didn't feel bad for anything really. I was sad that he was so anti-white people and I felt bad because of the anger in his heart, but I felt no animosity towards him. It made me wonder how Jesus could've felt with so many people hating Him when He knew the truth. He is the truth. He loved those people and had to watch them in the midst of their sins. He had to watch them bring damnation to themselves! How much more painful that must have been than the physical pain he was enduring. Oftentimes I meet with someone or see someone who is not interested in what I have to say. I almost want to force them to be interested because I know without a doubt that the message I have for them can bring them happiness if they are willing to listen and get to know Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. When they tell me they're uninterested or don't care I almost want to weep for them because they have no idea what they're missing. But once I gather my senses I feel a sense of relief because I realize they will have another chance. Heavenly Father loves His children enough to give us each multiple chances at salvation. It's just so incredible to me.

I hope everyone is having a good week, because I am. The Lord loves us all, and He wants you to find that out for yourselves. I highly recommend it, it makes life a lot better. Goodbye now!


"The past, present and future walk into a bar. It was tense."

"If at first you don't succeed, try again. If you fail again, try again."


2 Nephi 24:16-17 - We'll see Satan one day and wonder how he could've done so much damage to the world

2 Nephi 25:29 - How should we lead our lives?

2 Nephi 28:28 - Have a strong foundation or else you will fall. What should your foundation be upon? Helaman 5:12
2 Nephi 4:17-19 - Even Prophets are imperfect  

Keep on Truckin

-Elder West

A Car :)

Enjoying the Snow

Thursday, January 21, 2016

21 January 2016

Dear All,

This week was full of ups and downs, but hey, I had one companion for the whole week, so that's a big positive! Well, I hit my two-month mark as a missionary on Monday! I feel like I've been a missionary for a long time, but I also feel like I'm new, especially when I realize that I got to the MTC only 9 short weeks ago. It's crazy how much being a missionary changes my perspective on life in general. Something that I've truly come to realize is that, "You determine your own happiness." That's something President Burgess said in the MTC. It's so true too. Yes, there are outside factors that can affect your mood, but honestly, you can decide whether or not that will affect your happiness. I used to wonder about the idea of controlling your mood, but I've seen people with seemingly nothing going well in their lives, and they're still happy. Honestly, I've seen many people who own nothing but the clothes on their back, and those clothes aren't even enough to keep them warm! But guess what, they're still happy. These people are homeless, and their families disowned them, and they have no friends, but they're still optimistic. If people like that can be happy, what should be able to stop me from being happy? My challenges throughout the day might be that I'm tired and cold and hungry, and maybe our appointments fell through. A lot of other people's challenges - right in my zip code - include not having a home, not having food for the day, people mocking them, having no place to sleep, or not having enough clothing for the weather. How can I be unhappy when I am so blessed; have I forgotten why I'm here? Things like that help me remember to be happy and not to complain.

I'm really learning how to live within a budget, which is certainly a useful life skill. I was able to live off of $20 in meals last week. It really helps me appreciate all the food my parents would buy me at home. I keep a budget on my iPad and I generally spend around $3.25 on meals a day. Oh my gosh, I would spend about $5 for one meal at Taco Bell! I can't afford to do that now; that's more than my food all day! Just a funny thought I had this week.

New Yorkers really like to perform on the subway trains or in the subway on the way to the trains. I saw a guy performing while playing at least 9 instruments. I'll attach a picture.
I also saw some other things on one train at the same time on Sunday this week. All of the things I saw are technically illegal, but most people here don't seem to care. There was a beggar, there are often beggars, who was just yelling a mixture of Spanish and English about her life story. I'm sure it was sad, but honestly I couldn't understand it. All I know is she walked by me and Elder Holloway and said, "Can you help? I'm trying to pay for a funeral". Something that kind of stinks is how many people are beggars, whether that be on the train or just on the streets. It's hard to see people struggling that much. Missionaries here aren't supposed to give them money. I think it's because the money we have isn't actually our money to spend, it's the Church's money and it's specifically for our food and other everyday items. At the same time this woman was yelling, there was a person who was so, so, so intoxicated on who-knows-what and was just yelling a conversation back and forth with himself. He was yelling and I think he was trying to be a man yelling and then a woman yelling back. He honestly looked and sounded like he was possessed. Normally I would think that kind of thing was funny because of how weird it is, but I just felt bad in that train. To add to that, there was also a British guy with a little bird, which was tied up by a string and attached to his neck. It would just rest on his head and every now and then it would try to fly away, but it would only go about a foot because of the string. While his bird was flying he was arguing with an older woman about some random stuff. That was a very strange train.

