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

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