Wednesday, March 23, 2016

23 March 2016 - Chum Bucket

Dear All,

We had some pretty incredible lessons this week. One of them was on
Wednesday night and it was with Brother Chkheidze again: he's the guy
we met from Georgia. At that lesson we had the English missionaries
teach with us so that they could teach him from then on. The reason it
was so good was because he had legitimate questions and concerns. He
actually read the Book of Mormon and prayed and went to church and
everything! He also had a lot of really difficult concerns that we
honestly couldn't help with. It was cool to have a lesson with someone
who actually has the desire to learn more. He truly wanted to know if
this was the path he should take, and for that reason he tried to find
out for himself. I am yet to have an investigator who truly does these
things. I haven't met a deaf person who really understands these
things, and it's honestly because of the lack of education here. We
can't ask questions the way you would ask them in English. We can't
even do it the way I learned to do it in ASL at school or the MTC. We
have to just make a statement, describe it in extreme detail, and then
they will either confirm or deny the statement we just made. It's very
difficult. The other lesson that went really well was another pass-off
lesson with a man named Brother Tavarez. He is so prepared to learn
about the gospel. We will likely see him around too just because he
lives right near us.

Yesterday was an off day. It was a good day, but in the back of my
mind it just felt kinda off. I've reflected on that and tried to
figure out why, and I've come to a conclusion. Our morning studies
were non-existent. Even our personal study time was significantly
reduced because we went to go do service. Not only were studies
reduced, but for some reason mine just weren't successful. I didn't
really get much out of my reading for my investigators or for myself. I've
related this to life before my mission. I did not study my scriptures in
the mornings, or very much at all for that matter. I'm wondering how
much different my days could've been, had I feasted upon the words of
Christ each morning. Now that I've studied every morning consistently,
I've seen the difference it makes. I've also seen the difference it
makes if I don't study. So, my invitation for all of you is to study
the scriptures and the talks from modern-day prophets. It will make a
difference in your days, IF you do it willingly and for the right

We had a Zone study with interviews on Saturday. During one of the
trainings President Smith mentioned that Hailey Molina called
President Smith and Sister Smith and said that Thomas is coming to
this mission, Spanish speaking. As soon as he said that, I was going
crazy in my mind. And President could obviously tell because he asked
me if I knew him. My response was something like, "No way. I graduated
with him. He was in my seminary class many times and he was my doubles
partner in racquetball last year!" It was just so random and
completely out of the blue, but also so cool that he's coming here.

We were leaving Popeyes (it was my 4 month mark) and Elder Bell saw a
phone on the ground. He picked it up and eventually someone called it
and we were wanting to return it but we didn't know exactly where to
go. The person called and we let them know we could give it to them in
the next hour. It kinda threw off our schedule, which stunk, but Elder
Bell felt it was important to do this. I had kinda been thinking that
we should visit this one hearing investigator we met (Brother
Tavarez), but our schedule was too full to do so. Well, lo and behold
as we're on our way to give the girl her phone, we run into the
investigator that was on my mind. He said he had been really busy and
really wanted us to come over. He asked us to come over on Tuesday,
which we did, and it went super well. It was just so cool that we ran into
him on our way to giving this girl her phone. That was no coincidence.

We got bashed on by some guy on the subway on Monday. It was another
wonderful Harlem experience. We walked onto the train and then this
man got our attention. He said, "Excuse me, are you guys, uh, Mormons?
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints?" Of course we said
"Yes," then continued to chat with him. Rather, he chatted at us. He kept
on quoting Bible verses and asking leading questions. He was a member
of a certain faith here that believes God is all about vengeance
against white people. Anywho, his questions were cunning and always
leading to him wanting us to answer his questions a certain way. So
eventually I asked him, "What do you want us to say?" Many times
people from this faith have asked us questions trying to put us in
corners. It is often tempting to respond with verses we know will
prove their statements wrong. But then you're falling into the trap of
trying to prove someone wrong and prove that you're right. So anyways
he continued to talk to us like that and eventually Elder Bell asked,
"What is your intent in talking with us?" His response was, "I just
wanted to see if you are knowledgeable about the scriptures." He had
already made it clear that he did not accept that our religion had
credibility and that we were wrong. Essentially, the whole time was
him just wanting to prove his scriptural knowledge and trying to prove
us wrong. So the best option was to just walk away from him. And just
like that we got to our stop and he started quoting another scripture
to say that we were evil because we're white. I asked his name and
wished him a good day to which he laughed back. These kinds of
experiences often happen to us, especially in Harlem. I'm sitting
here, trying to imagine that situation from his perspective. I just
don't understand why people do that. I just wouldn't call someone over
to me and start bashing them for their religion, especially if I don't
know them. There's just nothing good that comes from doing something
like that.

