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.