I've taken it upon myself to read the Book of Mormon in 100 days. It was a challenge issued out to the missionaries here before me, but someone had the schedule to do it, and so I decided to do it myself. I've noticed that the Book of Mormon has so much awesome stuff in it. I think most people already know that, but seriously, it has the answer to everything ever. My Book of Mormon is all marked up with notes and stuff because I receive so much revelation as I read. I know that this is possible for everyone that wants it. I invite all of you to read the Book of Mormon everyday and have an open heart as you do so. Think of a question you want an answer to, and you will find it. Don't just underline stuff and write down what it says, write down what you feel. Those feelings are almost always inspired from the Holy Ghost, who is God's messenger.

We were walking home from a meeting and passed two college age guys. We heard something hit the sidewalk and noticed that one of them dropped a prescription medicine container full of, you guessed it, marijuana. So Elder Holloway and I just kept walking by. We wondered if they would come back to pick it up but they didn't even notice they dropped it. It just sat there on the sidewalk. Until eventually some guy walked by it and then turned around to see if someone nearby was watching, or maybe to see if the person who dropped it was there. So he just picked it up, put it in his pocket, and walked away. Just another Bronx moment.
Oh my gosh, milk here is $4 a gallon, and that's cheap! I'm so not used to milk being that much. Speaking of food, we had an awesome experience while doing weekly planning at the chapel this week. Elder Bell came by and let us know that the party on the fourth floor could use some help cleaning up. So we said, "Yeah, we can take a break." We went over to the room, and there were still people there, eating at this party-ish thing. So we started walking back to our floor but a woman stopped us and was like, "Where y'all going? Eat the food!" We're like, "Oh no, we're not part of that ward. We just came to help clean up because we thought it was over." Her response was, "Okay then, go clean up a plate!" And so we did just that. You know I'm not one to turn down free food when I'm hungry.

We have some awesome investigators. One of them is name Jason Smith. He had promised to show up to Church on Sunday so I was really hoping to seem him there. He didn't show up at first to Priesthood and I was super sad because none of our investigators showed up...and then at like 11:15 He walked in! I was super happy and excited. He was participating and everything, he even stayed for all three hours! So we've been trying to set up appointments for him but he said he's too busy this week and will next week, so I'm excited to meet with him again! Jason is homeless and doesn't have many friends, he actually missed two of his meals on Sunday because of Church, which stunk a lot. So I'm hoping he can continue to come to Church so that he will stay on track for baptism.
Sacrament is really awesome because during songs, everyone is signing, but I sing and sign together. I'm like a soloist who no one hears, since they're deaf of course. The deaf people here are so unique and individual. There is no normality. In fact, two members who use ASL have cerebral palsy, which can make it really hard to understand them. But they're so awesome; all of the members are awesome in their own ways. But one thing that kind of stinks is that gossip is really big in deaf culture, so there's lots of gossip about members and missionaries too. So that's something we try to get rid of. But during meetings the members all participate and are super in-tune with the Spirit. The meetings are so spiritual, or at least when they stay on topic.

You know, people in Oregon use their car horns when they're angry. People in New York use them when they're angry, when they want to get someone's attention, when they want you to get in their car, when they want to say "Hi," when they want to say "Bye", when they're frustrated, when the bus cuts them off, when the police cut them off, just generally when they want to, and when pedestrians cross the crosswalk. It's like a symphony. The city sounds like a mixture of police sirens, fire engines, ambulances, car horns, yelling, people advertising for companies, bands trying to get noticed, and preachers. Oh my gosh, preachers, especially in Hunts Point and Harlem. Actually, recently in Harlem we saw two guys riding motorcycles doing wheelies and having all sorts of fun. So much fun that the street wasn't enough for them. They decided to just ride right onto the sidewalk past Elder Holloway and me. They then proceeded to ride by some guy who held out his hand and they gave him a "high five" as they drove by. I'm sure it was a high five full of drugs. Another New York moment.

