Wednesday, February 24, 2016

24 February 2016

Dear All,

This week was stupendous. 

To start, we have a semi-permanent solution to some of the issues in our program. Elder Bell, Elder Holloway and I are now a trio for at least a week longer. We don't know what will be the long-term solution at the moment, but something will likely be figured by the time transfers comes up.

We got a cigarette thrown at us on Tuesday. We also got offered a "reefer" by a guy we taught on the subway. He offered it to us twice, and he was so high on potenuse  (did you notice the attempt at wordplay?) when we were teaching him. He was pretty cool though. He also said he was on his way to 65th Street to panhandle, where he once made $3000 in one week and spent it all on, and I quote, "drugs and women". So he had some obvious personal problems, but still a good guy. The first/second New York moment of the week.

We went to teach a less-active member on Tuesday and check up on him again. This was the same member that Elder Bell and I visited on my third day in New York, the one we ended up committing his mom to baptism even though we didn't plan on even meeting her. So on our way up the elevator a man walked in with us and we started talking. We eventually realized he was going to the same floor as us. We then realized he lives in the same apartment as the less-active member. We taught him and he mentioned how he was thankful, and how he knew God had sent us to him to help him. He's been struggling a lot in life, like hardcore struggling. We taught him specifically about prayer and the Book of Mormon. It's so incredible that Elder Bell felt inspired to go to the member's house last time, and we committed Evelin, his mom, to baptism. Then we go on an ET (emergency transfer) together and Elder Bell feels inspired to go see how the member is doing again. Boom, we meet another person and I sorta committed him to baptism. He said that once he learns more he'll do it. Oh my goodness another miracle and it's just so legit how it happened in the exact same way! Every time that Heavenly Father inspired Elder Bell to go visit the less-active member it lead to meeting someone else in his apartment and teaching that person instead. 

Sometimes we think people aren't ready for the gospel, or for the missionaries, until they've gone to church and read the Book of Mormon and want to be baptized. This is a very false assumption. Something we learn as missionaries is how to relate the gospel to all people. If you get to know someone a little bit, there will be a part of their life that will truly relate to the gospel. I remember the few times when missionaries came to our house and would ask if we knew anyone who might want to know about the gospel. My thought was always, "Well let me think: which one of my friends is ready to be baptized?" And usually I'd have nothing for them. Here, I've quickly realized that a referral is someone who a member cares about and knows would benefit from the gospel. Just by being a good example to your friends they'll be a heck of a lot more ready to hear from missionaries. The Lord is preparing people to learn about the gospel, specifically the gospel principles missionaries are ordained to teach. This has been humbling as a missionary. Missionary efforts to find people are only so successful. Member referrals are far more successful and honestly, just generally more meaningful. I have absolutely loved teaching people with members: it's just super fun and far better than without. Honestly it strengthens their testimonies just by going out and doing missionary work; it strengthens ours too.

You know, Elder Bell and I have had so much success. We had similar amounts of success when we were companions at first too. Elder Holloway and I didn't have nearly this kind of success, but Elder Buckley and I did. I think it's a direct correlation to our motivation and obedience. Elder Holloway and I weren't quite as motivated, and to be quite honest, we didn't follow the schedule with exactness because he had issues that affected us. When I've been with Elder Bell, and when I've been with Elder Buckley, we've been much more obedient and way more motivated, therefore eliciting far greater results. I believe Heavenly Father is much more willing to help us because we're showing our desires by our actions, so He then allows us to have more success in helping others come unto Christ. Once we've done our part, He does His part. Heavenly Father is bound when we do what He asks. When we don't do what He asks, He is no longer bound.

We were on the subway and all of a sudden a guy asks me, "Hey white boy! How much was your jacket? Was it expensive?" My response was something about Jesus, trying to avoid the answer. In my head I said, "Well it definitely wasn't expensive so I wouldn't steal it if I were you." It made me a tiny bit nervous, but I was just amused that he called me by the name "white boy." Another thing -  we're standing on a different train and some Asian guy gets on with a massage chair hoping someone will want to pay him for a massage on the train. I've seen people playing all sorts of instruments, singing, begging, selling movies or headphones, you name it. But that was the first time I'd seen someone offer a massage on the train. Just another New York moment.

Random thought: I've had 5 different companions in 45 days, which is the most legit thing ever. I've averaged a new companionship every 8 days. Now that I've been with Elder Bell and Elder Holloway for 4 days, maybe it'll change in another four days... 

We were walking to the church in Harlem and we walked right past two people who were loudly preaching to the public. They were members of a particular religion that believes all white people are going to hell and that Jesus Christ is about vengeance rather than forgiveness. That's the first time I've seen people preaching to people that they need to hate others, especially when it relates to Jesus Christ, who we know is all about love. In John 13 and 15 Jesus teaches, "Love one another, as I have loved you." Jesus Christ loves everyone. He's made it possible for everyone to return to live with Him and our Heavenly Father. It's all based on charity, which is "the pure love of Christ." Paul describes charity as the greatest gift of all. "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity." Paul also taught, "Charity never faileth." This is something I've never understood: how can religions preach hate upon other people? You are not becoming a better person by learning to hate other people. The best way to become a better person is to become more like Christ. If you're learning to hate other people, then you're becoming less like Christ. 

