Sunday, December 13, 2015

November 30, 2015 videos & photos



Put a video camera on me and I forget anything I ever wanted to say..... Any other questions that can be answered one minute at a time?

Elder Sirrine

This week's daily dose of crazy members
Plus the Cruz family which fed us on thanksgiving

November 23, 2015 Just Serve program

Hopefully you can decipher this! Life is going great, loving
missionary life! There are miracles happening every day in the
mission, I testify of that. Hook up with your local missionaries for
more details! In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

(Typed up from photo of  handwritten Journal pages of Nov 20 & 23, 2015)
Nov 20.  Yesterday was quite the day.  It started off with a meeting in Manhattan to launch Just Serve.  I pray that reading this win the future Just Serve will be a well known and well used program.
The Zone leaders and Assistants were invited to attend  with President Reynolds for the pilot training in the North American North East Region.  Just Serve is an initiative to improve public reception of the Church and help the Saints follow Jesus Christ more fully, by making service more publicized and easier.  It is so exciting.  Something interesting about it all – President and Sister Calderwood are in charge of Just Serve in the North America North East Region.  So the presentation was theirs.  It was so fun to see them again and shake their hands and give President a hug.

After that we had several lessons which all cancelled….so we had a long day on the trains, which of course always keeps things interesting.  We still can’t get the zone on board with the commitment from our last zone meeting to talk to five people per day.  It pained me to start the goal so low for city missionaries, but we knew that there were many who would be happy if they could talk to one a day.  Anyways, they like the idea but we are too afraid of the people here…which I suppose is understandable.  Just yesterday I was sitting on a train wile one man had the attention of at least a third of the car, pointing at me and preaching to them as if I were a sort of specimen to be gawked at – “Look here, this is a Mormon! You know what Mormons are?...”  speaking all sorts of blasphemy, lies and slander.  I was powerless to do anything – my pride couldn’t stand walking away, I knew arguing with him wouldn’t help, and something told me starting a train brawl wouldn’t be a good idea either…so I picked up conversation with a woman in front of me that only spoke Spanish so didn’t know what he was saying.  Anyways, that’s what happens here a lot when you open your mouth.  But I’ve also seen miracles happen.  I’ve testified and seen the Spirit move people on train cars.  And I know that God promises that our backs will be laden with sheaves if we open our mouths.  Those sheaves many not come in a day or a transfer, or even on the mission.  But I know they will come.

Our zone is doing a bit better since zone training meeting, but still only at 50 people per day for the zone, many all of which are from the Spanish district and the two districts with decent teaching pools then.

If you can’t tell this has been on my mind lately.  We can’t develop the faith to find if we don’t have faith to talk.  But I understand.  When I started the mission I didn’t think it was even possible for me to become a missionary who talks to everyone.  But the changing power of the Atonement is real.
We had a great finish to the night with the branch Thanksgiving dinner!  It was very successful.  Many people came including investigators and it was full.  I love the people here.  President Cruz (sp?) asked me right as it was starting to give the spiritual thought on the history of Thanksgiving – “Quiero que lo haga un gringo, un Americano!”  Okay.  So I looked up how to say “Pilgrim” real fast and then reached deep into my elementary school studies back when we colored turkeys every third week of November while the teacher attempted to tell us stories about corn and Indians.
Of course, since it was a Spanish activity, as soon as the eating was done they cleared the floor, dimmed the lights, and whipped a disco ball out of thin air.  Hermana Bugas (sp?) (a seventy year old single woman) led the charge to the dance floor and began swinging outrageously.  Boom.  Mission worth it.

Nov 23.  Monday before transfers.  Elder Cottle and I are the only companionship that doesn’t have a change.  This zone is getting seriously renovated.  It’s been a crazy transfer.  We lost 18 of the original 20 missionaries.  One of these vacancies was a District leader who went home.  He came out with me.  Stress got to him after being a city missionary for almost a year.  That’s a long time to be in the city part of the mission.  One of our districts, three out of the four missionaries are going home tomorrow.  Keeping that district in the race has been a bit of a nightmare.  Hopefully we get some freshies, ready for some Brooklyn Street action.

Wells Wagner?

November 16, 2015 Repentance Changes Disposition

Manhattan/Brooklyn. This is our area it's pretty cool
The wonderful Elder Cottle!

There's a lot of cool murals here
A large bank. 'Nuff said.

Hey there just wanted to drop you in a little note.

How is everything going? Life here is going well. We just had a zone meeting and it was good but it's a trick figuring out how to get missionaries to keep the inspiration and Spirit felt in meetings longer than about a day. We really hit hard on talking to everybody because we are city missionaries and most of us are happy if the companionship talks to three people in a day! It's unreal. I do understand, though, how hard it is. At the beginning of the mission I honestly didn't think I could ever become the kind of missionary that talks to everybody. But I have a testimony of the atonement. Elder Holland said that repentance doesn't change behavior, repentance changes disposition. Not only have I changed my behavior, I know the atonement had changed ME completely in that aspect.

I'm glad I'm out here but I do miss you....

Love you

Elder Sirrine

Sunday, December 6, 2015

November 9, 2015 2 ASL misionaries

(This letter is a response to Dad's questions)

Yeah just got a lot of stuff to do as always. We've stopped "recreating" really on preparation days because there's no time pretty much ever since I became district leader, which is good! I'm thinking about just doing the journal picture thing more often because I always tell myself I will write more next week but then I never do

Hope you get better! Gotta get back in shape for snowmobiling season

Our zone is interesting. We actually don't have any super disobedient missionaries which is good it's just that we are all being pretty ineffective except for the ASL missionaries they're not doing so bad. Actually that's an interesting story: a while back the missionaries discovered that all the ASL speakers here have the same video phone service and they all have the exact same number except for the last two digits. So they literally just sit in their living room and call different number combinations to contact the deaf people! It's genius. And the deaf people love talking to the because they hardly talk to anyone else.

