Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Letter #24

Dear family and friends,

This past week went pretty good! On Tuesday we had one of the assistants to the president on an exchange with us. That was a good experience, being able to learn some things from him. We were able to go to the far south of our area, which we rarely go down there just because of how far it is and it's a tiny little intersection of a town. But we do have a couple less-active families down there that we've been trying to see. Well, we were finally able to see one of them on Tuesday, and the dad was ECSTATIC to see us at the door! He was baptized less than two years ago but then they moved and haven't been to church since. We're hoping to be able to go down there more and visit with them. They have a teenage daughter who is apparently friends with the whole town, so we have some really good potential referrals and teaching opportunities there. That area has been explained to me as being completely meth-infested, but hey, the Lamanites got rid of the Gadianton robbers by teaching them the gospel, not putting them all in prison. So we're going to try the virtue of the good word of God, as Alma says.

I got into another bike accident on Wednesday. We were riding down the sidewalk, I took a curve too fast, and I went down on my side. I'm not hurt at all except a couple bruises, but my bike wasn't so good. The handlebars were way out of alignment and it bent the front wheel. So I couldn't ride by bike anywhere. I wasn't able to get it into the shop until Friday morning and I couldn't pick it up until Saturday morning. And being without the car this week, and not being able to get rides anywhere, we ended up walking to or cancelling all our appointments. 17 miles walked in 3 days. My dress shoes are not made for that. Huge blessing though! They were able to fix my wheel without having to replace it, which saved me a TON of money. I learned a lot from it too, about humility and gratitude. Not having my bike or a car for 3 days made me very grateful that I at least have a bike to get me places when we don't have the car!

So, I'm sure you're all wondering why the letter came on a Tuesday instead of a Monday. Well, yesterday we had a mission-wide conference over in Tampa with Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. It was such a great day! We woke up early, drove for a little over an hour to the Tampa Stake center, and spent pretty much all day there. We got home just in time for dinner and our evening appointments. It was an amazing experience to be there and hear his counsel and advice for missionaries. We gathered in the gym before the conference to take a picture with him. We were all set and ready to go, just waiting for him to come in. And as soon as he walked through the door, the Spirit just hit us all like a brick wall. I heard several of the other missionaries asking each other, "Did you feel that when he walked in the door?" And it stayed with us the whole conference. He talked a lot about how missionary work is different now than it used to be. We don't find people through going door to door anymore. There are so many people hiding the shadows and we just have to go and get them. But we also need the help of the members to find them. So he talked some about how to use the local members of the Church. Most of his time was spent though on what it is that we are to teach. He said that first and foremost, we teach and testify of Christ and the Atonement. Our purpose, yes, is to teach and baptize. BUT, just because we don't get those we teach into the waters of baptism does not mean we've failed them! We should seek first to build their faith in Christ. If they go from no faith to some faith we have helped them. If they already have faith, we seek to strengthen that faith unto repentance. He pointed out that most of the time, missionaries teach baptism too much and repentance too little. The Atonement is so central to everything we do, that if we don't help those we teach repent then baptism isn't going to do really anything for them. Elder Andersen also talked some about how we'll be getting a new mission president in July. President and Sister Summerhays will be going home, and coming in their place will be President and Sister Cusick. So he talked about how getting a new president is a wonderful thing, and the changes that come to the mission because of it will be good, so we need to go along with them.

I'm really excited for the upcoming week; it has a lot of potential to create some great results! Love you all and have a great week!

Elder Petersen

Monday, March 18, 2013

Letter #23 (& Pictures)

Dear family and friends,

It's been a fantastic week! I just don't even know where to begin. Well, let's start with the Clay family dropping us because they just got too busy. Which is a bummer, but it's still been good in spite of it. Now on to the good stuff.

We had an amazing lesson with Krystle this week! For the longest time it seems as if she's been searching for a "First Vision" experience to get her answers and wanting a perfect knowledge, not being willing to act on faith. Well, we talked with her about what answers from the Holy Ghost are like, and I read her the verse in D&C 6 about the Lord speaking peace to our minds, and what greater witness can we receive than that? And then I looked her straight in the eyes and said, "Krystle, I know that you know that it's true and that you've received an answer. And I know that because you didn't ask for us to say a prayer for you a couple weeks ago, you asked for a blessing. And no one would ask for a priesthood blessing unless they believed in the difference. Do you agree with me?" And she kinda looked down for a second. "Yeah, I guess." So we invited her to pay attention to those times that she feels the Spirit and work on recognizing the answers she gets.