You know, I fall asleep on buses and trains makes me feel like an old man. I would always kinda joke with my dad about how he could fall asleep anywhere or anytime. I never understood how he could fall asleep so easily. Now I think I might understand. When you're working all the time and don't really have time to relax or rest in general, you find time to rest, even if it's an accident. I'm just super tired all the time, so my body sometimes finds time on the buses or trains to sleep. I just start to doze off and the next thing I know, we've gotten to our stop and my companion has to wake me up. Now I don't do this often, but it has happened a couple times so far.

 I'm gonna end with two radically incredible miracles. Both of which happened when I was on a split with Elder Burrell, one of my zone leaders. This was another planned split, which I think is mainly so the newer missionaries can get to know their zone leaders.

So I was riding to Elder Burrel's apartment with him for a zone leader split and I had a thought, which was: "I'm going to find a deaf person when I'm with Elder Burrel." I wasn't sure when or where, but I had faith that we would. So I said a prayer and asked Heavenly Father to help us know how, when and where and lots of other stuff. We didn't run into any deaf people all the way past 5:00 pm, but I honestly wasn't discouraged. I was willing to accept that it may not be His will for us to find a deaf person, but I hoped that it was. So we ended up not being able to leave the apartment for a while because the bishop was talking to Elder Burrel forever. This turned out to be the reason for the miracle happening. Eventually we got out and when we got to the subway I was focused on our next lesson. (Just a side note: on each bus we rode I would sign a short sentence to myself hoping a deaf person would be on the bus and they would know that I knew ASL. Nothing came of it, except for me making myself look crazy.) So back to the subway. We were standing there waiting for the train and I don't remember why but I just turned around and noticed a young kid with two hearing aids. I was like, "Oh my goodness. This is gonna happen. Miracles on every split." So I told Elder Burrel to follow me and he just did it. The kid was with two older kids and he was walking away from us so he was never looking at me. I wasn't too sure how to approach him, and honestly, here in the Bronx there's no guarantee the kid will even know how to sign at all. I just started signing to Elder Burrel hoping that the kid would notice me. After about 3 seconds he looked at me and I stopped signing to Elder Burrel and started signing with the kid. It turns out, he's super educated and knew lots of ASL. He knew more ASL than most of the adults I've met so far. He also knows Spanish and English. Elder Burrel spoke Spanish with the older two kids, and so now he's gonna go talk with them and we ASL Elders are gonna talk with the deaf kid. It was such a legit miracle. Later that night I texted President Smith and asked if he had time to hear a miracle from Elder Burrell and me. He had time and he was so stoked about it. I've had so many miracles happen, and it's not because I'm this awesome person or something, but hopefully my faith and obedience play a role. It's amazing what God does for us when we show our willingness to obey and love Him.

The other one has to do with being in a lesson with Elder Burrel. We were teaching one of their investigators (in Spanish because they do Spanish proselyting) and I had previously hoped to be able to help in lessons even though I don't know Spanish. It was so incredible: I understood most of what was going on. Like I legit was able to contribute. I didn't just start speaking Spanish, but I would tell Elder Burrel what I wanted to say and he'd translate. The Spirit helped me understand what was going on, which was so super cool. The lesson went baller too. He was super educated and super willing to get baptized once he found out for himself that what we were teaching was true. Honestly I know almost no Spanish. I've been learning a little bit here, but still almost none. When they were speaking Spanish it's not like I knew each word and each sentence, but I knew almost exactly what they were talking about at all times. It was super awesome and incredibly crazy cool. I DON'T KNOW SPANISH, but the Spirit transcends different languages. The Holy Ghost allowed me to contribute in the lesson and simultaneously made the lesson flow super well. If it weren't for Elder Burrel's preparation and our worthiness and our obedience to the mission rules then I may not have understood anything and the lesson may have gone horribly wrong. I'm not saying that the reason the lesson went well was because I understood what was going on, but the understanding of what was going on was just an added bonus. It was so amazing. The Lord allows us to have miracles when we work hard for them and then show our appreciation for them by sharing and/or recording them.

That's all for the week. I hope everyone's still doing well.


"Have you ever vaulted a barrier with a banana and a water bottle in your pocket? Because I have."

"Maybe she likes big hoodies, I don't know."
"So, when can I get baptized?"
"Have you ever been in a district of three people? Because I have."
"Wait, is that man a member?   Yes he is. Does he even know what that means? It's up for debatable."

"I think the reason Apostles are the way they are is because they're so good at repenting."
"Have you ever looked in your 'murse' and seen an iPad, applesauce, and popcorn?"
"Because, whatever."
"My only question is; on a tandem bike, who holds the javelin to fend off the bears?"

John 13 - love
John 15 - more love
Alma 11:23 - O thou child of Hell, why tempt ye me?
Alma 11:40-41 - The Lord has redeemed us, but we will still be judged for our actions.
Alma 12:14 - We will not want to be in the presence of God if we are wicked.
Alma 12:35 - God will not allow the wicked to prevail
Alma 13:3 - We are pre-ordained for certain things.
Alma 3:19 - We bring condemnation upon ourselves.

Keep on Truckin

-Elder West

Daniel, his companions and and M. Harris

Homemade Pizza - West style
Look what was sleeping under the sink - RATS!!!

Taco Bell!

No comments:

Post a Comment