Wednesday, December 30, 2015

December 28, 2015

The pod has been dismantled :(.  Elder Fischer is leaving us to go to the beautiful Lake Elsinore.  We're going to miss him a lot, he's been my longest companion I've had in the mission - 3 transfers, or 4.5 months.  Now I can only match with a grey suit, no more matching blue suits :(.

Funny experience that has reoccurred tons of times throughout my mission I thought I'd share.  Every time we go in a store, we get mistaken for the people that work there.  Being Christmas week, it seems like people have a lot less patience to find what they want to buy and get out.  When people ask, I try to be helpful and try to help point out where what they're looking for is.  It's interesting to see how impatient people get so quickly until I let them in on the little secret that I do not in fact work for that store, I work for Jesus Christ.  They get really red faced and embarrassed, apologize, and scurry away.  

We had lots of fun celebrating Christmas on the mission.  Our Bishop is the best so we spent most of the day at his house.  Highlight was getting the best Christmas present ever!  Matching ties from their family, and then seeing that they had gotten our Bishop the SAME matching tie.  Church on Sunday was matchless because we were all matching :).  We went caroling Christmas night and visited some families with missionaries in the Spanish ward.  So instead of "Silent Night," it was "Noche de Paz."  It was a great opportunity to "succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees” and just share Christmas spirit with some members and investigators through music.

In other news, our Syrian friend tried to get us to marry his daughter in Syria so she could join him in the U.S.  He has very broken English, so we could hardly understand him at first.  Something about "young man" and "fee-awnce" (pronounced that way) and that we needed to "sign" something.  Come to find out, his daughter is the only one in Syria still there from his family.  "Fee-awnce" actually meant "FIANCE" and he wanted one of us to sign the papers to let her come to the U.S. to marry one of us and, therefore, acquire citizenship.  I told him that, unfortunately, I would not be able to help him out with his current predicament.  He was a little bummed out about that.

Something that is awesome to see is our 9 year old investigator that looks like a little missionary in his white shirt and tie.  He said he only needs to get a little bigger and get a name tag, and then he can be just like us missionaries, going around teaching people about the gospel.  It's amazing how reverent he is as he sits through sacrament meetings and walks around the hallways of church with his paperback Book of Mormon and Bible.

In one of the apartment complexes where all the kids know who we are, we met this new 9 year old we had never seen.  He was SO excited to bring us to HIS house to let us show his family the "A Savior is Born" Christmas video.  It was cute, even though his parents don't really speak any English - so referral for the Spanish Elders.  Children are just without guile.

last pic of the trio (wearing my new tie from Elder Westenskows family)

p-o-d for the pod

passing the AP tie on

stockings at the Garcia house

matching at church

advent presents

Skype'ing with the family on Christmas

leaving the office one night

service selfies

service selfies

Selfies at the temple

More selfies at the temple 

sun's bright

the trio at the temple!

the trio again!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

December 21, 2015

Merry Christmas everyone!

We got to attend the Temple this week as well.  Great experience as usual.

We spent a good part of our Saturday this previous week doing community service.  We helped give out presents to kids who were probably not going to have the best Christmas.  It was an amazing opportunity to serve.  We helped keep the kids entertained while they waited as well.  Lots of singing - lots of voice used up.  After the service project, I was not able to speak very loudly!  There was one girl in a wheelchair, with progeria, the disease that makes you age prematurely.  The average life expectancy is something like 14 years if what I remember from before my mission is correct (can't work the Google on my phone here).  I usually wouldn't say I'm an incredibly sentimental guy, but seeing her smiling so happily just melted my heart.  I almost wanted to cry (almost... but I didn't) knowing that this one Christmas season meant so much to her because she wouldn't have that many in her life.  You could just see the joy in her eyes.

Following that service project, we were able to go with all the missionaries in our stake and carol in a wagon with bales of hay.  First thing's first, I'm glad I grew up in the city and not on a farm.  I don't know how people lift hay bales so easily.  They're just so big and awkward, and the twine just cuts into your hands.  They had us put the hay bales in the wagon/trailer to sit on as we caroled house to house (so we wouldn't have to walk, high tech I know).  At first I thought I could just carry a bale with another missionary - make it easy, but no, our good ol’ missionary farm boys decided to start lifting them alone.  So, obviously because I did not want to turn in my man card, I had to do it too.  Not very fun!  First and last time.  The caroling was fun though, just riding in our "sleigh" pulled by this special breed of horse called the Toyota Tacoma.  There were something like 200 horses pulling the trailer!  Talk about power!  It was a very fun experience.