It turns out that my first day was special, since I was the only missionary to arrive on that day - it has something to do with the fact that ASL missionaries don't follow each mission's individual transfer schedule. Instead, ASL missionaries come into their mission partway through the transfer. Normally all the new missionaries come to this mission on the last Tuesday before transfers and spend their first night in the mission home, rather than in their apartment. They don't do missionary work on their first day, instead they have study periods and other random stuff. Then on their second day they do a training with all the other new missionaries. The training includes the handing out of iPads and medical cards and some "welcome to the field" kind of stuff. But I came in on a Tuesday in the middle of the transfer, and I was alone. Because of that, I got special treatment, but I also missed the regular training stuff. So two weeks late, I got to witness some other missionaries on their second day, and I got to see this training meeting. Except for me it was two weeks late. Although, to be honest, I'm glad that my first and second days weren't like the regular ones. I got thrown right into the work on my first day. We did tracting in a project building, which was really hard and kinda tough at first, but it helped me get more used to the missionary work very quickly. Of course, I also greatly appreciated the Cheesecake Factory meal, especially because I didn't realize at the time that I would not be getting meals like that for a long time.

I was in a meeting with the new missionaries and their trainers. I was asked to attend since I've only been here for about two weeks, but most of the people had only been there for 2 days. Something I've realized is that the MTC truly prepared my testimony for the field, but the field is very different than the MTC. What I've learned so far in the field really boils down to something very simple. I do not get to choose who deserves, or is ready, to receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ. My job is to open my mouth. Here, I'm starting to learn how to see people through the eyes of Jesus Christ. When I allow myself to do this, I feel a love for them. It's a love that I can't describe, and one so much stronger than I have ever seen or felt. I'm not gonna pretend like I'm good about opening my mouth to everyone, because I'm not. To be honest, I think I expect people to just ignore me or say something rude back, and they do sometimes. But when I say, "Have a good one," or "How are you?" or something else to each person I walk by, about half of them respond with, "You too" or "God bless" or some other happy response. Sometimes they'll even say that made their day, or want to keep talking with us. It's always a pleasure, and as I continue to talk to everyone, I'm happier.

During that meeting, President Smith asked me to share my experience with Evelin R., which I believe I wrote about in last week's letter. It's the one where I went to see a less active member and ran into his mom instead, and we challenged her to baptism and all that great stuff.  As I was telling it, I realized how truly blessed I was to be able to be an instrument in Heavenly Father's work. On my third day, I was able to participate in the answering to someone's prayer. And honestly, I was able to participate in physically healing another person: she said that all her pain was gone once she received the blessing! Truly a miracle. I know that as we are faithful and obedient to our Heavenly Father's commandments we will be blessed and have much success. This applies to everyone, not just missionaries. Those commandments He has given us are for our benefit. People often think that they are limitations, and that we're "not allowed" to do stuff. But really, those commandments bring forth blessings and make us happier. I hope everyone reading this can agree with me on that. Keep being great: all you at home, or serving missions, or wherever you may be!

"Make every moment count."
"Miracles happen every day."

1 Nephi 16:2 - the wicked take the truth to be hard
2 Nephi 1:15 - encircled in His love
2 Nephi 2:6 - redemption comes through the Messiah
2 Nephi 4:28 - don't dwell on your sins
Romans 1:16 - I am not ashamed of the Gospel
2 Nephi 9:34 - you don't want to be a liar.

