Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Best Year Ever

Happy Pioneer day!

Has this been the best week ever, or what??? I've hardly even had time to write an email. Sorry if it's not incredible as my week has been.

After dinner on Monday night, we went to go visit an investigator we had found the previous week. He was unavailable, but we walked around in the neighborhood, and found several other people in the area who were also interested in learning.

Tuesday we had exchanges with the Elders from out in Taft. Taft is a smaller town than Bakersfield, down south. It was fun to go on exchanges with Elder Allen again, since he was my first district leader (and thusly the first person I went on exchanges with.)
Wednesday was zone conference, which took up much of the day. It was about focusing on baptism, something we needed to refocus on. While it isn't about how many baptisms we get, it's important to teach investigators about it and set goals with them so they are motivated to make the changes necessary. They don't need to stop doing drugs or whatever before we teach them about baptism- they need to know about the Atonement and baptism so that they'll repent and stop doing those things. All those big commitments aren't boulders in the way of baptism- they're stepping stones that help build the faith to make covenants with God.

Thursday we planned and did service for a wonderful old lady in our ward. Well, she's actually not a member- her husband is, and he has severe dementia. He's in a hospice down in LA, so she spends a lot of time traveling, and appreciates our help with the yard. We're also teaching her to help her understand what her husband knew and how she can be with him after he is resurrected.

We had another exchange on Friday, this time with the zone leaders. I got to go with Elder Salveson, who came into the mission at the same time as me. It was actually super fun. I enjoy seeing how other missionaries have changed over the past year, as well as their different proselyting methods.

Saturday we ran around and did a million things. After finishing exchanges, we dropped off a book of Mormon in french to a foreign exchange student living here (sorry, I still don't speak french!) and attended a baptism. We're supposed to go to all the baptisms where Elder Tasi interviewed the person being baptized, so we went. The Spirit impressed upon me the reality of the covenant the young man was making- that it was performed by proper authority, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. What a wonderful blessing we have, of being in a church with the authority to bind on earth and in heaven!

OH MY GOODNESS SUNDAY. So we go visit this part-member family. The children are members, but the parents are not, and only the mom is interested. We were planning earlier in the day what to teach, and we were drawing a blank. She has some problems with doctrines, but has a hard time communicating them because she speaks mostly Mandarin. WE prayed, and still had no idea- not in the "oh no" way, but in a "go by the Spirit" way. Which is always kinda nice but also nerve-wracking. Anyway, we go, and it's instantly awkward. The mother and son are arguing (and have been pretty much for the past week.) We sit down and talk and ask questions for a little bit, then I pull out my scriptures and remember that I had a copy of the "Family" proclamation in them! I was nervous because I didn't want to feel like I was chastising them, but I really love this family, and when the Spirit says do... you go and do. So we talked, and a couple paragraphs in everyone was bawling. While not everything is worked out (it's not our job to be counselors after all) the young man's prayers were answered. "How did you know to talk about families?" I have no idea, besides that I was inspired by the Spirit. I can claim almost no credit, no more than a person starting a car- I didn't build the engine or make the key, only turned it. It's the natural thing to do if you want to go somewhere. We talked about the blessings of family prayer and scripture study, and encouraged them to spend time doing those things, because it has brought blessings into my life (SHOUT OUT to my awesome mother for emphasizing those things so heavily. I think I've had a solid testimony of family scripture study longer than anything else.)

Man, it's been a year now. Today, I don't really want it to end. It's not like we're incredibly successful and baptizing every week or anything. We're not. But it's just so good to wear the tag. It's so great to talk about the Gospel to people all day. I wish I could sit down and talk to everyone about how it can change their lives, but so many people don't want to listen. But God is merciful- like Jonah, he wouldn't send us here if there wasn't some soul to save.

Looking back over the past year, of course there are a lot of things I wish I'd done differently. But that's life! Out of so many things that could be construed as negative, the most important things, the ones I'll remember, are the times I've help lift my companions, strengthen the faith of members, and help people prepare for baptism. It's been a ride so far, nothing like I expected. I hope I can keep loving the mission so much. In another year I want to be able to say the thing, but with the fervor of someone who doesn't want to have to catch the plane home.

