The other missionaries in my apartment are Elder Pratt and Elder Barton. Elder Barton goes home after next transfer, like 8 weeks from now. He's from Missouri and is really cool. He's always super upbeat and happy and excited. Elder Pratt is also cool, he has a lot of quotes from video games and animes. He's a huge Legend of Zelda and Full Metal Alchemist fan. They are Spanish speaking missionaries so they work in a larger area that includes Prado View, but they go to a different ward on Sundays, the Spanish Ward. We will go on splits with them once a transfer because Elder Camper is the District Leader over them, but other than that we don't really do much missionary work together. We do sometimes work out together and we just talk and hang out after we get home at night.
You asked about the growth of my testimony. I would say that my testimony of the simple truths has become a lot stronger. When you are going to church and hearing gospel doctrine and surrounded by members, you don't really talk about or testify of the fact that the Atonement applies to you personally, or that we have faith. Those are just kind of given facts. But as you talk to people who don't have that, you realize how important that is, and then you kind of start to question what it is that you believe, and you have to do a little digging to find and realize the foundation you build the rest of your testimony on. My testimony of the Spirit and the Priesthood has definitely grown a lot so far. I've learned the importance of having the Spirit with you as you teach, and also just how to recognize it in all your daily activities. There are certain things you do like pray or read the scriptures that always bring it. I also know why they call the Spirit the Comforter because that is a big part of how he helps missionaries. When you have a rough day or are exhausted or something, and you say a prayer, it is the Spirit that helps to pick you back up again. And there is no worse feeling than when the Spirit isn't there, which I'll mention again later in the e-mail.
As for the best part of the week, I hate to be a broken record, but it has to be priesthood blessings. There are a couple experiences to share on that topic. The first, was that on Friday morning, we went to do service for a lady in Elder Frost and Higashi's ward. It was actually her daughter who requested it, her mom was going to be out of town so she wanted us to help her get her backyard and flower beds in order. That was pretty cool, and it's amazing how much easier weeding flower beds is now. When I was like 8 I'm pretty sure it was the hardest thing in the world. Anyway, after we finished that service, we just started talking to her and she explained about her situation with her son. Apparently they were really close for a long time, but he's started dating a girl that he thinks he's going to marry, and since then they've grown apart. Eventually she somehow offended his girlfriend and he hasn't talked to her in 7 months. Elder Camper offered her a blessing, and he gave it. And he promised her that her relationship with her son would one day be just as strong as it used to be, and that in the mean time, she is being blessed for her willingness to keep trying to help him and be in his life as much as possible.
The second experience with priesthood blessings was that we gave Mitch a blessing after Church on Sunday. Brother Galatka, a cool member in our ward gave it, and in it he promised him that his body will be fully restored, and that he will have full use of his arm and leg again. He blessed the doctors to know the treatments and medications to use to help, which I though was interesting.
Over all though, the part that struck me, was that these are some pretty hefty promises they were making, and there is no earthly way to know if it is true. But that's where the Spirit comes in. If you feel prompted to say it, that means you need to, and once you have, it's as good as done. God doesn't break a promise or a covenant, so the Priesthood is pretty cool because it allows people to know what and how God is going to help them. It builds faith like nothing else that I have seen. Mitch was a recent convert, and the other lady had never even met with the missionaries, but both of them were able to feel the Spirit, and with help from members and missionaries, they will be able to recognize the Spirit, and then it creates that desire in them to feel it more and know what it is.
Unfortunately Mitch has moved and this week, after he got confirmed, we may not see him for a while. We have made sure that his new ward is there to help him and welcome him. He also says that he wants to move back into this ward if he can, so maybe it's not the last time I see him, but it will be for a little while at least.
As for the rest of the week, it was kind of slow for missionary work. On Tuesday we had multi-zone conferences, which takes all day and has training from the AP's and Mission President and the various Office Elders. It was pretty good but it was super long. That pushed back our regular weekly meeting to the next day, so that took time. The following day was weekly planning, which takes about half the day, and then Friday and Saturday was filled with a lot of service. Don't get me wrong, service is great, but after a while you kind of start itching to go out and teach and wonder if maybe there are more efficient ways to be spending your time. We helped the one lady with her yard, and then on Saturday we helped with a move, and then helped with an Eagle Project.
The Eagle Project was pretty interesting, it was painting a mural inside a local library. I'll send some pictures in a seperate e-mail. The way they did it was to project it on the wall, and then draw the lines with Sharpie's and then they had us Elders and some Scouts just fill in a majority of the paint, and they're going to do the detail and edges later. They have a guy in their ward who is a professional artist and I talked to him for a little bit. He works for a toy company, doing drawings and sketches for advertisements, like product labels and toy packaging and stuff, which was pretty cool. He said a lot of it is digital now, but some of it you still do by hand, especially quick sketches for brainstorming. I also asked him about illustration because I knew Shauntel had talked about that at one point and he said that if you can do digital manipulation as well as actual sketching and content creation you are super valuable because a lot of people in illustration kind of just digitally manipulate objects that they get from a different sketch artist.
I also got to go out on my own for the first time this week. On Sunday, Elder Camper had to go up to Riverside for a baptism for someone he'd taught, so I went on splits with a priest for about 3 hours. It was my first opportunity to drive, and I did not crash and I navigated the California roads fairly well. I wasn't teaching any lessons solo, we were mostly going by members in leadership to ask about anyone they wanted us to visit. It was kind of stressful, worrying about whether people will be home and making sure to plan enough to fill all that time, including 3 or 4 layers of back-up plans just in case. I can see why being the senior companion, especially training, can be hard.
Unfortunately, we haven't really been able to find very many new people to teach this past week, and we've had trouble contacting the ones we do have. This week we have a lot of time blocked off just to go find though, so hopefully we have some luck. Elder Camper said that the people we find the next few weeks are the people who might get baptized by the end of next transfer. It's a really long process, in the MTC they make it out to be like a 2 or 3 week thing, but in the real world life gets in the way sometimes.
Today we played some Ultimate Frisbee with some Young Men and missionaries in our Zone. We just played it in the gym which is hard because the walls sort of get in the way and the field is really short, but it was still a lot of fun. I maybe got into it a little to much, I was tracking it once and I jump and go to knock it down, but right before I get to the disc. . . My leg slams into this table that was sitting there, so that was fun. I see why the handbook says to not get too competitive in the games you play, people can get hurt. It's fine now though, just had to walk it off. The competition can also drive away the Spirit though, and I did notice that along with a couple of really competitive( and loud elders), and my interest and involvement in the game, people started to get really aggressive and loud and angry at times, myself included. So that is something I can work on. I doubt we'll play it too often anyway because most people prefer basketball, but when we do play I need to just take a step back. It was weird though because it really just hits you when you realize that you've driven the Spirit away and you feel so bad, so I just said a little prayer after we were done to help calm myself and bring it back, and after a few minutes I felt a million times better.
Thanks to everyone who writes, it keeps things interesting and gives me something to do to unwind at night.
That's all for this week, I can't wait to hear from you again.
See you soon,
"Get on your knees and pray, then get on your feet and work." -Gordon B. Hinckley