Anyways. Tell the family I love them and do think about them even if I don't write all the time. See y'all in a couple months!

Elder Sirrine

(Photo sent of journal page dated Nov 5…I typed most of it up, hopefully correctly)

We had a great day.  Due to the study focus as of late on faith, I put more effort in our using faith as a principle of power to achieve specific goals (and we set high goals for the day).  We started off by looking up Ulysses.  He was a referral from his mother who we knocked into miraculously.  She wasn’t interested because she already has her church, but we asked if we could leave her with a prayer, and she consented.  The Spirit seemed to loosen her up a bit and we kept talking.  We asked for referrals and she told us her son really needed it, although wasn’t convinced we could get him to listen.  Eventually she said to come back on Wednesday at 10:00 because he leaves for work at 12:00.
So in an attitude of great faith and prayer we looked him up at 10:00.  We knocked with no answer. We knocked again and I found myself repeating over and over in my head, “Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”  It didn’t open.  We left a bit disappointed.  I was so sure.  But as we walked toward the train, I felt an impression to return after our next appointment, even though it would be a couple hours later than his mom said he’d be home.

We went to our next appointment, received the two referrals we’d asked the Lord for plus one (exceeding the average weekly actuals here), and came back.  After some pressing, the woman who answered the door told us that Ulysses was home, but wouldn’t listen to missionaries.  After some more pressing she fetched him.  We had a wonderful lesson and set a return appointment for Saturday.

This was the second new investigator in a few days.  The night before, right after we had just exchanged, we headed from our apartment to go teach English Class.  As a background, we’d had district meeting earlier that day.  We talked about finding, and our leader, Elder Paini (sp?) promised us that if we followed the PMG pattern of quickly relating conversations to the message of the Restoration, we would find a new investigator that day.  I wasn’t sure how that would happen because a new investigator constitutes someone who has been taught  a lesson and accepted a return appointment, but had faith in the promise.

So as we went to English Class we struck up conversation with a man on the train platform.  Long story short, I ended up telling him we were heading to English Class, invited him, and he came right with us.  Maybe only someone from Brooklyn could understand what a miracle that was.  After English Class we had a great lesson and he accepted a return appointment.

November 2, 2015 New Assignment

(This weeks letter a response to Dad's letter and questions)

Ouch! I hope your ankle gets better! Haha no more good deeds at deer creek....
How was your meeting in Manhattan the other day?

You got a letter that I was a zone leader? Yeah that happened. And yeah I was the district leader in Jamaica, I got that assignment with my trainer call.

I am in a different zone than last transfer, this zone covers Bushwick and Park Slope, so essentially downtown Brooklyn. Also we have the ASL missionaries, which cover all of Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan (yep, different mission. It's crazy). So they have a car to share between the two ASL trios in the mission, but no one else here does. They would be way too inconvenient (and expensive) to park!

I didn't know Elder Cottle before, although he trained one of my MTC comrades! He's been out for almost a year and half, was a district leader for five transfers and then got called as a zone leader last transfer and moved to Bushwick. We are serving in a Spanish district (yay!) which actually is fifty percent native Spanish speakers which is super awesome although I'm still in a gringo companionship. The zone has twenty missionaries, six speak Spanish, eight English, and six ASL.

How do I like my new assignment? Hmm. I really liked being a district leader because it was very personal with the individuals, right there in the trenches. Zone management makes it very difficult to do that, it's really the DL job anyway, so we work more closely with them. So the difference is now we pretty much just try and train good district leaders and help them be effective, but it's at much more of a distant level, since only one district leader works in our area. It's interesting.

On the back, like I said the doctor doesn't want to do platelets, he thought the only option was physical therapy. So I went once to pt and got exercises that I now do at home. The MRI looked good. He phrased it as now being a "minor herniation" so I'm not sure if that means it's closed up all the way. And it is less painful that at first. He said that this is probably about the level of pain it will stay at. So the plan is to just keep doing the stretches!

Elder Sirrine

Sunday, November 1, 2015

October 26, 20015 The Bush

So life is great here in Bushwick! The branch is so awesome! This area had a ton of potential. There's no real existing investigators in our pool but we've got a lot of new ones right now. The most promising one, Luis, just had a medical problem that he had to go back to Ecuador to fix so we are losing him for fifteen days but he has been a really fun guy to work with! He studied religion in university and it is so fun to teach him! He is really looking for answers and I'm confident he will keep progressing when he gets back. Another new investigator we met visiting a less active lady. He is her son and does not want anything to do with religion. We tried to get her to invite him in when we were there but she wouldn't because she knew he'd refuse. Well he popped out in the middle of the lesson to go to the bathroom and we grabbed on to him like dogs on a bone and we ended up teaching him something and getting him to agree to checking it out.

Wish I could write more! I love being a missionary so much! I know that without a doubt, no matter what problem you are experiencing, that answer is to dedicate yourself more to the gospel. I love this
gospel. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Sirrine

October 19, 2015 Bushwick!

So I have been sent to Bushwick! My new companion is Elder Cottle, he's a stud. We are right in the heart of Brooklyn and I'm really looking forward to this transfer!

We were sure to impress upon Elder Boden the importance of epic end of training photos. We didn't have a Manhattan and seagulls but we did have a courthouse.

This tie has been passed down from trainer to trainee since 2005!

Elder Sirrine

Pics: 2 photos.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

October 12, 2015 President Reynolds

Where to start? What an incredible week! So one thing I haven't reported on is the new mission president. President Reynolds is awesome and there's no doubt that he's the man with the keys right
now! And he's very "out with the old, in with the new", which will change the mission if we hop on board. He wrote a new standards of conduct manual which we received a week or so ago which a lot of missionaries aren't too excited about but that generation will either change or die out (so to speak). In fact, sitting just outside the new trainer meeting on Saturday, I realized that President is building an entirely new culture of missionaries here - hardly a single new trainer has been out for more than a few months, which is unheard of!