Thanks for supporting me. I know I say that every week, but your prayers, emails, and thoughts really do mean a lot.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Work work work

Hey everyone!

Off to a good start in Oaks! On Tuesday we went right to work, and had two really great lessons. One was with a guy who'd told the elders here before to come back, and seemed surprised we actually had, and the other one was with a part-member family where only the kids have joined the church. It was really cool to see this kind of thing on the first day in an area again.

Wednesday we did service for a lady whose husband is a member (he's sick and at a facility down in LA), then had a lesson with her. And it was an awesome lesson! We really got to the bottom of why she hadn't read the Book of Mormon and made plans for helping her do it.

Thursday was planning. I'd say that's enough said, but we were still busy, even on planning day. Sheesh. We had another lesson with the guy from Tuesday, and his friend sat in on it and liked it too! You never know who'll accept the gospel, y'know?

Friday my companion went to the temple for the departing temple trip, so I hung out with the zone leaders. And had to conduct district meeting. In a district I'd never been in before. Awkward. But it was still cool.

Saturday we worked real hard all day and didn't find anyone. The last street we tracted was real bad. When we sat down in the car, some other missionaries called us to give us a referral! We freaked out like, Yes! Our work turned out to be something! But the referral was actually not even in our area. Rude :P

The very last door we knocked on the whole week we found a family! We only talked to the dad so far, but we're headed back there tonight. They've got eight kids. Eight! It's like they're members already, haha.

I've been trying real hard this past week to tell people something about the church and to be persistent. While I don't want to harass anyone or anything, if they say no thanks or insist that they have a church, it's important that we as missionaries do a little more- we've got a unique message, unlike anything else in the world. A message that changes lives, lifts our vision, and leads us into all truth. I can't let people reject something so great without telling them a little about it.

It's crazy that I hit a year since I left home this week. It doesn't feel like it. Short year, sheesh. Everyone says the next year is shorter though, so I've gotta make sure I'm diligent! No regrets!

Thanks for all your support!
Elder Adams

In(to) the Leafy Treetops

Goodbye Olive Knolls! It's been a good couple of weeks, but alas! We're getting replaced by sisters! And I'll be headed off to Oaks ward in South Bakersfield (thus came the name of the email. shout out to my mom for singing that song.) My new companion will be Elder Tasi, from New Zealand. He's going home. This sounds familiar :P Oaks is a rich area. Like I thought this area was pretty affluent, but Oaks ward has a gated community within a gated community. Why??

The fourth of July was uneventful for us. Pretty much the same as every other day, except we had to come back to the apartment early. The US is a cool thing at least. Grateful for freedom.

It was so nice Wednesday morning. And by nice I mean it was like 95 degrees with a slight breeze. Even if it doesn't get that much hotter later in the day, somehow it still is more stifling at 3 than at 11. 

We did have an interesting experience that morning, actually. We were out tracting, and a guy answered the door. We explained who we were and why we were there, and he told us that he already had a relationship with Christ. I guess he did recognize we had something though, because he kept talking with us, then asked if he could pray with us for a friend of his. He'd been having a hard time, but was focused on helping his friend and asking for blessings for them! That's a little bit of true Christian living. He mentioned in his prayer his gratitude for God sending us to him when he was sorrowful and building his faith through a sign like us. Hopefully he'll listen another day, but today we were just there to tell him that God was mindful. I can't complain, especially with all the times the same has been done for me.

After we planned on Thursday, I started to pump up one of the tires on my bike, and as I took the pump off, the tube burst right at the bottom of the valve stem. So I need a new tube. On the bright side, it's the only one I've needed in six months, which is pretty good in my opinion for a stock tube from Target. Still a great way to start the workday though ;P

After district meeting we ran by the bike shop to get a new tube for my bike and to make sure it fit. Since they didn't have a normal one of the right size with an ordinary valve, they gave me a puncture-resistant one for cheaper. Bike shop people are some of the nicest people ever, seriously. Then we met lots more people who "weren't interested" or "had a church." How many churchs are there that all ya'll can already have one? Pretty sure there are too many people too fill the churches in this area, some of them must be lying ;P

I don't know what else to write about this week. I mean, we're being scattered to the four winds.