Now on to the better stuff. The Palmer family is a less-active family in the ward. Bro Palmer is a truck driver and almost never home. Sis Palmer doesn't like going to church without him there, but they know they need to get back into things. They have a 9 year old son who is not baptized. When children of record turn 9 they become the responsibility of the missionaries to teach and baptize them, and they are counted as a convert. And he REALLY wants to get baptized! Which is awesome for us! And awesome for them! So now we're meeting with them once a week and teaching them the lessons. We're seeing them again this Thursday and are going to try and set up a date that he can get baptized on. And then the next step is to get Bro and Sis Palmer to the temple and have the family sealed :D

And the best stuff. We met with Laurie and her kids again on Saturday. It's very clear that she understands the importance of being baptized, but it seemed like she didn't fully understand the Restoration and the priesthood. She always talks about how she was baptized Catholic as a child, but she really wants her kids to be baptized. We had a great lesson with them on the Plan of Salvation, and then I asked her in she believed that the Book of Mormon was the word of God. Much to my surprise, she looked me straight in the face and said "Yes, I do." And went on to talk about how the idea of a prophet on the earth today makes perfect sense. Then Elder Ellis and I both bore our testimonies of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and of the Priesthood through Joseph Smith. And then, I saw something I have never seen before. I could see in Laurie's eyes the light bulb go on. And when I invited her to be baptized she said yes with no hesitation. She will be getting baptized on April 14th :D

I know this is God's work, and what a blessing and a privilege it is to be a part of it! I know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Savior and Redeemer of the world. He is no respecter of persons and loves every single person in the world, offering salvation freely to all those who will repent and believe on His name. His Atonement allows us to overcome our sins and weaknesses, moving from bad to good to better, eventually moving on to perfection in the eternities. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. You cannot read that book with an open mind and heart and not feel it's power and know that it's message is true.

May the Lord bless you and keep you.
Elder Petersen

 Me, Elder Willard and Elder Ellis right before Elder Willard left

Sushi that Elder Ellis and I made- DELICIOUS! :D

A bird pooped on my arm one morning

Monday, March 11, 2013

Letter #22

AHello everyone!

Real quick funny story. I got my first flat bike tire this week. And we were not at or near our apartment when it happened. And it was a hot sunny day.

This week has been much much better than the last few! It was the start of a new transfer, which gave Elder Ellis and I a chance to look over and tweak some things. We've decided to spend much more time working with and strengthening the members of the ward. Now the trick is actually getting into the homes of the members. They are more than happy to feed us, but sometimes don't realize that the purpose of feeding us dinner isn't to get us fed, but to get the missionaries working with the members and helping them share the gospel with their friends and loved ones. We've also decided that we're going to treat door-knocking as if it's not an option. We want to exhaust all other resources for finding and teaching before we go door-to-door. Yes, it keeps us busy. Yes, it's extremely ineffective. And we have a few members of the ward who have people that they think about sharing the gospel with, so we need to be there to help them do it. And the easiest way to do it is to make the Church and the gospel so much a part of our lives that there's no way that it won't be brought up in conversation. So we're really excited about the upcoming week.

We were able to meet with the Clays last week, and it was a really good lesson! We read Moroni 10 with them and they got a lot out of it. We asked Sister Clay, who is a member, what role the Book of Mormon has played in her life. Her response was that she's been inactive for so long that it really hasn't been a part of her life. Brother Clay, who is NOT a member immediately spoke up and said, "I disagree." And then went on to explain that even though she doesn't go to church or read the Book of Mormon, she still believes it's all true and it forms the foundation of her belief system. He is so awesome! He makes comments like that all the time, and the thought that goes through my mind every time he does is, "How are you not baptized yet?!" The family is doing really well, but hockey keeps them from coming to church and participating in activities. But the season should be winding down soon, which should help with that. They're getting baptized next month. But they don't know that yet :P They will tonight though.

Ernie is doing well. We're still reading the Book of Mormon with him, and he loves it! We're also re-teaching the lessons just as a refresher, since he's getting baptized in May! Here's to praying that I'm still here for that! We asked him when he gained a testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. I liked his response. He said that he knew that the Church was true before he even heard the name Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon. He randomly showed up at sacrament meeting one week and just knew that this was THE church, and then he tracked down the missionaries to find out more. So we talked about how we know true prophets by their fruit, and usually we know the tree before we taste the fruit. But in Ernie's case, he had tasted of the fruit, knew it was good, and then went to go find the tree that it came from.

Krystle and Edgard are doing good, as far as the gospel goes. They're having some real problems with their living situation and neighbors, and might move again. But we're praying they don't have to. Krystle still asks good questions, but doesn't really like the answers she gets sometimes. Still very resistant to change. She has been through so many missionaries, and almost every English missionary in the FTM at least knows her name and story, that it will be a party in the mission on the day that she gets baptized.

We've been working with the Pearson family a lot the past few weeks. They are less-active and in their 50's, no kids at home. He's a convert and she was raised in the Church. He smokes but at least comes to church 2 or 3 weeks out of the month. In the 4 months I've been here I've never seen her at church. They are a conundrum. They make me think of Elder Bednar's talk in the last General Conference, about testimony and conversion, and how he relates the parable of the 10 virgins: the lamp of testimony, the oil of conversion. It's not good enough just to know it's true. We have to be constantly living it and making it a part of our lives if we're going to be prepared to be received at the wedding feast. And we can't share our supply of conversion with anyone else. I would suggest that everyone read that talk when you have time this week. http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2012/10/converted-unto-the-lord?lang=eng

Thanks to everyone for the emails, letters, packages, prayers, love, and support! Missionary work and being away from home for 2 years is not an easy thing. And it's not meant to be easy. I'm so grateful to my Heavenly Father and to my Savior for allowing me this great opportunity to be apart of Their work, and for the experiences I'm having and the lessons I'm learning. You can do things your way if you want, but if you do it in the Lord's way it's so much easier and a lot fewer obstacles.