Keep on truckin

-Elder West

One-man Band on the subway platform

My Zone

King of the Subway (above)

We decided not to knock on this door.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

14 January 2016

One Week, Three Trainers

Dear All,

My mom sent me this in a letter and it really touched me, helped me remember how blessed I am to be in an area like I am. The first excerpt is from a song called, "Ye Elders of Israel".
"We'll go to the poor, like our Captain of old,
And visit the weary, the hungry, and cold;
We'll cheer up their hearts with the news that he bore
And point them to Zion and life evermore

You may or may not remember me telling you that traditionally the gospel has been more readily accepted by lower-income populations than by the wealthy.  I brought this up when we heard that you would probably spend most of your time in Manhattan, hoping that this information would prevent you from feeling discouraged if you didn't find many interested people among those in a higher income bracket.  It looks like that won't be much of an issue in your first area.  Instead, you find yourself among those described in the third verse of the hymn: the poor, weary, hungry, and cold.  If you see these souls through the eyes of the Savior, I think you'll realize just how blessed you are to be able to serve the people in this area."

This certainly applies to The Bronx, NY. This place is by far the most ghetto place I've ever been. The more I think about it the more I realize that because of the poverty here, these people need the Gospel so much more. And to be honest, I've gone to Manhattan like once and the people there are white. I know that sounds dumb but I'm so used to being with Jamaicans and Costa Ricans and Black people that white people seem strange. The people here are so much more humble. They are generally a God-fearing people and pretty much all of them have said they believe in Jesus Christ. In fact, we met a lady, Delores, on a bus. She was like, "Y'all got pictures of Jesus?!" So we talked with her and she kept asking for more pictures. We gave her a Book of Mormon, a Because He Lives card, a picture of a temple, an ASL Jesus card, and the Restoration pamphlet. She was a legit crazy Jesus woman baptist lady. She kept on saying praise Jesus and then start singing Jesus songs. We asked for her phone number if she was interested in meeting with missionaries, she replied with, "I ain't got no phone, no one to call on (long pause). The only person I got to call on is Jesus!" Then she started signing again. That was an awesome experience, that kinda shows the contrast between the people in the Bronx vs those in Manhattan. These people are so much more ready for the Gospel. 

To start the week, my first trainer, Elder Bell, and I were walking home. I saw a young kid, probably about 10-12 taking part in a drug deal, so that was fun. 
Let me quickly explain the subject line. So because I'm new in New York, my companion is a trainer. Everyone 
gets a trainer for the first 12 weeks. My trainers name was Elder Bell. He informed me that the ASL program here has been having some troubles. Mainly just that companions weren't getting along. So on Saturday, one of the members of the other ASL companionship was really struggling and had an interview with President Smith. Elder Bell was asked to interpret for this deaf Elder so I went on splits with Elder Turner during the interview. Later that night we were informed that Elder Turner and I would actually be together for a special 48 hour split. 
This was all kinda strange and abnormal but we just kinda had to roll with it. Monday came around and it had been more than 48 hours so we were kinda confused. At about 9:30 that night we received a call from President Smith. Elder Turner would switch places with Elder Holloway, who was serving in Upstate - we always have one ASL missionary in the Upstate area. So in short, because of the other companionship a struggles, my trainer had to stop training me and become companions with a "problem missionary" and that missionary's companion had to be moved to upstate to switch with that Elder who would then become my trainer, who is Elder Holloway.

Now on Tuesday we had a great thing come to pass. Elder Bell and I were at a lesson with an investigator, Roopie. We were teaching him and he pulled out his video phone. A video phone, VP, is like Skype. It's just how deaf people call each other, instead of a regular ringing phone it's a flashing light and a camera usually hooked up to a TV. Anyway, Roopie had a ton of contacts. So we asked if we could look through those contacts with the intention of writing down a ton of phone numbers to do some contacting. Elder Bell scrolled through the contacts while I sat there recording all the names with my iPad. In essence, we received about 70 referrals that we will be contacting within the next month or so. And we only actually got about 1/4 of all his contacts.

You know, it sometimes stinks that I don't listen to music like I did before, but it doesn't matter when people are always riding their bikes with giant boomboxes attached to some part of their bike, or wheelchair I might add. I think I've seem more bikes/wheelchairs/mopeds with a ghetto speaker system, than I've seen those without speakers. So even though I'm not supposed to listen to most of the music I listed to before, I hear it from other people's vehicles. And let me add that most of the music is actually profane and certainly not consecrated. Some might even call it apostate. But the hardcore rap I hear generally matches the setting I'm in, whether that be a graffiti filled alleyway, or the subway. 