I got some church clothes for one of our 10 year old investigators because that was what stopped him last week, not having clothes to wear!  He looked like a million bucks and he knew it.  White shirt and tie, black pants, black belt.  It was so funny running to him in the hallway between the 2nd and 3rd hour as we were walking to class, seeing him carry these scriptures that he had borrowed.  He really loves church, it's amazing to see the faith of the kids.

Transfer meetings are this week, hence the late email.  Always fun meetings to decide what's happening to everyone in the mission.  One thing is for sure, the meetings show just how much our mission president cares for each and every individual missionary.

Pictures coming tomorrow, the internet is terribly slow right now, so I can't send any.

It was cold

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

December 14, 2015

Lots of fun exchanges this week.  Among other areas, I was able to return to Eastvale to go on a Chinese exchange with my “son”, Elder Zeng, and I was able to return to Corona and have a great time with some recent converts and their investigators.  My Chinese was a little rusty at first, but it warmed up at the end. Our last lesson was with this media referral.  He had visited a church visitor center and had a great experience so asked for missionaries to visit him.  At the end of the lesson, he said he wanted to become like us (Mormon) and said "you don't need to spend much energy with me, I want to do this."  Very great experience.  Another perk was getting some authentic Taiwanese food!

My exchange in Corona was incredibly fun as well because I got to see Allan, who got baptized the week after I left.  He is still as strong as ever.  I'm so grateful to have been able to teach him and been there to help him in his own journey.  It was great going out to teach their investigators with him and it seems like he's benefiting from being a Mormon already!  He got a job at a company owned by a member when I was there.  They called him and we celebrated in the car together!

We were teaching the Word of Wisdom to some of our child investigators and the member that was with me on splits was talking about how we need to eat our broccoli.  He said if you eat your broccoli you'll be able to grow hair on your chest.  Then, the 6 year old butted in and said, "And if you don't have any hair on your chest, then no girl will want to date you!" Wise words spoken from a 6 year old?  Maybe.  

Wish me luck this week, the cold is coming in!  Merry Christmas!

a packed Christmas tree (thanks to Aunt Annette and Co.!)

Does the apartment look familiar? I found Elder Murray's lightsaber chopsticks.  I felt in light of the new Star Wars movie that I will not be able to watch (no spoilers please) it was an appropriate picture.

matching for our trainer/trainee meeting

had to snap a couple pictures of the first zone meeting led by my "son"!

at the incoming lunch for new missionaries this past transfer day

It was cold - they have a nice Christmas tree!

Elder Fischer and Elder Westenskow borrowed Elder Zeng's coats to take a Christmas tree picture!


more santa!

exchanges in Corona with Allan!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

December 7, 2015

We had mission leadership council this past week, so very tiring!  We were in the office late preparing for the meetings.  Turns out, there has been a guy siphoning gas out of some of the trucks that are parked at the mission office!  Maybe it's the black dodge truck!  I need to upgrade my weapons - maybe get two flashlights to blind them now.  It's crazy, so many hours go into preparing for that meeting, then it's over so fast!  We went "fisching" in one of our trainings, talking about how we can "hook" investigators and help them to progress along the path they are on.

In other news, I found this water feature at CVS the other day, so now we have constant soothing sounds of trickling water.  It even lights up!

Probably the highlight of the week was seeing Santa at our ward's Christmas party.  Can you believe out of all the places he could have been, he decided to come to OUR party?  It was very fun, we even got pictures with him.  Stay posted for pictures of "the trio" with Santa.

We hit up the golf course again this week, dressed the part.  I have to say my golf is terrible.  It's okay though, because I was wearing a polo shirt - my USA soccer jersey.  It's not very much like baseball, unfortunately.

This Christmas season, I hope everyone follows the example of the person whose birth we're celebrating and makes an extra concerted effort to love one another.  Sometimes it's hard, but it's worth it!  Merry Christmas (it's been non-stop Christmas music since Thanksgiving, Elder Westenskow is addicted).

A very California Christmas tree

The trio! sandwich-ing

from this past outgoing dinner

he snuck up and took a selfie!


Newest addition to the apartment! a water feature!

the trio on the golf course (matching socks) with my USA soccer jersey on (had to find a polo)

so much concentration (with a ton of seeds in my mouth) (that's a baseball batting glove by the way)

it's just like baseball... NOT it's a lot harder... my baseball swing doesn't really work in golf...

oh you wanted MORE golf pictures?

my baseball golf swing

my putting... tiger woods

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

November 30, 2015

Thanksgiving!  Lots of turkey and lots of sports.  We started out the day with our turkey bowl.  Got together with other missionaries and members and played football!  It was fun, and cold (as cold as it gets in November in Southern California).  Then moved to golf.  Our Bishop took us (he's the best Bishop) and it was really fun, even though I take baseball swings at the golf ball.  Then dinner with our Bishop and his family, which was awesome as well.  Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and pie!  Then dodgeball in our zone activity, then basketball!  Very packed day, lots to be thankful for!

