Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Letter #18

Hello All!

What a week it's been! Transfer calls came Saturday morning. Elder Willard will be going to Dade City, which is just south of Brooksville. It's a tiny little town with mostly old people, and the population drops way off come summer time because most of them are snowbirds. Elder Ellis and I are staying here in Highlands A together for at least one more transfer. It's weird to think that I've been in Highlands for 3 months already, and might be here for almost 8. President Summerhays called last week and hinted that I'll be training in the next few months, and unless I go somewhere else next transfer, I'll be staying here most likely to train. I really like this ward though. The people are really great, and they're starting to catch the spirit of missionary work. So it will be great to keep working with them and help them to bring others to the Savior.

A couple weeks ago, we tracted into Laurie and her 3 kids. They were all really excited to keep learning and go to church. We had a chapel tour with them on Friday, and Laurie said that she talked to her husband, who is super anti-organized religion, and he's not too happy about her and the kids doing this. He's okay with them going to church, but he said that the kids can't get baptized until they're 18 and can make the decision on their own. It was kind of a bummer, but I hope they still come to church. They didn't come this Sunday though. But I know that if they start coming and get involved, that the dad will see the benefit that it has for his family, and his heart will be softened.

We've been teaching a part-member family, the Clays, the past few weeks. We go over on Monday nights to teach them, since the whole family does hockey throughout the week and weekend. Monday is their only open night. The dad is not a member, and we think the two younger boys are not either. The mom and oldest daughter are though. We've had some really good discussions on the Atonement and repentance, and about reading the Book of Mormon. Brother Clay at first didn't seem interested in it for himself, but was okay with the kids learning. But he always stands in the doorway between the living room and kitchen to listen, and even joins the conversation sometimes to help the younger boys understand some things. It's pretty cool :)

These past couple weeks have been full of learning experiences for me. The scriptures just have so much in them to learn about, and I'm always learning about how I can be better at being a missionary, especially since I've been reading about Alma and the sons of Mosiah in the Book of Mormon, and about the ministry of the apostles in the New Testament. This week is going to be way good though!

We had a member take us out to lunch today and get us some gator tail. Very delicious! Tastes like chicken, but with the consistency of calamari. And it was served with some sort of honey mustard. Very good :)

Before I go for this week, I just want to say that I know that Heavenly Father answers our prayers. He's answered so many of mine in the past couple of months. He cares about each of us and wants us to be the best we can. He hasn't left us alone, and if we pray in faith, seeking after righteous desires, we will get answers.

Thank you for all of your love, support, and prayers.

Elder Petersen

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Letter #17

Hello family and friends!

This week has been MUCH better than last week was! We still haven't found a lot of new people to teach, and the ones we are teaching are kind of flaky and not ready to commit to anything. So we did spend a lot of time tracting. We actually spent the entire day Friday knocking on doors, from 10-4, only taking time for lunch. And you know what? We had a really good  time doing it. Elder Willard and I have had a complete paradigm shift. When we're out knocking doors, we aren't looking for people to teach the gospel to. We're looking to bless people's lives and help them feel the love of the Savior, and then offer the opportunity for them to learn more about how they can feel that stronger and more often in their lives. And it's such a wonderful experience and a great time! Even though we didn't find anyone that is a solid new investigator, I felt so fulfilled at the end of the day.

Thursday brought a big change to the Highlands A area! We have a third companion now, Elder Ellis. He was serving in Lake Wales, about an hour away, and his companion had to go home, so Elder Ellis got emergency-transferred to serve with Elder Willard and me. I was a little worried about serving in a trio again, but it's been really good so far, and we all get along great. Plus, it will only be until the end of this month when we will be in a new transfer and things will go back to normal.

I've been learning a lot in the scriptures this week! I'm loving my study of the New Testament and have been reading in Acts this past week. It's really neat to see how the apostles of old functioned in the ministry, and how much they stressed the proper authority and the right way of giving that authority to others. The Book of Mormon also talks about that, as Alma set up the Church in Zarahemla and ordained priests and elders by the laying on of hands. That's the biggest struggle with Ron and Darcy, because they're not really big into authority, but are willing to keep reading a meeting with us.

We're making a little progress with Colleen, just trying to help her read and understand the Book of Mormon. And Krystle is doing really well! We had a really good lesson with her about the Plan of Salvation. She said it doesn't make total sense yet, but she says she will take time to read and study what we give her because she really wants to understand for herself.

I love being a missionary, and am so grateful for this time I have in my life right now to help other people come unto Christ. Thank you all for your love, prayers, and support! Have a wonderful week!

Elder Petersen

Monday, January 7, 2013

Letter #16

Dear family and friends,

OOFTAH! This was a rough week. Nobody seemed to want to talk to us or let us into their homes. Christi told us that Mormonism isn't for her and that she's moving back to Alabama this weekend. Colleen still won't commit to a date (she had originally told us she wanted to get baptized last month). Krystle wants to learn more, but is still settling into their new place and it's been hard to get over there and teach them. So, we spent a lot of time going through the ward roster and visiting members whose names we didn't recognize. Not a whole lot of success there. I think that was actually the most depressing part, since we had a few people tell us that they didn't want to be affiliated with the Church anymore. We've also had a really hard time getting the members of the ward to work with us. Elder Willard and I have spent a lot of time the past several weeks tracting. It's not a very effective use of our time, and our teaching pool continues to get smaller. So we also spent some time this week coming up with ideas to get the ward excited about missionary work so we can help them fulfill their responsibility to share the Gospel with their family/friends who don't have it yet. So we've been passing around papers in church to get referrals. Not a whole lot of success with that yet, but as we keep doing it, people will get used to knowing it will be passed around and have someone to write down. We also want to do a series of firesides with the ward to get them excited about sharing the gospel and understanding their role in missionary work and how easy it is. If we really love our family and friends, then we will see they potential they have to become something so much better than what they are now, regardless of their station in life, and we won't be able to stop ourselves from introducing the gospel to them. When it comes down to it, there are two motivators in decision-making: love and fear. Why do people hold back from sharing what they love and know to be true? Because they're afraid of what might happen. They will either be interested in hearing more or they won't. But they are not going to be offended by an honest, loving attempt to share something that brings joy into your life.