Now, if you are wondering why I was sitting outside the new trainer meeting on Saturday..... ELDER BODEN IS TRAINING!!!! This week has just been unreal. Elder Boden and I have progressed so much together, especially recently, and it was incredible to sit down together on Friday night and reflect back on how far we have both come. It's so fun to be progressing spiritually at such a rate that allows you to look back three months and realize that you are a different person.

Oh and also serving in a different area. Since I first saw Jamaica six months ago, the Lord has turned this into one of the least productive areas in the mission to one of the most. It's been a tender mercy to have been able to observe and be a witness of that miracle. It will be sad to leave it. I feel as if I have grown to be part of the work here. The last week has just been filled with experiences that have made me realized that I have grown to be part of the community here, that I love the community and it loves me. Apart from a lot of rejection and ridicule and opposition here, there are so many people that stops us on our way because we are friends, and because the message we share has brought them happiness and in a few cases saved their lives. Jamaica is a hard place to make a life. Walking down the street most people you see are miserable. There are a lot of hanging heads to lift and a lot of tears to wipe away and in my last week here more than ever, the Lord has blessed me to see just what we've done in the last six months. In addition we have a few investigators that are ready for baptism. I'm a little sad that I won't be here to see that happen but not too much - God really has spoken peace to me about the fruit of our labors. I know that God's hand is in this work. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Sirrine

October 5, 2015 General Conference

Wow General conference was just amazing. I felt like it was a remarkable one, unusually spiritual. And one thing in particular I noticed is that I don't know how often we see Elder Nelson or Elder Bednar get emotional but I'm pretty sure I've never seen that. And it happened to them both talking about the same thing: their friends from the quorum of the twelve that are now gone. I wish I had time to write more!

Elder Sirrine

September 28, 2015 Que tal papi

Exchanges with Elder Ballard - back to the balcony apartment!

Que tal papi
I can't even begin to start counting the miracles from this week!
Jamaica is still progressing upwards and everything is great!

Elder Sirrine
This is how stuff is in Flushing where English isn't even the third language.... Made for a maximum height of five feet

September 21, 2015 Jamaica Chronicles, vol II part III

Found this lovely place wandering waaay down in south Jamaica (not our intended goal but we did eventually find the family we were looking for as well so that's good). For the most part I've lost any desires for putting effort into photography on the mission but I couldn't help snapping a pic of this one

I've just been realizing that I've been in Jamaica for a long time! Contemplating the upcoming transfer meeting I am realizing that my status of being in Jamaica is growing insecure..... and I don't want to leave. I remember at the end of three months in Staten Island I loved a lot of people I was working with, but I was excited to leave because I love change. The prospect of a WHOLE NEW TRANSFER (which to a new missionary can seem like one of the "days" of creation) in the same area was intimidating. But in the last few months I've grown to love not only the people, but the area. I feel like I'm a part of it, and that I have a work here that's not yet finished. We will see if the Lord agrees with me on that one....

Hey so we have some exciting news! Remember Chris? He's the investigator that has been investigating since the dawn of time, or more precisely said, for nearly two years. Well he has been on fire lately, progressing like mad. After two years of trial and error, we finally figured out how to get him to really take studying the Book of Mormon seriously, and it's changed him. He's a totally different person. For all those reading, please learn for yourselves the conversion (or changing) power of the Book of Mormon, but ONLY if done properly, and if there is anybody out there who is reading halfheartedly out of sense of duty or commandment..... please stop and do it right. Véase Moroni 6-10 y DC 58:26-29. Anyway, once Chris learned this principle, he changed. He called us on Friday and asked if we could come pick him up and walk to the ward activity with him. When he came out of his apartment building, his eyes were in tears and he asked us if he could get baptized that night. To be honest, I've never practiced how to respond to that particular situation in a tactful manner, so after attempting and failing to think of something good to say what came out was "umm.... no". It turned out to be quite the night. Well, long story short, he set a baptismal date for next Tuesday, so everybody be praying for him!

By the way for those curious about the promising baptism from the Sisters, he still is not baptized because he still is not in Mexico! He works construction and their project is taking much longer than anticipated and so he can't leave yet, but is still planning on it. And our other promising investigators, the Reyes family are doing great! Not sure if I've actually told you about these ones yet, but Jose is an inactive member that we met a long time ago, when I was first here. The sisters had mostly been working with them, but long story short, he just wants his kids to grow up in the church, but is not willing to find a job that permits him to come to church on Sunday's and his mom is the one who really takes care of the kids, and she's an evangelical Christian and always takes the kids to her church. Kids want to be baptized in this church, and one of them is nine so he can. They haven't gone anywhere over the last five months, but we switched and picked them up from the Sisters and they are just a miracle! The Lord has softened their hearts and now Jose's mom (Xiomara) wants to get baptized as well! She is going through a hard time with cancer right now which makes it difficult for her, and she is leaving to Nicaragua for a while so her progression will not be very consistent for the next while, but someday. That was another cool experience with the Book of Mormon. At first, she was willing to accept us in the house because we have a very insistent way of getting the whole family together and she likes that, but wasn't interested in the message. She had read the Book of Mormon, but not a lot. Well something in her heart had changed, and she had a true, humble desire to know. She expressed to us last week that she was hooked as soon as she started reading the introduction, and she continued to read through the testimonies of the three and eight witnesses and of Joseph Smith. She said she believed it. She said she believed that the Book of Mormon is true, and that what we said about Joseph Smith and his encounter with the Father and the Son was real. And it is. That happened. If you don't believe that or aren't sure how much you believe it, read the Book of Mormon.

