Dear Mom, Dad, Eric, Belle, and the other
Thank you for writing such a detailed report on your happenings in Arizona. I sure miss it down there. I can't wait until I can see Jordan, Katie, Denise, Norman, Ray, Lori, Austin, Trace, Savannah, Jake, Holli, Grandpa, Grandma, and everyone else again. I love them all so much and miss them incredibly so. I hope and pray that they are all doing well and are successful.
This week I've really been trying to focus on Joy in the work. I love working hard and doing my best, but I feel that sometimes I get so caught up in working hard that I lose sight of the actual purpose of the work and the joy found therein. This week I had the privilege of going on two exchanges. One with my Zone Leader: Elder Allen, and the other with Elder Erickson. Both exchanges had the focus of finding the Joy of missionary work. Elder Allen and I had a spiritually rewarding and physically demanding exchange:
As we stepped off of the Subway into my area, we realized that he did not have the bike key to my companion's bike who was now miles away in the Zone Leaders' area. Because we had a lesson in only ten or so minutes from that time, we weighed the options and decided that the lesson was likely the most pressing matter. In response, Elder Allen and I decided to run to it. I'm not entirely sure how far it was and I want to avoid exaggeration wherever possible, but it felt far and it felt farther in church shoes and a tie. Elder Allen carried his pack like a football as he ran and I luckily had a strap on mine to sling it over my shoulder. We made it to the lesson without being too late, drenched in sweat and very tired. The lesson, however, was great (we watched the Prodigal Son and told this less active how important he was in the eyes of the Lord). After that we walked back and got ,my bike and walked that to the apartment where we grabbed an older bike for him to ride, at which point we rode out into our secondary area (the furthest part of one's area) and had a lesson. Unfortunately (and fortunately I suppose), because Elder Allen had forgotten to give his companion the key to their apartment, we had to travel to their area at nine o'clock at night and didn't get there till almost ten. We had to sleep over which was kind of fun, but also inconvenient for the following day and for the exchange itself. Because there was so much walking and Subway travel time involved, we had a long opportunity to discuss joy in the work and not comparing missionaries, and giving everyone a chance to hear the gospel. I felt like it was one of my most spiritually rewarding exchanges.
The next exchange was actually a Zone Scramble. The stars somehow aligned and Elder Erickson (my best missionary friend from when I was being trained in Shalu but who recently moved into the Zone) and I got matched up. We worked so hard and got so much done, but had loads of fun all along the way. It was similar to if Elder Jensen or Elder Taylor and I got matched up for a day to do missionary work. We had a blast in the work we did. It was definitely one of my most fun exchanges if not the most fun exchange. Elder Erickson is a phenomenal missionary who knows how to find joy in the work, but works incredibly hard. I adore his example. I imagine that you'll all get to meet him at some point, because unlike Elder Haag (my trainer and other missionary best friend) he lives in Alpine, Utah and not California). That being said, I imagine that both of these outstanding missionaries will be at my homecoming someday.
As these exchanges commenced and I conducted personal study this morning, I began to realize how much joy I was already having in the work and how joy comes not from just being hard working, but counting your blessings and pondering on the great moments. I counted some of my blessings this morning and felt great afterward. It was like a sudden cure to my problems in a way, I felt that good. I plan to do it for a couple of moments each day, writing down those blessings in my planner. I encourage you all to do the same! What a great feeling knowing that the Lord is watching out for you and recognizing it!
Also, last Monday we had a pizza party with the other Elders and their investigator (the pizzas being provided by the incredible Brother Good, an outstanding man to say the very least. This man's goodness is seriously beyond me). We watched the Testaments in Chinese and had a great time eating extra cheesy pepperoni pizza.
Yesterday, the man we baptized a week ago was confirmed. I don't say this to be prideful in anyway, but to share a story with you. After his confirmation and his partaking of the sacrament, I noticed (as I was sitting next to him) that he was praying very intently. As he continued to pray, silent tears streamed down his face. I have no idea what he was feeling or experiences at that time because he never made mention of it to me later, but I know that he was feeling the spirit and the power and comfort that true repentance brings. In that moment he was entirely clean. Later that day, I saw him pay his tithing and ask me, "can thirty and forty year old's still serve missions?" He unfortunately is 32 (as of today), but he's a wonderful man who has become a disciple of Christ. I have very, very, high hopes for this man's success as a member of this church.
Oh yes, and on Thursday, I had a full body scan (sort of) with this strange device that a member had. I just grasped this rod attached to a very expensive looking machine and place it over my heart and input some other information like height and weight and such. It checks many of your vitals and other things. Granted, I haven't a clue at the accuracy of this machine, but it tells you if you are overweight, your vitals, low or high in certain vitamins and minerals, bone health, skin health, etc. Except for my skin, I'm really, really, healthy. I'm far from overweight, and my bones are stronger than every other missionary he's seen (according to him it's because missionaries drink too much milk and I don't drink as much so my bones are better. You would think it would be the opposite, but apparently there's a lot of new research about milk intake and the impact on bone structure. He said there's a video by the son of the founder of 31 Flavors ice-cream. It's apparently free online so you should check it out). Like I said, the accuracy of this machine is sketchy, but it seems as though I'm healthy. The man who did this actually bought us dinner as well that night. He's a great member who loves the missionaries. He wants to do something next week on preparation day as well, so I hope that works out and I'll keep you all updated as time goes on.
I don't know if all of my stories and things seem boring or not, but that's a basic summary of what's happened here in the previous week. I love my mission. I love the gospel. I know that my Savior is alive today and through His holy atonement we can return to live with Him and our Heavenly Father again.
I'm sorry that the trip to Arizona was bittersweet. I wish I could have been there with you all, but right now I don't want to be anywhere else. You're the best family anyone could ever ask for. I love you and pray for you nightly. It's hard to hear things about Grandma and Grandpa and not be torn up inside knowing I can't do anything about it, but thank you for the updates. The bomb check sounds hilarious and the de-icing sounds incredibly cool, but my imagination is likely running wild on that one. I'm imagining quite the Star-Wars relation.
Love you all,