Monday, April 29, 2013

Letter #28

Dear family and friends,

What a wonderful week in Venice! As a follow-up to my explanation of the demographics here, I heard this joke this week: "All the old people live in Sarasota. All of their parents live in Venice." And it's so true. The average, and yes, AVERAGE, age in this area is 65. And that's even with the couple of fairly good-sized high schools and all the elementary schools in the area. But I can see why old people retire down here. Since it's right on the coast there's always a nice breeze coming in from off the Gulf. So it keeps a little warmer in the winter, and a little cooler in the summer.

This week has been a week of miracles! The sister missionaries that were here before us had a good-sized teaching pool, but a lot of them dropped off right before we got here. I guess the sisters were really hard on them and were a little too in their faces. But we've got in contact with few of them and things are picking up. We met one of them last night, a lady by the name of Teri. She's older and really good friends with several people in the ward. Last night, we taught her the plan of salvation with her friends from the ward. After the lesson we were able to talk with just her a little bit. She didn't talk really at all during the lesson, so it was a good chance to see what she thought about it. She told us that she has met with a lot of missionaries, but that she has never felt from them what she felt from us as we taught. She said she knew what we taught was true and that it just made so much sense to her. She's a big coffee drinker and knows that she will have to give that up if she wants to get baptized. She also knows that it's a huge decision to make and doesn't quite feel ready to make it yet. But she did say that she will be seeing a lot more of us and seems to be excited to keep learning.

Another miracle this week. There is a lady in the ward, Norma, who got baptized a few years ago. She lives with her daughter, Dolli, who is not a member. When Norma joined the Church, Dolli was extremely hostile towards the missionaries. Over time she has become friendly with the Church, but never would really learn more. We went over Friday to help her do some painting on the outside of her house. She then was willing to have a lesson. We talked about the Restoration and the Book of Mormon. She for the first time accepted a copy of the BoM, and she even came to Relief Society with her mom, neither of which she had done before. We are going back over tomorrow.

The third biggest miracle that happened this week happened with a less-active sister in the ward. When E Leavitt and I first got here, we were told by several people in the ward to go and see her. We stopped by several times. No body ever came to the door. We called her and nobody answered. And then Saturday morning, we get a call from this sister. She said that her life has been a downwards spiral ever since she stopped going to church and that she knew she needed to make some changes, and that they were going to be some very big changes. She told us that she would definitely be at church the next day. And she was, and she stayed the whole time! She has a teenage son who is not a member that she really wants to introduce us to.

When we first got to Venice, the sister missionaries had left us a note saying the the Venice ward had been hurt by elders in the past and wasn't excited to get elders again. The experience that I've had so far has been quite the opposite! Every member of the ward was so excited to have elders again, particularly the men of the ward. There is an excitement for missionary work in the ward that has been missing for a very long time, and the members are starting to become more involved as they see the power and influence of the Spirit in proclaiming the gospel. They're really starting to "catch the wave" :) And as much as they have needed elders in this ward to get the work moving, I have seen just how mindful the Lord is of my own personal needs because of the things I've learned and the people I've met just in my short time here so far.

Have a great week! Love you all.
Elder Petersen

Monday, April 22, 2013

Letter #27 (Venice)

Dear family and friends,

I'm going to have to keep it pretty short this week. Here in Venice, we email at the public library, so I have very limited computer time.

Venice is a quaint little town full of rich old people who don't want to hear about Jesus. But, a few miles east, and still in our area, is a little town called North Port. A lot of young families live there and already a lot is happening for us out there. The ward here is small, but really great. They have a few members that are really focused on missionary work. Everyone in the ward WANTS to do missionary work, but so few of them feel confident in doing it. So, along with the sister missionaries that we share the ward with, we will be working really hard to strengthen the already active members and their testimonies.

Elder Leavitt and I are getting along really well. He's a SUPER hard worker and wears me out! But we're getting a lot done, and it's always a good tired at the end of the day :)

We're teaching a girl named Angela. She's young, in her 20s, married (he's not interested in the gospel), and has two little girls. She's a VERY active Catholic, but wants to learn more about the Church. We had a really good lesson with her on the Book of Mormon. We've only met with her once, but I'm sure some more exciting stuff will happen with her. I'll keep you updated as the weeks go on. There is a lot of work to do with the less-active members of the ward here, so that, along with strengthening the active members, is probably going to be our biggest focus.