On another note, we had an epic mission conference this week. I mean epic. Elder Bennet and his wife (from the Seventy) came and visited us, and for nearly seven hours we were rebuked, unified, and edified by the Spirit. Spending any amount of time attempting to describe the meeting or what happens during it would be in vain, so hopefully these few words will suffice: the leaders of this church are men and women of God. There is not one inkling of doubt in my mind that they are called of Him and are instruments that manifest his power. One the one hand, they are far more human than we get the impression from watching general conference. On the other, they are far more superhuman than one would or could imagine, and you can only know what I'm talking about if through being with them. In the MTC, my branch president told me that if you were to line up ten men, all clean cut and dressed in suits, and one were a general authority, he would be able to pick him out with no difficulty. I thought about that a great deal, because I didn't think I would be able to. There are many different aspects of one's appearance and person that could affect your perception of them. Well I've told you before of what an experience it's been to be a missionary and to enjoy visits from general authorities and observe them up close, but yesterday I really learned what my branch president was talking about. I realized that my spirit is not yet sensitive enough to be able to pick a servant of the Lord out among ten successful, clean and seemingly happy other men, but through really being with one, I learned why and how that is possible. For an entire day, I watched them, listened to them, observed him role playing with other missionaries, doing the same myself with him. After the meeting he approached me and we conversed privately. For the duration of the day, we were led by the Spirit in a conspicuous way. The revelation we all received didn't come because Elder Bennet and his wife were good teachers (which they were, though I know a lot of outstanding teachers), it wasn't because they were kind and personable (which they were.... they demonstrate true, godly love, which happens to be tough love a lot), and it wasn't because they were intense people that had developed many attributes of being successful and communicating with people. It was because they have lived their lives in a way (exact obedience, first principle of heaven) that allowed the Spirit of God to flow through them. Some day soon, all of us will meet our Savior in person, and He will thank us for accepting and sustaining his prophets, seers and revelators. He will point me to the host of leaders I had in this life, and among them will be Elder Bennet, a brother and fellow servant who accepted the responsibility to care for me and be a special conduit of the Spirit. We will hug again and talk about what happened that day in New York. I will not know any better then than I know now that he was called of God. God has not abandoned his biblically established pattern of calling prophets and organizing his church all the way from the prophets down to the parents and home teachers. I love being a missionary and I know that this is God's church! In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Sirrine

September 14, A couple of pictures (no letter)

Teaching Chris (with the hat) and Ricky!

A Flushing adventure.....Elder Avenue

Monday, October 12, 2015

September 7, 2015 Slight Plot Twist in the Jamaica Chronicles

Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn on the left, Manhattan on the right! Oh plus elder Ko and Elder Casper. That's a nice feature.
Statue of Liberty and Manhattan
White People!
Fun stuff. Really nice view.... Picture doesn't do it justice
 We are back up to a six man district! And we are officially 100% hardcore gringos. New additions: Hna Vanvalkenburg is Hna Snow's new comp, and Elder Ballard and Elder Parkinson are the new elders. Elder Ballard goes home soon, and Elder Parkinson is a brand new trainee. Apparently Jamaica is a popular place to send the fresh ones. I'll get a picture of the new district for next week.

Things are still going really well, the baptism dates we had have all been pushed back for
various reasons, but still look like they're happening! In addition to that, our investigator, Chris committed to a date of November 30. He has missed a baptismal date before, so we are really searching for how we can make this one stick. Elder Boden and I went and made a poster board with a three month calendar with all his goals on it and he really loves it! He says he'll keep it forever. I think it will help him keep his commitments. He has a goal to finish the Book of Mormon before he gets baptized! He is in Alma 30 right now. Everybody pray for him.... He needs it. I love him so much (as do about three dozen other missionaries) and really pray that this time goes through. Our Haitian investigator is progressing still.  He reads the Book of Mormon diligently (and, as a result, really likes it. I've never met anyone who has really taken the Book of Mormon seriously and not absolutely loved it! It's like the greatest book ever) and comes to church weekly. In fact, yesterday he went up to the pulpit and bore his testimony. That was quite the experience! We were all getting yelled at in broken Spanish and then out of nowhere he asked me to stand up! I think I sort of gave the deer-in-headlights look to the bishop, who motioned for me to stand up. He ended up giving quite the speech, including how great he felt in the church which was cool. Unfortunately this guy (Lazarre) is going back to Haiti in October and so we are trying to figure out how to make it a smooth transition to the missionaries over there.

The other day I had a really cool experience. I was with the zone leaders heading to a meeting in Flushing and was just talking to people on the bus. I had noticed that people that day had really gone out of their way to compliment the Spanish I was speaking. Then I started talking with a Puerto Rican man and before long asked him where he was from. He replied by saying Puerto Rico and asking what country I was from. I thought that was odd, since when you are a tall white guy in New York speaking gringo Spanish you just assume they are American. Well I told him I was from Utah, which was actually just in the west of the U.S., and he said, "wait, do you speak English too?" It took me a minute to realize this guy thought I was from a Spanish speaking country! I smiled and said that yes, my English is pretty decent, and I'm sure he picked up later in the conversation that my Spanish isn't native, but to me that was just a great tender mercy from my Father telling me, "I know that talking to strangers with every spare minute isn't always easy, but when you are doing what you know you ought to be doing, I've got your back". There are a lot of miracles like that which confirm my testimony that I already have of the gift of tongues. What missionaries are able to do with a foreign language without ever being immersed in said language is a miracle. And really my Spanish isn't that good, not good enough to fool someone like that. There's no doubt in my mind that angels were there helping me. I know that the scriptures are true. And they are just as true and applicable as they were when they were written. I love being a missionary and invite all who may be reading to prayerfully ponder about what you can so to take your relationship with Christ to the next level, and I invite you to take some time to do it, or at least start it, tonight. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Sirrine

Castillo and Alvarez family. Love them a lot! We always meet outside because it's cooler
Almost died when I saw this.... These people were trying to be outgoing and claim the biggest garden in queens (ten feet square) and they didn't have enough cordage to finish it. Not sure if this pole support was stolen off of someone's TV or something or picked up off the street... Good old New York

August 31, 2015 Pupusas!

