Wednesday, March 25, 2015

March 23, 2015 Never Forget to Check the Church meeting Language

Well it snowed another five or six inches. There was much mourning in the land, because it was starting to look like spring.  We were doing fine until we were driving in the snow and the shuffle gods decided Michael Bublé would be a good idea. NO. NO.  IT IS NOT BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS. Elder Galke lost it. The warm weather did make a fast recovery, although not before somebody slid into our parked car.  We were in a lesson and when we came out Chloe was all banged up. As missionaries, every day is planned out meticulously, and we even make backup plans in case that doesn't work out - so you should never be scratching your head as a missionary wondering what to do.  Well some things can't be overcome by plan 'B'. Waiting in the car two hours for the police falls under that category.

On Saturday we had a successful Noche de Barrio where our ward mission leader shared  a thought and then we played games and ate food.  The English missionaries are always jealous of our fiestas.  White people.... sometimes....! Here in the Spanish program we don't mess around.  This week was a little slow because we had a lot of cancellations.  But we did get a new investigator. His name is Manuel, and he is a really awesome guy, just really nice and humble and everything.  I'm really excited to continue teaching him. Also our Sunday was really exciting. Our sacrament attendance was huge, we almost didn't fit in the chapel.  Part of that was that we had some visitors from Missouri, a big family that was whiter than Lorenzo Snow's beard, and they did not speak a lick of Spanish.  Watching the back of their heads when the Bishop got up and started speaking was probably one of the best things that's ever happened to me. That awkward moment when you realize why you are the only white people in the chapel....  They were on vacation and looked up a chapel online and didn't realize that in New York you have to verify what language the services are going to be in. The amazing thing is that they stayed the entire three hours! The youth classes are in English, but the parents attended gospel principles and didn't want a translator.

Sorry I didn't have much time to write today, but I want to leave everyone with my testimony that the doctrine of Christ (véase 2 Ne 31) is the path to salvation and peace in this life, and that the atonement of Christ is the only way.  In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

We're thinking this is a Galke selfie... sent earlier in the morning.

"Can I baptize my dog?"  Yeah that happened.

March 16, 2015 One transfer down!

Sometimes I wonder what people expect me to do with their hand when they put it out for a handshake and then act like they've forgotten it's there.  FISH HANDSHAKES. They are a real problem in this world.  It's like, "ah this seemed like such a good idea at first but now I'm not sure if this is appropriate missionary contact.... Are we just holding hands? Is their hand broken?" You shake a lot of hands as a missionary.... I'm sure I'm not the only one that psychoanalyzes them.

This week was, as always, full of miracles! I went on exchanges with Elder Duncan, one of our zone leaders. It's always a good opportunity to go learn from someone else, even though we had a pretty unproductive day. Elder Galke and Elder season, on the other hand, were tearing it up.  They ticked off a lot of people from our potentials and less active lists, got a new family of investigators, and preached to a yodeler in the projects! Perfect day, by my estimation.  Something that we've been working on a lot lately is getting members to set goals regarding their own missionary work.  We visited la familia Simbron, and were able to get a referral - la familia Reyes. That referral was the family Elders Galke and Seaton visited.  Elder Galke said he's never had a lesson quite like it before.  He said they welcomed them in and started interviewing them about the church.  Are there commandments? Do you have to pay? We've already been baptized, can we get re-baptized? How long does that take? What makes your church different (you know, funny you should ask - we actually wanted to talk about just that)? Anyway.  Bottom line is that they are looking like about an eleven on the 'prepared by God to hear the missionaries' scale.

We also have a couple promising potentials from this week.  One of them, Isabel, we found while looking someone else up (happens a lot).  Nobody answered the door, and we just decided to knock their neighbors door.  Isabel opened and we had a good conversation and said we could set up an appointment.  It's always comforting when you are able to see the fruits of following the Spirit.  We never knock random doors because there are 8 million people in our mission and so finding the right people is definitely more of a skilled tracking endeavor rather than net fishing.  Thankfully, the blood trail for the game we track is nothing more or less than the Spirit.  There are little flecks of red (sometimes big, but normally little) everywhere, but they are easy to miss if you aren't walking with an eye totally single to finding them. We had good success in finding this week, more than I could relate here but "it sufficeth me to say" that the hand of the Lord is in the work.  It never ceases to amaze me that people actually listen to us.  Every part of the missionary work is a miracle. The amazing thing about la familia Reyes is that the Simbron's really didn't think it would work.  They gave us their names as a referral but it was clear they didn't really think that anything would come of it.  But thanks to that a whole family is going to receive the gospel.  We have high hopes for them.