The Book of Mormon really is written for our day. I've always heard that and seen it at times, but it's become very evident this week. There was an article in the new Ensign by Elder Bednar about Zion's camp, and how one of our potential challenges is peace and prosperity. That happens more times than I can count in the Book of Mormon. More than any other sin, I feel like the ancient prophets warned against pride. The Nephites prospered and then grew prideful, which meant the Lord could no longer bless and protect them- they were slowly led away by a flaxen cord to destruction. While many of us have our own trials that help us be humble (believe me, I know!), it's still a potential danger. Never has it been so easy to retreat from the world into our own little bubbles, where we are seemingly free of obligation. Unfortunately, the peace and prosperity experienced by the Nephites could only be achieved by actively seeking out and ministering to the less-fortunate, and continually calling upon God to protect and help them to be humble. 

On the bright side, the many worldly comforts we enjoy enable us to do work on a magnitude never seen before! A single message shared on facebook by a teenage member may reach more people in the course of several hours than we do in a week. The ancient prophets knew that the churches they helped build up would eventually fall into apostasy, but they tried their best, their very very best anyway. They knew that besides the souls they could help save then, their experiences would help us, those living in this great and last dispensation, and that knowledge gave them great joy. I know the Book of Mormon was written to help us know our Redeemer, no matter our situation, and I am grateful for this wonderful church and our modern-day prophets and apostles that invite us to come unto Christ.

Thank you for your support!
Elder Adams

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

That Is My Happiness

Hey everyone!

The temple trip was this week, on wednesday. We got stuck in traffic on the way down, so we were pretty much the last missionaries there. We were lucky we got home in time. It was still an awesome experience though. I guess it was because I was more prepared this time and had been pondering on it more. This time it was incredible and I feel like I've learned a lot and gained a lot of spiritual strength. The House of the Lord truly is a house of learning, and I love to be there.

Otherwise it's been kind of a wacky week. We had exchanges with our zone leaders on Monday, which doesn't happen very often anymore. They wanted to though, so we did. We found a few awesome people. For other missionaries. I mean, I'm always glad to help people receive the Gospel, but I do wish they were in our ward boundaries sometimes. One of them was a Latino who was busy working on something. We gave him a one of the temple cards and said that our message helps strengthen families, and he told us "We need that." He knew immediately that he wanted the blessings for his family that the Gospel can bring, so we sent his information off to the missionaries in his area. I'm glad that we did our little part, and that the missionary I was with listened to the Spirit (we don't normally bug people who are working too much.)

On Sunday we had a lesson with a real interesting part-member family in our area. The lesson itself was good, but what was really great was that the husband's mother was there, and she's been a faithful member for a long time. She's had some really cool experiences recently, too. She moved out to El Paso to take care of her ailing mother, and told the Bishop there what her talents were and that she was willing to work, at least so that she wouldn't be bored. She has a PhD in Sociology and worked as a Psychologist for a long time, which was exactly what the stake there needed and was looking for. She was an answer to prayer. Later on, after being part of the program, they wanted to find someone to help military families who struggle with having a spouse out on deployment after deployment. She was once again uniquely suited for the job, having been the wife of a soldier when she was raising her family in that very same town. All her life she'd had experiences and opportunities that prepared her to be able to help and serve in that very way, and was willing to go wherever the Lord wanted her to go. I understand a little more what it means to be a "polished shaft in the quiver of the Almighty."

I got a bunch of letters from primary kids and their teacher from my home ward! Normally I wouldn't include that in the email, but I wanted to share something someone had wrote: "I've heard about some of your converts, and I bet you're on such a spiritual high!" I thought for a second about what information gets from me to most people, that maybe it's a little bit like facebook- all just the best bits of life and not a lot of the bad. But really, on a mission, it's only the best bits that matter. Troubles and trials aren't there to be complained about, they're there to be learned from. So yes! I'm on a "spiritual high", one could say, ever growing and learning.