By the mission office

Pupusas! Beautiful. Hecho a mano. Hecho por gringos.

We got a little distracted this morning during workouts

Not sure if I'm going to have a lot of time to write today.  Transfers are on Tuesday, we just found out that Sister Urizar is the only one leaving which is super sad for all of us because we've got the closest
district in the mission, but it will be exciting to see what happens on Tuesday!

Best wishes from Jamaica,

Elder Sirrine

August 24, 2015 Photos & Videos!

Noche de hermanamiento!

Jeep vértigo verter
Fun videos.  They are sideways, but still fun to see.  Watch in order.  Some of these overlap a bit, but then continue on with more message.



Sunday, September 6, 2015

August 17, 2015 An Incredible Week!

Wow it's been an incredible week! As always I've got way too much too write about and way too little time. Long story short, this transfer we really have been counseling a lot and trying to think outside of "the box" of how missionary work has been done in Jamaica and in this mission; and the ball has slowly been picking up speed and our productivity is getting better and better and this last week I really think things are paying off.

We saw so many miracles as a district it's crazy. First of all, I have to tell you about Clara. She is a member, single mom with two kids and is such an incredible person. In the last couple weeks she has really caught the missionary spirit and we are working with her a ton. Elder Boden and I are teaching Julio, who is a progressing investigator and a reference from Clara. We are teaching him with her son, Brian who is almost 16. Julio seems humble and willing to look for the truth. We are also teaching Miriam and Pedro with Clara. They have a lot of potential although it's been hard for us to meet with them. Miriam came to church on Sunday and was so intrigued by it. We had a speaker from the stake who taught us about maintaining the home and family and Miriam said "why don't they teach any of this in the Catholic Church?" She said that she felt so good there she was trying not to cry. Ana is another investigator we are teaching with Clara (yay English class!) and she really wants to know the truth but it's difficult because her husband doesn't let her leave the house, and wouldn't let us come to the house.... So English class is he only time we have to teach her. Watching Clara is so incredible. She doesn't have great knowledge but she has such an unselfish desire to help other people. She spends her own time thinking about the investigators and how we can help them. She got so excited when we suggested doing role plays together! I couldn't believe it. She got her kids last night and the three of us taught them the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we have another appointment to do the same tonight. She is such a sweet person.

On another topic, we finally got a meeting with the Bishop! For the last few months he's been in the Dominican Republic a lot of the time, but on Sunday we were able to meet right before church and council together which was so cool because Bishop Chetty is SO amazing. We were able to talk about how we've been working with the less actives in the area and also about the Friday night activities (we sort of had to take initiative and get that started without Bishop) and get his ideas and so forth. He also mentioned that there was some confusion in the stake setting up the program and there was only one speaker, so he asked me if I could be the other speaker. Can't remember what exactly I spoke about (hope somebody gained something from it) but I just felt really good that the Bishop trusts our district enough to ask a missionary to give a full talk on a few minutes notice. He's actually been calling us quite a bit over the last few weeks and asking us to visit people and asking us questions so I think we are really starting to build a relationship. When I first came to Jamaica, the Bishop as well as the rest of the ward were understandably less than excited about the missionary..... yeah the missionaries, as nothing exciting has happened in over a year and a half. Overall, things are starting to warm up here in Jamaica. I wish I could do more than scratch the surface, but just hope you all know that this work is real and that God's behind it. Miracles are a product of obedience to principles. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen

Elder Sirrine

August 10, 2015 Chronicles of Jamaica

The Jamaica missionaries! Plus the Palmer couple
Left to right standing: Elders Casper, Boden, Thelemaque, the Palmers, Sisters Lobo, Snow, Lesuma, Urizar
Bottom left to right: St Rose, Me, Lapointe
Our lovely district

It's been another great week! We are starting to see some results from various things we've changed and been figuring out in the last couple of weeks, and we had a more fruitful week.  In fact, we have two baptismal dates in the district!  The sisters have been teaching Edgar, and he is progressing incredibly and has plans to be baptized the very end of this month! His wife is a member.... in Mexico. So he actually won't be baptized here; he is planning on going to Mexico for two months, and will be baptized there.

The other is from our pool, his name is Mickey.  We found Mickey a week or so ago during an elliptical event, which went really well.  We had been having decent success with the free lemonade ellipticals as far as finding potentials went, but couldn't figure out how to get contacts that would turn into investigators.  After counseling about it, the idea we received was to combine that concept with a church tour. So we set up on the corner of Jamaica Ave and the street our church is on and tried to get people inside the church.  It was very effective.  Once people went inside the church, you could visibly see the difference the Spirit brought. Several of us had full lessons - Elder Boden and I had a full Restoration lesson complete with a hymn inside the chapel! Anyways, one of the contacts was Mickey.  It was the Zone Leaders who helped him, although Elder Boden and I met him.