Sunday night, the member who signed up for dinner dropped it off at the church, so we made a little home theater in the kitchen and watched Mormon Messages while eating our burritos (that we WARMED, not cooked, in the oven).  It was very cozy.

Our Ward Mission Leader calls us Pied Pipers because we teach crowds of kids on the steps of various apartment complexes in our area.  We had five kids at church with us on Sunday which was really fun.  At the end of the three hours of church, the youngest made the comment, "I want to stay here all week, I don't want to go home!"  It was amazing seeing them sitting reverently during Sacrament meeting in the first hour.  One of them even said it was his favorite part.  He's ten years old!  Great kids.  I got two of them white shirts and ties to wear so they look very nice in their new outfits.

One of our recent converts has been coming out with us on splits to teach our investigators.  He just "gets it."  He explains principles clearly and simply and is very invested in the work.  I'm so grateful to have been able to witness his conversion and how strong of a member he is today!

Also! The Church just put out an awesome two minute video about Christmas at so everyone should go check it out.  It's got some pretty good production value.

trio! gotta rep the school

the whole group!

prepping the food

dinner is very serious business

ready to eat my gourmet burrito!

Picture from two weeks ago (he was about to go home)

blurry selfie of our trio walking up a hill - very exciting stuff

Monday, November 23, 2015

November 23, 2015

Transfer weeks are always fun, especially when they end in a baptism!  Angel got baptized and there was a great showing from the ward.  Lots of people there!  Everyone was being so warm to his mother even though she doesn't speak English.  Gotta get my Spanish good enough so we can just teach her.  Just kidding, we'll pass her over to the Spanish Elders.  Their Spanish is a little bit better than ours'.

We had our new companion, Elder Westenskow in the apartment now, so we have three beds lined up in our room - the pod.  It's really fun.  He got a full does of office life with all the trips we have to take to the airport and all the places we need to drive.  Early mornings, lots of training, lots of food. Transfer weeks are tiring and not very healthy.  

Elder Fischer retired from driving the big 8 seat Ford E-150 van so I did it this time.  That van is a big vehicle...  It is fun taking the outgoing missionaries to the airport because at a certain point in the ride (usually when we can see the airport or airplanes flying really low) it suddenly sinks in that they're going home.  Very bittersweet moment for them, they've been devoting all their time, energy, and strength and they're just about to go back to the "real world."  Nerve wracking for some! It was sad to see Elder Anderson go.  He was Elder Fischer's companion before I came in and is an awesome missionary.

Bringing the incoming missionaries to the mission home is fun too.  They have a bunch of crazy assumptions about Riverside and the mission.  The great thing to see is the fire they have in them.  They could go out and baptize a city with that energy.  We just hope it stays as they go throughout their two years or 18 months.

I always like to share a message about gossip to the trainers when we are training them the day the pick up their new missionaries.  A lot of people are straight out of high school so they naturally like to talk about other missionaries the same way they might have talked about people back in school.  The message we share is that "gossip robs The Atonement."  It does not allow people to change and in fact can be something that prevents people from changing.  It brings back the past even when people have moved on.  They tend to like this message a lot.

The fun part about being in a trio is we can go on TRIPS, as in triple splits.  A split is when we each go with a member to get more work done, but now we can do even MORE.  When we were teaching some of our investigators (actually the ones in the dog pictures below), I was on splits with a member who works at Disneyland.  I told the kids he works at the happiest place on earth and asked them if they knew where that was.  They promptly replied, "CHURCH!"  I laughed at that and said, "well I guess it's the second happiest place on earth... Disneyland!"

At the airport, taking Elder Anderson home (he used to take people to the airport, now it's his turn to actually go home!). We did blue, black, blue ,black (for the suits) always gotta have the patterns.

my bags are packed and ready to go. KIDDING

one of our investigators got a brand new chihuahua

my Lion King pictures took a while to get down

BAPTISM! for Angel. He's awesome. (notice the failed suit sandwich, blue, blue, grey!)

cheesecake for the outgoing missionaries.  transfer week = fat week

snagged a selfie in the office.  the iPad was just lying there!

Four square - it was cold in sunny california

action shots

with my son

 group picture