Elder Bell and I Went over to check up on Roberto (Less Active) and he wasn't home, his Mom: Evelin answered the door and she was clearly interested in religion. She said she prayed for someone to show up right before we came to the door. She's been having health problems and just problems with life in general. She explained some pretty profound experiences, she said that she died in a surgery and was walkijg with people in white. I gave her a restoration pamphlet and she pointed to a picture of Moses and said that's him, except he was in white. We pretty much taught the first lesson and then Elder Bell offered to give her a blessing. I anointed her and he blessed. He then committed her to baptism and we're gonna refer her to the Spanish missionaries. That experience just showed how important it is to be in the right place at the right time. Elder Bell and I weren't really doing anything special, we just went where we felt inspired to go and boom, baptism. The Lord has a plan that we do not know. 

A couple more fun New York moments; We were walking home from Harlem on night and passed by a man who appeared to be intoxicated on a lot of drugs and drunk and dancing all at the same time. I believe he was trying to be one of those long tube people things that blow I'm the wind, usually for car advertisements? I hope that paints the picture well. Also he wasn't like interacting with people he was just kinda doing his own thing. Second moment now. There was a mini mariachi band that started playing on the subway, that was fun. Third moment. There was this sweet drum line playing in the subway one day. I'll send videos of the drum line and mariachi band.

We had Elder Holland come to speak to our mission on Saturday. He was awesome, and he walked around communicating with us as he spoke, it was more like a lesson from a college professor. He got super emotionally into it too, he legit grabbed one of the Assistants and shook him as a demonstration. I got to interpret a little bit of it too. 

Elder Tabor (One of the English Elders in my apartment) said two funny things this week. The first was that he was talking with one of my companions who is going home soon. He asked him, "Are you ready for the land of eternal P-days?" I doubt very many of you will find it funny, but I did. The second thing happened as we were walking to a subway stop for the meeting with Elder Holland. Some guy came out of a hookah shop and saw us walking and was like, "Mormons, huh?" Elder Tabor was like, "ya man you want a Book of Mormon? They're free." Other guy: "They're free?" Elder Tabor, "Ya man we got stacks on deck!" Elder Tabor proceeded to go full Ebonics with this guy, it was awesome. Elder Tabor became African American for a few minutes.

Something else that seems to be a fun New Yorker thing is having loud arguments in public. These arguments tend to include many threats from all parties involved, generally with curse words. I mentioned that to Elder Turner and he replied with, "Ya people are so used to public that public becomes private." I thought that was funny too.

A couple of miracles this week, of course many people would just seem them as coincidence. Winston Smith (One of our investigators) wasn't home so we were gonna go do a lookup but then we just happened to run into him at the bottom of the stairs. He's been worrying me because we haven't been able to contact him in quite a while. Very glad Heavenly Father put him in our path. Even better, we just happened to run into Jason Smith on our way to Matt Harris. He flagged us down and we chatted a little bit. He's also been worrying me because it seemed like he was dodging us. He seemed like he was still interested. These were both tender mercies to me from the Lord, especially Jason because I really like him and I committed him to baptism last week. He's super ready and he seems super interested. I just know how much happier he'll be as he comes closer to Christ. 

I want to end with one quick thing. We are all so blessed to have been born after Jesus Christ performed the Atonement. Can you imagine how different your life would be without it? We would all be wrecked. I'm pretty sure I've already said something like this before but it can never hurt to say it again. Remember, we have been given the gift of the Atonement, use its power to the fullest. 

1 Nephi 3:5 - Commandments are from God, not men
1 Nephi 8:12 - Once we are involved with the Gospel, we will want to share it
D&C 63:10 - Signs come from our faith, not from our will
James 1:3 - Trials of faith work patience
James 2:18 - Show your faith by your works

"Sometimes we need to be patient with God"
"Jesus Christ is our only way to hope and joy"
"It is frustrating, but we do the best we can"
"The Lord qualifies those whom He calls"
"Yes, it is very hard. But it is worth it"
"Keep trying, and never lose hope"

Keep on trucking everyone.

-Elder West