Well several days later, we saw Mickey on the street and had a little chat with him - he was excited to see us! We asked him if he had been in contact with the Zone Leaders and he said no, so we took his number again and called the Zone Leaders and they said they just hadn't gotten around to it yet. Then just yesterday Elder Boden and I were on the street getting a good licking from some.... fellow... (sometimes in Jamaica when you're fearlessing you end up getting the fearlessing done to you) and Mickey walked right up and joined in the fun! We were finally able to peel off with Mickey and started walking toward the church as we talked.  The Zone Leaders still hadn't contacted him so we decided to just teach him right then. We went into the chapel and sang "Nearer my God to Thee" and then had a really good lesson.  We shared the Restoration and he committed to be baptized September 5. The Spirit was there so strong. Afterwards he said his favorite part was the hymn, and what a difference that made. Within a few minutes there was a feeling of mutual trust between us that was very special.  He said he had never felt that way before, never felt so much like he could be himself and be understood. Nobody was emotional but God's presence was so obviously felt.  We are a little sad that he doesn't speak Spanish - we have another lesson with him tonight but then we will need to pass him to the Zone Leaders. We feel really good about both Edgar and Mickey! They are both solid.

For the sake of the ward, I'm a little sad that neither of them will be baptized here.  They need to taste the missionary work. The activities we have started have been successful. We are breaking the ice.  But waking up a ward is difficult.... they need a little something.  It's been a year and a half since there's been a baptism in Jamaica.  But we are so excited to see some people that are wanting to change their lives and increase their commitment towards God.  Besides those two, the district has four investigators who are progressing! On our part, we have been working with Miriam and Pedro. These two are such an unlikely story! Elder Vi and I met Pedro a few months ago on the street, he's younger, probably a teenagerish and though he is Hispanic, he's more comfortable with English.  We had a pretty long conversation right there (he's very friendly), but, long story short, we felt like we were wasting our time. He was born Catholic but didn't agree with how they did things and thought they were too "lax", and so had wandered into a Muslim church one day and decided to be Muslim. Very interesting fellow. He gave us his information so we could come hang out sometime.  We were sort of like, "yeah.... we'll see you sometime....". Never thought he'd actually become an investigator.  Well a few weeks after that, we fearlessed a woman in the park and she didn't seem super interested in hearing the message herself, but she said she had a son who needed it.  When she said her son's name was Pedro, we asked her where she lived and it turns out it was that Pedro. We've had some contact with Pedro, and he's reading the Book of Mormon a lot! He loves it.  He's studied the Bible and the Koran, but he says he's never read a book with so many answers to questions of the soul. Then I wondered if he had ever read Preach my Gospel since he quoted chapter 5.... So we finally got a solid appointment with him and his mother. After some pondering and praying, we decided to call Clara, a member whom we don't really know, to see if she could come teach with us.  Well we got there and it didn't take more than five minutes before Clara and Miriam figured out they somehow knew each other from their childhood! They were instant best friends, it was incredible. As of yet, they aren't thirsting after change, but they are on the path. I'm excited for them.

The other contact we have that really has desires to change is Santos. Unfortunately, we have not been able to see him in any sort of a sober state yet, but hopefully this week. Whenever we see him in the park he's too drunk to have a good lesson or remember the appointments we set up. But his father was a member, who died when he was eight years old. For some reason, Santos breaks my heart even more than the rest.  It's as if I can feel his father there pleading for him. He loves his father so much, always talks about him. Looking into his eyes is what breaks my heart. They are so sad, and they are dull in a way I can't describe. In the last while I've worked with these people so much that I have come to feel something different about their eyes the more intoxicated they are, something beyond and more saddening than the obvious physical impairments. The only explanation I can come up with is that something of their spirit is clouded over. There is left a shell, something hollow. I can't describe it, but it's something that has surprised me as I have sat in deep conversation with the same people in two different states. Santos wants to quit drinking. He knows it's ruined his life. He speaks fondly of memories of sitting in church with his father. He wants to come back to his father. We sat with him a few days ago for a while just talking. As we finally walked away he called out and said, "bye papa..." That was just too much I about lost it.

Lessons learned this week? For me it was the power of revelation. I know it's real. I've experienced it. I believe that God still inspires men and women and that those who have to care for others receive inspiration to guide their responsibility. I love being a missionary and am grateful to be out here with my only purpose being feeding Christ's sheep; caring for them and sharing the gospel message. I know that this is a good message. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Sirrine

Aug 3, 2015 No letter this week

Sunday, August 2, 2015

July 27, 2015 Jamaica Chronicles

Another transfer of being the small comp! Elder Vi is a Brooklyn missionary now! This picture is from transfer meeting, which was Elder Galke's last. He's going home! And..... (drumroll please)..... Elder Boden! I am staying in Jamaica and have been joined by the lovely Elder Boden from Roy, Utah.

So sorry I missed emailing last week! I had a lot of meetings

Well this has been a crazy week! Transfer meeting on Tuesday was great and we brought home Elder Boden. Jamaica Spanish is going down to a four man district, so it is now just us and Hermana Urizar and Hermana Snow. It's been quite the week breaking in Elder Boden - he's fresh from the Provo MTC. Its super different because my last two companions have been very experienced in the mission and had been in the area forever and knew it like the back of their hand.  We now have a super young district because Hna Urizar came out with me in February and Hna Snow has been out one transfer, Elder Boden zero.  Elder Boden is pretty solid.  Its kind of wierd because three months ago he was 17 years old and in high school, and now he's been launched straight into the frying pan of Jamaica! It's kind of funny because none of the new trainees want to go to Jamaica because they always do a street sweep in Jamaica the Monday before transfers with the incoming group (my group missed that because we were in Detroit) and so we learned at transfer meeting that they had all associated Jamaica with being traumatized fresh off the plane by our lovely selection of citizens . Elder Vi and I were laughing when we caught wind of that right before transfer meeting because I already knew who my comp would be and where he would be going since he was the only incoming Spanish missionary in the mission. (Oh btw that's why I was a little preocuppied last week and didn't write there was a lot of training and stuff).