Ok, so even with all of this not awesome stuff going on, we did have one kind of big miracle. It was the end of the day on Thursday. We had gotten into one other home earlier that day, and all of our plans for the night fell through. We were ready to call it quits for the day and go in early and get some stuff back at the apartment done and go to bed early. And then Elder Willard had the thought to go see Ron and Darcy, since it was after the holidays, which is when they told us to come back. So we went on over, and they seemed happy to see us and welcomed us right in. We had SUCH an amazing lesson with them. They read the Book of Mormon on their own! And so few people actually do that! And they had questions, GOOD questions! We talked a lot about the origins of the Book of Mormon, and some of the story line. They also asked some good questions about priesthood authority. Darcy told us that they love it when we come over because they never talked about religion at home before they met us, even though they went to church, and now they talk about it quite a bit. It was probably one of the best lessons I've had since I've been out. We're thinking that they will quickly become our top investigators, but setting a baptismal date with them probably won't fly just yet. They're totally the type of people that will let us know when they're ready though. Our next step with them is to do a tour of the church building and then have them attend service with us. So, Ron and Darcy were my highlight for the week :)

We also had a chat with a Pentecostal guy about the nature of God and speaking in tongues. That was interesting, trying to explain to him what we believe it means to speak in tongues and receiving the Holy Ghost. If anything, I learned the importance of the Book of Mormon in clarifying the seemingly contradictory nature of what is taught in the Bible. There are so many different ways to interpret the doctrines taught in the Bible, as is evidenced by the plethora of churches that line the streets and clutter the corners in the South that all teach from the same book but can't seem to agree on much. But when you have the Book of Mormon and the doctrines it teaches so clearly, the Bible makes so much sense and is so clear and there's nothing that contradicts anything else taught in the Bible.

I hope all of you have a wonderful week. Thank you for all the love and support. I have definitely felt the power of your prayers through the struggles of this week.

Elder Petersen

Letter #15

Hello! Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

This is one of those times I wish my mission language was something other than English so I could say all those things in a different language :P

Anyway. My holiday season has been fantastic! The holidays are definitely MUCH different as a missionary. It was nice though to not have to focus on the hustle and bustle and get stressed out with the festivities. The work never stopped for us, and we just kept visiting and teaching people, even with their busy schedules. I'm actually excited that the holidays are over, since we've had a few people postpone meeting with us until after the new year and their schedules return to normal. So our teaching pool should fill up quite a bit this week.

Colleen is being a little difficult. She was supposed to get baptized this last Saturday, but isn't ready to make some of the changes we've asked her to make. She's also not sure about the Book of Mormon, and didn't like how it seemed that we were replacing the Bible with it. So we had a really good lesson with her about how we use the Bible and the Book of Mormon to support each other and prove to the world that both are the word of God. We already know she believes the Bible and accept it as holy scripture. So we're helping her to do the same with the Book of Mormon. It made me realized how sometimes in the Church, we ignore the Bible, and sometimes don't use and teach from it enough. We don't just need the Book of Mormon, just like the rest of Christianity doesn't need just the Bible. We all need them both, and equally, to know and understand God's plan for His children and of the gospel of Jesus Christ more fully.

Harley is doing really well, and is willing to read the Book of Mormon to gain a testimony of it. She's been coming to church the past few weeks and is really enjoying it. Every time we ask her how she liked church that week, her response is always, "Well, I really liked it. I'm just learning so much that I never really knew before."
Whenever I'm able to see others grow and progress as they learn in the gospel, my testimony grows. I realize that they're learning so much is because they feel the Spirit (although they don't always recognize it as such), and He is able to help them understand truth so they can know for themselves.

Krystle is doing way awesome! When the missionaries first started meeting the Edgard, she wanted nothing to do with all of this. Now that they are married and Edgard is baptized, their family is so much happier. And Krystle is actually wanting to take the steps towards baptism! She straight up asked Elder Willard and me if we could review all the lessons for her so she could make sure she understands it all. She's unsure of some things, but wants to give it all a shot and see if it's worth if for her. I'm so excited for her!

For about a couple months now, I have been reading the Bible all the way through, something I've never done before. I started in Matthew, since I wanted to learn about the life of Christ and have it correlate with my reading of Jesus the Christ. I'm almost done with John, and am SO excited to read of the ministry of the Apostles! Our Sunday School teacher here gave a couple of good pointers for reading the Bible. He said to never read an epistle in the New Testament without first turning to the Bible Dictionary and reading about it to understand why it was written, and then it will make so much more sense. The second tip he gave was to read the prophets in the Old Testament with the understanding that they all have the same message: Israel is wicked, will get scattered, Christ will come to save them, and in the last days they will be gathered again to receive their Lord. So I'm also really excited to read the Old Testament (although I've heard that Exodus-Deuteronomy is like the driest literature known to mankind). But we'll see :P I'm most excited to read Isaiah. The Isaiah chapters in the Book of Mormon is what everybody just seems to plow through just to get through it. But I think it's my favorite part now. It's never been so obvious than in the past month or so to me that we are definitely living in the time that he prophesied of, and it's so exciting! So it'll be fun to study the rest of His writings in the Bible.

I hope you all have a wonderful week and a great New Years! Thank you for all the love, support, and prayers.

Elder Petersen