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

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