Elder Boden is doing well, he knows the scriptures and has a good desire to be obedient, which is exciting.  As far as the work goes, our pool is still in a rut, but I think we are gaining some traction.  We have been counseling as a district and have come to the conclusion that we need to change something to get the members excited and involved and unified. We decided we needed to start ward activities, which haven't happened for four years.  The ward is just too small and the members don't have time.  Getting people to help organize and getting people to attend is difficult.  But we felt that that was what we needed to do to get things going and get our investigators fellow shipped.  Well no sooner had we agreed on that, our ward mission leader proposed the idea, and before we could get the idea to the ward council, Hno Castellano (high priest group leader) came to us with a detailed plan to implement regular ward activities and a strong desire to make it happen.  So I guess it must have been a good idea. Anyway, we spent a lot of time making a plan of action to carry out, and we had our first one on Friday.  We were super excited, and we had a good list of less active members and investigators who said they would attend.

As you might expect from trying to break the ice on that one after four years, things didn't exactly go super smooth.  I was getting pretty down about it, actually. We had worked so hard and been praying for a miracle, and nothing went right at all.  At first, only one investigator showed up, who is the husband of a member and wouldn't even come into the room where we were starting with a 20 minute workshop on family history. Probably just as well, as that twenty minute workshop turned into a forty minute argument. I felt just about like what Hno Castellano looked - he was sitting back there sweating bullets sinking in his chair with every vein above his collar popping out of his skin.  All this was happening while a Hna Amaya's baby was out in the echoing hall crying with an intensity I had never heard before, reaching decibels that I never would have thought possible from such a little package that seemed dangerous to my sense of hearing and my sanity. After the workshop, the projector that we had tested three times right before wouldn't function, so we skipped the 7 minute video and headed straight upstairs to play games and have a light refreshment.  Well Elder Boden and I were in the media center trying to figure out what was wrong with the projector. After a small prayer, it finally fixed itself. We walked back the gym, with me wondering how I was going to show excitement (Hna Snow is trying to coach me on how to show my emotions and make people think I'm a normal person with feelings.... haha!) and we stumbled upon a wonderful scene.  Everybody in there was having fun! I had never seen the ward (or the 25 people that were there anyway) having such a good time and I saw, for the first time, the spirit of unity begin.  They were acting like a fellowship, a brotherhood.  Hna Urizar and Hno Castellano started telling me all the reasons why it was a success.  Another investigator had come at that point, and he had a good time and got to know the members.  We closed off the night by showing the video and ended up having a really uplifting thought and testimony about family history work.

At the end of it, Hna Amaya's baby had been screaming horribly for an hour and a half, and it had become apparent that there was something really wrong with her and she was in some sort of pain.  Hna Amaya asked me if we could give her a blessing, so I grabbed Elder Boden and asked him if he wanted to bless or anoint, knowing full well he had probably never given a blessing in Spanish.  Turns out, he had never given one in English.  So we sat there in a little room with the poor baby as I taught Elder Boden what to say in Spanish and then gave her a blessing.  I doubt anybody heard what we said over the screaming.... but the moment we removed our hands from her tiny head it ceased completely.  They left in silence, and we learned on Sunday that the baby had been perfectly sound ever since. I realized after everybody had left and we talked about the event as missionaries with our ward mission leader and Hno Castellano that this night had been a night of miracles.  Some small, some large - all personal.  I don't have time to describe the rest of them, but suffice it to say that I learned an important lesson about attitude.  I don't consider myself a person who has a negative attitude, but I realized how much room for improvement I have.  I went home and asked God forgiveness for my ungratefulness and thanked him for hearing our prayers.  I testify to each one of you that today is a day of miracles - this very Monday afternoon.  It's a day of miracles just like Friday was a day of miracles just like Jesus' day and Peter's day and Paul's day were days of miracles. God does not change and the heavens have not closed.  I wish I had more time to tell more than just one small story from this past week. I give my personal witness of the power of the priesthood authority of God, the which every one of us has access to.  In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

July 20, 2015 No letter this week

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

July13th, 2015 New York missionary work

Yesterday we had a fun church service. Elder Vi and I walked into the church early for ward council only to discover the lobby to be dammed off by the zone leaders, who were frantically sweeping a river of sewer water out the side door into a drain. Someone had really clogged the toilet. Pretty soon sewer  water started coming up out of the drinking fountains of the first floor as well. We would have loved to stay and help, but unfortunately we had a meeting to attend....

Later that evening we had a stake priesthood meeting in Lynbrook. The meeting was translated into four different languages, and most of the translators were missionaries. It was a great meeting - if you spoke English! I grabbed a headset just for fun, and wow.... I'm convinced that anybody who only spoke Spanish gained absolutely nothing valuable from that meeting.  The two poor Spanish elders up there translating were sweating bullets for more than two hours looking like they were on the edge of a nervous breakdown. One of them was a native Spanish speaker, even, but being bilingual and being able to do a live translation are two different things. From one of the talks, about twenty five minutes and  very inspiring, the only intelligible concept I got from the headset was "había un hombre..... que fue al templo". I was just glad that our companionship wasn't doing it.

On Saturday we had a really exciting event - Hermanas Urizar and Snow and Elder Vi and I took the Mateu couple to the temple! They are older, probably seventies or eighties, and have a goal to be sealed in the temple in less than four weeks, so we went to the temple to start preparing them for that. Getting there was a nightmare - something happened to all of the R trains, so we were trying to figure out how to get to Manhattan using everything else... ended up in the Bronx... and by the time we got there the Spanish 9:30 session was full. So we hung out in the church side of the building until the 11:00 session, which was English, so the Mateu's had to use headsets. I also took a headset, and that really worried me there for a second. I was sitting there listening to something I could not understand one bit, thinking "man, I really thought my Spanish was better than that...". It didn't take me long to realize I was on some sort of Chinese channel. Unfortunately, once I got it working min Spanish, a lady here needed a replacement because her headset wasn't working. So I didn't get to listen to it in Spanish. But it was a super neat experience and the Mateu's were just so, so happy. It was marvelous.