I'm really excited to be here in Venice. The weather is awesome, although really humid, but getting used to it. And good food too :)

Love you all, my time is up :P

Elder Petersen

Monday, April 15, 2013

Letter #26

Dear family and friends,

Well, transfer calls came Saturday morning. Elder Ellis is being transferred to serve in the office. I will be transferred to Venice North. We are being replaced by sister missionaries. I'm really nervous to leave Highlands. I've been here for 5 1/2 months now. I absolutely love the people here. But sisters will be awesome for this area; they'll be able to get a lot of stuff done that we weren't able to, especially with as many single women live here. It ruined Krystle's week when I told her I was leaving. I'm really sad that I won't be able to see her get baptized. They recently implemented the rule that we can't go back to old areas for baptisms. But I'm also still so excited for her. She's made a lot of changes just in the past week so that she will be ready, and she's also learned a lot in such a short amount of time. She's been meeting with the missionaries for MONTHS but now since she actually wants to learn, she's learning so fast. And it's so awesome to see :)

Laurie isn't getting baptized anymore. I guess meeting with us took up too much of her time and was interfering with her routine. But, we did a lot to help her increase her faith in Christ, so I don't feel bad about her dropping, even though it was sad to see.

So yeah, even though I'm sad to leave Highlands, I'm excited to go to Venice. I'm whitewashing with Elder Leavitt. Whitewashing means that both of us are new to the area. So it's going to be hard and crazy ridiculous, but so awesome! This has been a hard area for me, and I've really grown a lot from it. I just haven't seen a lot happen here with the people. But I'm going to take what I've learned with me to Venice, and I just KNOW that I'll be blessed to see the fruits of my labors there. But if not, I know that it will be okay, because I know that I will work hard and do all that I can to help the people there. 

I'm so grateful for this gospel and all that I have learned. I love my Savior and know that He is always there for every single one of us.

Have a great week!
Elder Petersen

Monday, April 8, 2013

Letter #25

Dear family and friends,

Yes, I know I didn't write last week. The previous week wasn't bad, it was just really mediocre and didn't seem worth writing about. But.

General Conference was amazing! As always. I was really impressed by the follow-up from the announcement last conference for the name change, and how so many speakers talked about the important of member missionary work. I also really enjoyed the emphasis that so many placed on the importance of family roles and relationships. My testimony of the sealing power and eternal families has definitely been strengthened by what was taught in this conference.

This past week went pretty slow. We stopped by Colleen's place the other night just to say hi, and we caught her getting ready to go somewhere. She seemed happy to see us and told us to give her a call this week to come over and see her and the kids. It was totally not the response we were expecting, but we're excited and hope to be able to start teaching her again. We weren't able to see Laurie at all, and she's still struggling with some things so she's not going to be able to get baptized this coming Sunday like we had planned. Ernie is doing well, but won't be able to get baptized until June at the earliest, is what it's looking like. But we've kept reading the Book of Mormon with him, and he really enjoys that.

And now for the biggest most wonderful awesomest news ever. 
We were over visiting with her and Edgard the other night, and we were talking about how answers come in different ways sometimes. She has always struggled finding her answer as to if this is the path that she needs to take. Then she made the comment that no matter how rough her week has been or how terrible her morning has been and how much she doesn't want to go to church, she always feels so much better when she just goes. And then she paused for a few seconds and said, "I guess that's the answer I've been looking for." And then she looked at me and said, "So I guess we can go ahead and schedule a baptism." I don't ever remember having a smile so big on my face before :D She pulled out her calendar and has decided that she wants to get baptized on the 21st of this month. SO ridiculously excited!

So, on a more personal note, thank you all who have been sending me packages. It's always great to get mail and packages. But I'm going to request that you cut back on the candy and chocolate. We seriously have enough to last us until next Easter, and this is including what we had left over from Christmas. Also, since mail comes in the middle of the day, packages are usually sitting out on the front porch during the hottest part of the day, and if there is chocolate contained therein, it's no good by the time we get home that night and take it inside. And that's just depressing.

Things are going good here. Transfers are this upcoming week so we'll see what happens with that. I'm so glad to be a part of this work though, and know that wherever I get sent, it's because the Lord needs me there.

Have a great week!
Elder Petersen