I also heard of an experience of some other missionaries that provoked a lot of thought. I wasn't there, but I've seen a lot of similar things. They started talking to a man outside his house, and when they mentioned that the Gospel can bring happiness, he interrupted and said, pointing at the corvette in his driveway, "THAT is my happiness." We get caught up so much in things! I say we because I am not exempt from it. I'm really glad I have the parents I have, because I learned a lot of really valuable things that have helped me focus on what's important. Having the cleanest, most well-decorated, or biggest house aren't the most important (although cleanliness and nice decor they are great!), neither is having lots of recognition for your work (but working hard is important!) nor doing what you've always thought you wanted to do (whatever thou art, act well thy part!). Life is about doing the right thing, about following Christ and having joy with our families. I know I don't have a perfect knowledge of this all yet, but hopefully in the coming week I'll be able to help the Spirit touch someone's heart so that they can know at least the little that I have felt.

Thanks for being great friends and family!

Elder Adams

Fire and Brimstone

To quote Brigham Young about some of his mission in England: (his spelling, not mine)
“It would be a difficult task to give a description of the country from Birmingham to Woverhampton. I never saw any thing that comes so near the description of the Lake of fire & Brimstone Spoken of by the Revelator John as several miles of that country for it is one universal mass of coal pits & Iron mines & while thousands of human beings are under ground at work in the midst of fire, Brimston, sulpher, Gas & cole &c. the whole face of the earth & heavens air & horizon men, women, & houses, are filled & Coverd with the composition of fire, cinders, Gas, sut [soot], & smooke of their miserry & labours that assended up out of their piles, firnesses, & pitts from day to day & from year to year.”

It feels that hot.

It's so hot.

So so hot.

We're melting. Crazy story, it's so hot that the high schools around here canceled their sports practices, indoor and outdoor. It's so hot that a lawyer was saying he was kinda nervous about running a 5k in the heat, and during it he collapsed and died. Just some highlights from the Bakersfield news. People give us lots of water, no need to worry about us.

Anyway, it's actually been an alright week for us. We had interviews with President Layton, and he told us that we should head out right after we wake up in the morning, so that we can spend time working before it's so hot. He also said it because people here know it's hot, and they also tend to be outside more in the mornings and evenings. We took his counsel, and the next day started walking at 6:50. While we were out, a part-member family we know stopped us and asked us to come by to teach them that evening! We knew the husband (who's a member) is kinda wacky and has been inactive for a long time, but we went by and his wife was actually really interested! So we found a new investigator the first time we did it! Obedience to the counsel of our leaders definitely brings blessings.

We also had a chance to teach a less-active family. We jumped through some hoops arranging things so that we could bring along a member, but it worked out really well! It turns out that the member we brought and the husband of the family grew up in the same ward! Crazy coincidence. We couldn't have known that was going to happen. We were about done, and the husband mentioned having some medical issues, and we asked if he'd had a blessing. He told us he'd just been thinking of that. We gave him a blessing and it was so great. I think it helped him a lot, even if he's not healed right away.

We had exchanges on Friday! I got to go with Elder Hayes and Elder Rindlisbacher in a car. I haven't proselyted in a car for so long... We worked hard, but had a lot of nothing happen. Oh well :/

The next day we got up and helped someone move. With five missionaries it went pretty fast. Normally we try to avoid that on Saturday, but it was extenuating circumstances for the poor people we were helping. After exchanges ended, we had a couple appointments that were supposed to happen, but didn't end up happening. Which stinks. But c'est la vie, that's the way the missionary cookie crumbles.

Sunday was ordinary. Unfortunately none of our investigators (or anyone else we were working with) came to church. It's hard some weeks! Like I get it, 9 seems early, but some of our ancestors crossed oceans and mountains and fought in wars for the privilege of being able to come to church. At least try it :P

I've been thinking a lot about prayer this week. I studied some in the bible about the history of prayer, and what effect it had. It's not very detailed, but there's still a lot to learn. Especially from Genesis. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are known to have inherited the Celestial Kingdom, so I feel like their attitude of talking to God is a good thing to study and possibly emulate. And it really was talking! I guess most of us don't have such clear revelations that we can record them as the ancient patriarchs did, but we still do get answers to prayers. Sometimes it takes time, and sometimes our prayers have to change a little, but bit by bit we'll gain understanding and become more like Christ by talking to our Heavenly Father in His name.

Thank you for supporting your missionaries!
Elder Adams

Baking

Now I get it. I understand why it's called Bakersfield. I'm being baked. 111 degrees for three days in a row...