We had interviews with president Reynolds this week and he's a really cool guy. Couldn't be more different from President Calderwood, but I'm sure that's exactly one of the reasons they change every three years. He and his wife will be a fine couple to preside over this mission.

Our investigator situation hasn't changed much.... Although Benjamín is now out of school and shows  more promise with increased time. We are trying to respark ward activities here so our investigators and members can connect with each other. It's hard in New York, people are even busier than they are in  Utah, but hopefully we can get things to pick up. Part of what makes it difficult is that our Bishop is only here every other week right now, and half of the ward council is not very strong. Being able to have  lessons with our ward mission leader and turn them in as lessons to a less active is a little bit of a step down from having Bishop Wooley as a ward mission leader.... but he's making a lot of progress! He's come to church almost every week for the last couple of months and we have a goal to get him to the temple for the first time!

We also don't have any active ward missionaries. Elder Vi has an interesting perspective on Jamaica because he trained here a year and a half ago, and now he's back. The ward really isn't big enough to be a ward anymore, and he said that one big reason why is that more than half of the active members  when he was here last time have moved to Utah! Super funny. We've got at least two families in the ward right now planning on moving to Utah soon. So it will be interesting to check out some Spanish wards when I get back and see how many came from New York!

It has been an interesting experience starting the first quarter of this mission so far in the two infamously stagnant areas among the New York missionaries.... but I know that my being here is inspired. I can feel it, I can see it in the experiences I have daily, the small ones. I've learned some valuable things here. I have experienced for myself, just like Elijah learned, that the voice of the Lord is not in the great wind, it's not in the earthquake, but it is found in a still, small voice. I've been obligated to develop faith, that is, hope for things not seen. I hope to never stop increasing my faith, something that I know cannot be developed without adversity. I love this work. I love the people of New York. I give my testimony that I know that this work is true, and that Jesus Christ stands at the head of it, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Sirrine

July 6, 2015 New Mission President!

Well,  President and Sister Reynolds are here! We had a mission conference this week to meet them. It will be interesting to see how this changes things! In any case, I'm excited to get to know  the Reynolds, and I can feel their love for us. I have faith that the mantle of that great calling will make them as great as the Calderwoods.

The New York summer is as brutal as ever, which at least makes the Latino community happy. They all come from very hot places and aren't fans of the NY winters.  Occasionally we get the relief of rain. Well, it's relief for me, anyway. Most people refer to it as bad weather. Rain is a little bit different here, though. Most the time it ends up trapping the stench and creates a muggy, stinky air thick enough to drown in.

Sorry I can't write more, but I want to leave you all with my testimony. I love this church. I love the fruits of this church. I testify that this is the only church that lines up exactly with the blueprint of Christ's church laid out in the Bible. I know with all my heart that the Book of Mormon is good, that it does testify of Christ, that it does teach His doctrine, and that a man will get nearer to God by abiding by it's precepts than by any other book. Those things I know. And because I know those things, I know that it is the very word of God and is proof that this Church has the restored authority of God and living prophets. I wish I could be there with each one of you and declare my testimony with all the energy of my soul. I can't be there, so I hope it will suffice to say that manner in which I write these things is in the name of Jesus Christ. And I know what it means when I say that. Amen.

Elder Sirrine

Sunday, July 19, 2015

June 29, 2015 Buenas!

Lemonade elliptical! This was our best one yet.

My six month temple trip! I love the Manhattan temple

Well I am continuing my "English fast", but I will write you all in English. I figure that's an exception since not everyone reads Spanish. I've come to appreciate out here what it means to speak a language, how much of a skill it is. It's crazy realizing that eight year old kids have mastered this skill which is so difficult. I've also come to appreciate the value of reading. It's an important skill. It is something that gives you the ability to learn anything. I'm so grateful I was raised in a home where books were important. Because of that, I can read well. By my second transfer I could read Spanish better than most adults here. Simply having the ability to read has given me an advantage learning Spanish, along with most other skills I have.

 For example, eating pop-tarts. I've always loved to hear Brian Regan's discourse on pop tart instructions, but it's so much more meaningful now that I know somebody did it wrong and ended up with second degree burns because he didn't read the directions. Another companionship walked into our apartment with pop tarts, only intending to commandeer our toaster, and walked out with only half of the companionship having the ability to shake people's hands for the next three weeks. Elder St. Rose's hand has finally made a recovery.

On a more serious note (than melting multiple layers of soft tissue), the inability to read well (i.e. read fluently and comprehend what is on the page) is a serious problem for the progression of investigators and members of the church. Many people cannot even effectively read the church's pamphlets, and the scriptures are yet more difficult. It's left me scratching my head since I arrived in New York. Investigators cannot progress if they do not keep commitments, and reading the scriptures every day is an irreplaceable commitment. Yet however difficult it is for good readers sometimes to be committed to reading the scriptures, think how difficult it would be if you could only read at half the rate and still understand just about nothing. I feel that illiteracy is one of the principle underlying factors for members becoming less active. Like we learn from the Savior's parable, the gospel had to have deep root in our hearts if we want to survive hard times, and you get that root by studying the scriptures. It's been a tough problem as a missionary here.

This is a picture of Hugo. He's my Puerto Rican grandpa. Elder Vi says he's never had so many homeless investigators before, but some of them really have a special place in my heart. This picture about describes the work for me right now. There's a lot of work to do in New York. A lot of weak to be succored, a lot of hanging heads to lift, and people that stand in need of comfort.

I've discovered that gluten is actually kind of an American thing. We eat beans, rice, and chicken. And things normally made out of flour are made out of corn flour in e Hispanic world. 
Notice the type of employment