Have a wonderful week!

Elder Petersen

Monday, March 4, 2013

Letter #21

Dear family and friends,

Sorry it has been so long since I've written. It's been really rough the past few weeks and haven't really been in the mood to write letters. But yes, I'm still alive and breathing, so no need to worry :P

Transfer calls came this past Saturday morning. And I'll be staying another 6 weeks in Highlands. I'm kind of excited, kind of not. I've gotten to really know the area and come to love the people and will be sad when I need to go. But sometimes I feel like I need a fresh start in a new area to give me a boost. I have a feeling I'll be here for a while longer though. We'll see. If it's where the Lord has called me, I really shouldn't have any complaints and learn to do what I need to do where I'm at.

Like I said, the past few weeks have been hard. The work is moving forward, just at a painfully slow, almost imperceptible, speed. Colleen has almost entirely dropped us. She works at the courthouse, and a member works right next door so he occasionally will go in and check to see how she's doing. He told us yesterday that Colleen said she's been trying to avoid us lately.

We haven't seen the Clay family in a few weeks because they are so involved in hockey so Monday night is the only good time to see them during the week, but the past few Mondays have been busy with other stuff for them. Should be able to see them tonight, though.

Krystle is still being hard-headed. She says that she feels like she's done everything she can but still isn't getting an answer. Two Sundays ago was ward conference here in the Highlands ward. The stake president talked about what the scriptures mean by asking with real intent. Having real intent means that we will act based upon the answer we receive from God. It made me think of Krystle. She's not ready to give some stuff up yet, if ever, so she's not going to receive an answer until she's ready to change. Of course, it has also occurred to Elder Ellis and I that she's looking for a big miraculous answer, similar to the First Vision, and so God refuses to answer something that she already knows is true. Last Monday she called us in the morning, asking for a priesthood blessing. She didn't ask for us to say a prayer for her, she asked for a blessing of comfort to help her feel better. She understands the difference, and to some extent believes in the difference, which means she believes in the Restoration of the Priesthood. She may just not know it yet. We are seeing them tomorrow night and hope to have a good discussion with her about it.

Ernie is doing good. We've been reading the account of the war in Alma with him. He really enjoyed it, being ex-military, so he liked the battle tactics employed by the Nephites to regain their lost territory. He also really liked the story of the 2000 stripling warriors. He has such a strong desire to do what's right and be baptized, but he's still waiting on legal things to clear up, which won't be until the summer and the soonest, if not another year.

We got a phone call from a less active member of the ward last week. She has a 10-year-old son who said he wanted to get baptized. We were so stinking excited to meet them and start teaching them! Then the next day she called us back saying that he wasn't so sure about it, but that she'd try to keep talking to him. We're hoping to hear from her again this week and start meeting with them.

Several months back, the missionaries here were tracked down by a lady named Paula. She had moved here from Las Vegas and owns a home in Utah. Some very close friends of hers in Utah are members of the Church, and she loves the Mormon people. So she found the Elders here and started meeting with them. Then she went on an extended vacation and got back last month. She called us up and invited us over for dinner. Wow, she can cook really good! And it's all super healthy too. She has a hard time believing in a god, but believes that we all need to do good things. We've gone over there twice so far for dinner and have had very good lessons with her about who God is, that He's our Father, and how much He really does love each of us. She's Korean and doesn't know much of anything about Christianity, but enjoys learning. Her hold up is that she's worried that she can't learn it all before the end of her life, and she's almost 60. But she does pray and asks for understanding from God.

We got a hold of Laurie and her kids the other day, the ones who dropped us because the dad didn't want them to get baptized. They want to keep meeting with us and learning about the Church. So stoked! Even though it won't be any time soon, we can help them learn so that when they are old enough to make the decision on their own they will know what it is that they want to do.

Lately I've just been trying to look for the little miracles every day. We really haven't had a good solid investigator since Colleen was supposed to get baptized back in December. But I'm excited I get at least one more transfer here in Highlands. It seems like I've been trying to just survive the past couple of months. Last night, Elder Bednar spoke at the CES Fireside. He said that not shrinking is better than surviving. In other words, doing it in the Lord's way and in the Lord's time is better than just barreling through.

Thank you all for your letters, love, and encouragement. I know that this work is the work of God. I know that the Book of Mormon is true, and I love it so much. It truly teaches and testifies of Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Savior of the world. I am so grateful for His Atonement and the opportunity given to each of us every day to repent and strengthen our relationship with Christ and with our Father.

Have a wonderful week!

Elder Petersen