We were walking to a subway station from a district meeting in Harlem
and walked past this guy singing by a store. He was singing random
stuff but it sounded like he was trying to get our attention. So I
looked at him and nodded along. Keep in mind, there are very few white
people in the areas we proselyte in, especially in Harlem. So he
smiled back at me he sings, "Look at the white guys." It was just a
funny thing to hear him say. That was a Harlem moment.

We were walking out of our apartment to see Grand Central Station this
afternoon when a lady said something to us. We didn't quite understand
what she said at first so we asked again. She said it again in a less
than nice way, "You guys are not in my world." It was pretty clear
that she was saying that she didn't like us because we were Mormon. It
was just a funny way of saying it. Elder Bell responded, "Oh. Okay."
And we kept walking and she said some jibberish as we passed her. Oh
how I love the Bronx.

I've realized a very basic principle in the last couple of weeks. The
best way to grow your testimony and your faith in Jesus Christ is
simply to share it. There is a particular Less Active that Elder Bell
and I have been visiting since I got here. In the beginning, she was
not welcoming to us at all. We continued to visit her because there
was an investigator literally 2 doors down from her. Her first few
visits generally consisted of her telling us that we're young and do
not understand. She made it clear that she was too busy to go to
church, and she clearly did not seem interested in meeting with us
either, based on her numerous excuses. So we thought about it and
decided not to invite her to church anymore and just to make it clear
that we were there to help her and that we cared; we weren't just
there to invite her to church. So as we continued to meet with her, she
very slowly became more open and willing to talk. We even brought her
along to the lessons with the investigator. She actually started to
not hate us, which was huge progress with her, compared to her past
meetings with missionaries. After a little while, we met her husband.
He's super cool but also had a ton of excuses for why he hadn't been
doing stuff, even though we didn't ask. Her husband was sometimes home
by the time we were there, but sometimes not home. We started taking
him to lessons when available, and he started opening up. On Monday,
the sister asked us some deep questions, (lots of which were personal
so I won't share them,) but the fact that she trusted us enough to do
so was incredible. We promised her that we would study hard and try to
help find the solution to her concerns. We showed one of the Bible
videos and she was clearly moved. It's so awesome how far these two
have come. Elder Bell and I feel that they actually like us and enjoy
our company as missionaries. She even asked us about doing temple work
for her family, and family history. Even her husband really likes us
now, and more importantly, he likes sharing his testimony and helping
us teach. He's always asking us - when we see him - if we're ready to
go teach that investigator. All of this progress came by being willing to
meet with us, and even better, from sharing their testimonies. I would
have to say the exact same thing for myself. My testimony has become
dramatically more solid. And it's all from teaching others, or sharing
my testimony with other people.

That's all for this week. It was one full of ups and downs.

"I just wish there was an outlet in the shower."
"What? Black LDS? I didn't know that was a thing."
"Missionaries? I didn't think y'all existed anymore."
"But don't take my word for it because I'm nuts."
"Someone, anyone, please respond."

Matthew 18:4 - Humility is great in the kingdom of Heaven.
James 4:10 - Humble ourselves and we'll be lifted up.
D&C 98:26 - If we're patient in our afflictions, then our reward will be great
Moroni 10:20 - Without faith, hope, and charity we cannot be saved
Helaman 15:13 - True knowledge is knowledge of the Redeemer.

Keep on Truckin

-Elder West

Zone Conference

Grand Central Station

Elder Easter Bunny Dan

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