I invite everyone to make goals about missionary work.  We are giving members a sheet with three categories - baptism, sacrament attendance, and temple attendance, and asking them to put solid numbers in every category as goals for the next year, with specific names to back them up.  I invite every member who is reading this to do the same. Pray about the goals. Find out what numbers and names your Heavenly Father wants you to put, and have the faith to follow even the slightest promptings.  "Behold, I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor" D&C 88:81.  If you have any concerns, tell them to the missionaries. They will help you overcome doubts about missionary work.  When we are afraid of boldly inviting people to come unto Christ, it is because we are forgetting what our message is.  We are inviting owes to take of the most precious fruit.  What greater love and friendship could we show? These things I say in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Ps: transfers are tomorrow and our whole district is staying. Kind of unusual.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

March 9, 2015 Que tal papi?

Elder Galke: "....yeah President's got an Audi".
Hermana Vasquez: "President has an outie? Good for him... I've got an innie".

We're actually not sure what kind of belly button President Calderwood has, but his Audi is the only trace of his past life that is visible.  I suppose he had to get to New York somehow.  If you didn't Wikipedia him, you would have no idea that he's an extremely successful business man and could probably find something else to do with his time if he wasn't taking care of 160 young adults. He is so humble and an incredible example of someone who has left behind everything to go to New York and serve God with all his might, mind, and strength.  Being a mission president is no nine to five job.  I'm sure the new mission president coming in in a few months will be great, but I can't imagine not having President Calderwood.

Once again we had a week of miracles. And snow.  It snowed probably about a foot in one day on top of the several inches we already had. We almost didn't make it out of the church parking lot. That would have been embarrassing.  The undercarriage of the car didn't clear the snow.  We had an.... interesting.... Lesson with Anthony and Christian.  We read Alma 32 with them because they hadn't understood on their own. Afterward, we brought up their baptism date which was five days away. Both of their mothers were there, and neither of the kids had told their mothers they had a baptism date! I was a little flabbergasted, although, trying to exercise a little humility, I realized that is something that I might do.... so I could sympathize.  So the next 30 minutes or so was the two Mama Bears grilling everyone. On the bright side, they weren't opposing it. In fact, they were saying (yelling) that if they know it is true, don't wait, but don't get baptized and be less active. So now it's clear how supportive they are. The Hermanas are working with Christian's mom right now, and while she doesn't know it's true yet, she knows that it is good. So anyway, their baptism date got pushed back.  They are still progressing.

One night after we finished with lessons and we still had 45 minutes before time to return home, elder Galke received a little bit of inspiration that we should do some street contacting. This was actually my first time because people aren't really out on the streets as much during the winter. In fact, it sounds like winter kind of shuts down a lot of the missionary and ward functions. We don't do a lot just because people won't come because of the weather. That's something that's a little bit different here, because back in Utah when the weather is bad is exactly when people need a nice indoor activity to go do. Anyway, we started walking, and right when we were about to cross the street, he turned us around totally to a different guy. At first he was, of course, a little standoffish, but Elder Galke just struck up a real sincere conversation. Eventually we were stopped, and as we were getting rained on the man open up so much to us. He spoke about how he had been with a girl who had disappeared and then came back pregnant, saying it was his child. They got a blood test which confirmed that. Then she left him with the child. Now he lives in Queens and travels to visit his daughter living here in Staten going to high school. He said having a daughter gave him the desire to straighten up a bit. So we got his number to give to the elders in Queens. It was so amazing what this man confided in us – two guys he had never met. It was a miracle. That's something I noticed a lot here. The members and investigators, people I've never met, will open up so much to us, will trust in us so much. I truly think that they are prompted by the spirit when doing so. That kind of willingness to share The most personal things with people who are, in many cases, total strangers, is something that I have not experienced before.

We had a wonderful lesson with la familia Avila. The spirit was so strong. We shared the Mormon message "hope you know, we had a hard time" and discussed how Christ and the word of God can help us overcome. Hermano's father just died. When the hermana was commenting on how they had been helped through hard times thanks to God, I could hardly suppress my smile. The spirit was testifying of those words so powerfully.

Yesterday we did a few minutes of street contacting and I accidentally started talking to a really, really drunk guy. It was about 8:45 PM and he was already walking home from the bar, he was hammered. We actually asked him if he'd had a lot to drink, and he shrugged it off and said he'd had a few beers. Uh huh. He started getting a little aggressive so we left, but we are able to leave him a card. It was pretty funny at the time, but as I was thinking about it, I realized how sad it was. I wonder what that man is going through, to be going to the bar by himself probably right after work and doing that to himself. It definitely wasn't recreational or social drinking. That's something that I've realized out here more than ever before - we can't understand what other people are going through.

We had a really good lesson with the Garcias. Rick was there tonight, which was an answer to a very specific prayers. It was good to teach Rick and Belkis together. We were really bold and asked Rick straight up why he is not going to church. He just vaguely said life wasn't permitting and that God had his own timetable, but he would eventually get there. We told him that God was calling him right now. We'll see what happens. Doesn't know how much we know about his situation. I could never explain the difficulties they have in cases entrusted to us, and even with our knowledge I can't understand what they go through. Only Christ. I love Rick so much. I feel more of a connection to him than anybody else here. I want to help him so badly but its difficult.  On the bright side, we have made more progress with them in the last few weeks than in ten years of missionary lessons before.