Tuesday morning we got to help a part-member family lay some sod in their backyard. It went really quickly, and while waiting for another load to arrive, we got to talk to their non-member daughter a little bit about prayer and about the Savior.

We had zone conference on Wednesday! It's called zone conference still, even though there were four zones there. All the missionaries in Bakersfield came, and we got to be instructed by president and Sister Layton as a whole, and by our zone leaders in smaller groups. We talked a lot about faith and finding. I really enjoyed talking about Caleb and Joshua in the book of Numbers, giving reports on what they found in the Promised Land. It's easy to feel sometimes that we are "as grasshoppers" to the people in our areas, and that no one will listen to us. But no missionary is called to preach and never be listened to at all. If we strive to have the Spirit and follow Christ fully, as Caleb did, we too can experience miracles.

Because of the zone conference about finding, we spent a lot of time that evening with our bishop and ward mission leader, talking about how we're going to organize work with the ward from now on. We also spent a lot of time planning for it on Thursday. When we asked President about some specifics, he told us (sort of unrelated to what we asked about) to share the First Vision with members, and have them think while we share about who they know who could use these blessings. We prepared ourselves to do it at the dinner that night, and while we were there, a non-member friend of their daughter came and joined us for dinner! We went ahead and shared what we'd planned (the first vision is part of the restoration after all) and I don't think I've ever felt the Spirit that strong at a dinner in my entire life. I don't know if that girl is going to be an investigator any time soon (her parents are VERY devout Catholics), but she definitely felt the Spirit too, and won't soon forget it. Miracles happen, even if they're not by the means we expect them to.

Friday was a long day. We spent a lot of time out in the hot sun, and hardly got to talk to anyone. It's hard here at times, it seems like no one lives in many houses here- they don't answer the door at any time of day, and don't seem to like being outside. But we're working hard to give them the chance to accept the Gospel. That's all we can do.

Saturday and Sunday were a lot like Friday. Oh well. Can't have an incredible week every week!

I've been out for almost 11 months now. Weird. Time goes by fast. Even if I've only been here for a couple baptisms, I feel that my mission is starting to have the intended effect. I'm not perfect by any means, but I do love the Savior, and it's a good feeling.

Hopefully I'll have more exciting news next week. But until then, thanks for your support!
Elder Adams

Monday, June 12, 2017

Bike Nonsense


Hey friends and family!

Not a super busy week this week. But that's okay! Life is not always meant to be busy. We just had to spend more time than I'd like fixing bike problems. After 5 months biking, I finally got a flat tire. Which took much longer to fix than it should have, because there were multiple holes.

We do have an investigator who is looking pretty good. Her son is a member of the church, and she's been taught before. She was raised Catholic, but admits she was never all that into it. We've had two lessons with her since I've been here, and I've been really impressed by her feelings towards the church and the Book of Mormon. When she reads, she reads a lot of it, because she likes it a lot, and she knows that what we teach makes her feel good. She's open to being baptized, but wants to understand more first. We'll be working on that, and on helping her make it out to church and make friends there!

We also got to go on exchanges this week. I was with Elder Parsons, our district leader. Still on bike :P It wasn't too bad though, I'm fairly used to it. Well, it wasn't bad until I bumped into his wheel at the end of the day. Now mine has a nice S shape in it. We borrowed a spoke wrench from a member, and have pulled it back into a (mostly) round shape, but now the spoke tension isn't even, and I'll probably just have to buy a new wheel eventually. Darn.

I was reading John 16 this week, and was struck by the verse about "joy no man taketh from you" in relation to the Apostles learning of Christ's resurrection. It reminds me of Moroni 9:25, where Mormon tells his son to not be sorrowful forever because of the sins of his brethren. These are some of the most fallen, vile sinners, who Mormon and his son have been working with for years to convince to repent, and Mormon says there's a reason to be joyful? That reason is Christ's Atonement and Resurrection. His role as Creator, Redeemer, and Friend. His part in the Plan of Salvation and in our individual lives. His prophets, in the past and the future. We are to be joyful because He loves us, loves us enough that we can be joint-heirs with Him, and that no person besides ourselves can take that from us. I'm so grateful to know that there is a purpose in life because of my Savior. I'm honored to be able to follow Him.

Thank you for your support!
Elder Adams