I want to give you all my testimony of the enabling and changing power of the atonement.  I know it's real because the scriptures say it is.  I know it's real because prophets say it is.  I know it's real because people whom I love and trust testify of it.  But above all, I know it's real because I have personally experienced it.  "O then, is not this real? I say unto you - yea."  Alma 32:35. Life is hard.  That's how it was meant to be. We are meant to need a Savior.  Go to him, he will heal you.  Don't ever say "that's just the way I am" ( véase "What Manner of Men" by Elder Hallstrom). Christ can change you.  In his atonement is the power to become "even as [He is]" (3 Ne 27:27). How incredible.  I testify of he blessings and peace that come from understanding and using the atonement.  I invite everyone to study "Yes Lord, I Will Follow Thee" by Eduardo Gavarrett. All things this I say in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

(Drawing of Christ:  Saw a picture of Jesus that I really liked.  On P-Day last week I started sketching this and thought heck, it actually looks like a person, so I've been working on it for 15 to thirty minutes before bed every night since then.  I discovered that drawing people is a lot harder than that tiger I drew in high school. I think just because of the eyes.  Anyway. Not sure what compelled me
to do this, I just really liked the picture.)

March 2. 2015 Hola! Buenos de Nueva York!

Hola! Buenos de Nueva York! The weeks are passing by so fast!  Where do I start? Well first of all, New York pizza is bien bien rico.  Ever Tuesday we have district meeting, and there's a pizza place by the chapel that does dollar slices the first half of the day, so that's an important part of building district unity of course.  We had mission conference this week which was absolutely incredible.

Which reminds me.... driving to the mission office we noticed that there was a lot of ice out on the ocean.  A member said that its been the coldest February since the 1800's.  Our car got stuck in ice the other day actually.  Someone had created wheel wells in about eight inches of pure ice which we slipped into whilst parking.  That was a doozy.

Anyway, mission conference.  Present were two of my favorite general authorities, they are from the mission department, and their wives, which was really special.  There was just too much awesomeness to sum up.  All I can say is we are so, so lucky to be led by the men and women we are led by.  They have truly lived in such a way that has allowed them to be powerful conduits of the Spirit.  I don't know how they expect us to give up President Calderwood.  Everyone says their mission president is the best. I'm going to say it too.  But I'm right.

This week I had an interesting experience - my first lesson in which I did not strongly feel the presence of the Spirit of God.  It really is a fascinating situation.  See, we've taught a lot by now, in all sorts of different circumstances.  There have been all sorts of different people, lessons, receptivity, and screaming children.  Yet to my great wonder and gratitude, we have, to varying degrees, felt the Spirit in every situation.  Until now.  After the lesson I tried to figure out what I had done wrong, but I couldn't think of anything.  Honestly, it was technically a decent lesson.  But there was something missing, it wasn't satisfying, and I didn't have confidence in it.  Well later that night during nightly planning, I decided to tell Elder Galke about it, and right as I was explaining that I didn't know what I had done wrong, the thought popped right in my head: our studies this morning were half-hearted.  It was last preparation day, and for some reason as we were studying it was more like it was a day off, not a preparation day.  In the middle of companion study, the other Elders in our apartment came up to ask something and then it digressed.... It wasn't too long before we had started beating on Elder Vidaurri (he's just like Nathan! Can hardly go a single day without his beating, he will provoke until it comes).  Anyways, we completely wasted half of comp study, and our language study got shortened to go do laundry.  This was the first time we have not been diligent in our studies.

Was the garish deficiency in our lesson for the first time as well a coincidence? I learned two things from this.  First, he importance of studying and the importance of being obedient.  Elder Holland said, "tell me how your obedience is and I'll tell you how your mission is going to be".  This doesn't just apply to missions.  It's stressed more because there's more to be obedient to, but obedience is not a two year principle, but rather, an eternal principle.  Elder Holland could have said, "tell me how your obedience is, and I'll tell you what your eternity will look like". How many places do he scriptures tell us just that? Secondly, this experience was a witness of the importance of nightly planning.  It was during that time when God gave me my answer as to what I could do to ensure that type of lesson doesn't get repeated.  I don't think it was a coincidence that my answer came during the very next opportunity I had to be obedient to the missionary schedule. I think He was trying to teach me something in that. I hope each of you will look for how these principles of study, obedience, and planning/goal setting can apply in your life.  My goal in writing is not to just share stories, there isn't enough time for that in one session per week.  I hope in every letter to share what I have felt and learned, and to be a witness of this work.  I know that Christ's church on the earth today is led by men and women of God, as it was in he past.  It is written, "Ye shall know them by their fruits".  I know that the fruit is good.  On a mission I've had the opportunity to associate personally with them, and the more I do, the more I know of their goodness and divine calling and authority.  I say all this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Don't Bother Me Jimmy, Daddy Had a Long Day at Work. Elder Galke decided that a complete fathering manual is not complete without instruction on how to make dad noises, poses, and cliche oneliners. So this is going to be the cover of our new book.