Sunday, March 20, 2016

January 26, 2016 Welp, it snowed!

Text from photos of journal pages:

January 24
Not sure where to start…it’s been an incredible couple of days.

We had exchanges with the Assistants on Friday, Elder Young came to us and we had a blast.  He’s got so much energy and optimism.  I love it.  He brought a car, which made us late to our own zone meeting.  We had to get the Assistants somewhere, so we couldn’t make up for starting late so I didn’t speak (I suppose that’s what I get for getting carried away for 45 minutes last time during my workshop).  Overall it was a decent meeting, and Elder Young had some much appreciated words for us during the exchange follow up and said that he sensed our zone trusted us.  It truly has been such a blessing to have worked with a zone that stayed basically the same for a few transfers and seeing our growth together.

After that, we went straight into one of our District Leader exchanges.  Elder Cottle went to Elder Harris and I took Elder Cahoun, who has been out 3 weeks.  After exchanging, the second largest snow storm in NYC’s recorded history hit and over the next night and day it dumped 29 inches of snow.  NYC completely shut down.  At 12:30 our landlord called us and asked if we had heard the news.  Of course we hadn’t.  Missionaries don’t watch the news.  She informed us that the buses had been commanded to stop running at noon, trains would shut down at 4:00, and anybody driving on the highways would be arrested.  We informed the Zone, and then called the Asssitants, who also had no idea.  Had our landlord not called, we may have had a lot of stranded city missionaries.  As it was, our Spanish Elders only just caught the last M train going back to Knickerbocker.

During all this, Elder Cahoun and I had a great experience together.  He is really struggling with the adjustment.  He’s from a small, western town and, like me, has found it difficult to deal with the claustrophobia, noise, and people.  He’s extremely shy and has been thrown in with a zone and a companion that really emphasize talking with everyone.  It’s tough.  And he and Elder Harris do not get along.  Oh Elder Harris.  I love him so much.  Last time we were together, our pillow talk lasted three hours (oops).  Elder Harris is my kind of guy, but very few people get along with him as a companion.  He’s so ambitious and straight talking that most missionaries think working with him feels a bit like standing before the judgement bar, and he makes Elder Cahoun feel like a child.  He has amazing leadership qualities, but has an inability to go to the level other missionaries are at in order to lift.

Poor Elder Cahoun.  Poor Elder Harris.  Makes me chuckle.  I see myself in both of their shoes…
Anyways, after a good two hour discussion with Elder Cahoun, I discovered why God had me spend a week preparing myself for that workshop I never gave in zone training meeting.  That exchange was such a blessing.  Could not have asked for more, the right words just kept filling my mouth and the Lord touched Elder Calhoun’s heart.

As for our day, all our lessons cancelled, but we still taught as we grabbed our shovels and wacked through 2½ feet of snow digging out cars and walkways.  It was amazing what a time of crisis like that did to the people of NY.  They were different.  They were kind.  They actually accepted our help.  It was just so different.  It was the first time I experienced for myself a large scale disaster like we read about in the Book of Mormon softening the hearts of the people.  This storm hurt NYC bad, and it hurt people.  Yet, like all the acts of God, it was a blessing.  Not in any temporal way, but in a remarkable miracle, NYC felt the Spirit.  This storm instantly humbled an exceedingly arrogant and self-centered people.  As the city was brought to its knees, I felt the collective faith and humility of the people to whom I am called to serve.  I really did, it was tangible.

At about 8:40 pm, we spotted an older couple trying to carry suitcases and bags through the snow.  We offered to help and learned that they had been stranded by the failing trains, and didn’t even know how to get home from where they were.  We called Elder Harris and my companion – they were in the apartment so had the WIFI to give us directions.  The luggage was heavy – and even after taking the load from them, they barely made the hour trek to their home wading through the snow.
We made it back to our apartment by 10:20, exhausted.  It had been a day of trudging, shoveling, praying, shoveling, pushing, and teaching.  It reminded me of a long day of snowmobiling.  Poor Elder Cahoun just about collapsed on our front porch.

We obviously couldn’t exchange back, so we stayed together until Sunday.  Church was cancelled.  It was a blessed exchange.

Letter sent January 25th:

So today the city is back up and running fairly smoothly although a lot of buses are still down. Apparently, with nearly 29 inches of snow in a day, that was one tenth of an inch off from being the biggest snow storm in New York city's history!

Another interesting occurrence is that, for the first time in history, NYC reached out to the church and asked for help. In New York, you have to have the walkways on all your property cleared off within something like four hours after the last snowflake falls. So those who are incapable of doing so call the city in the event of a storm with more than six inches and the city has to find a way to take care of it. So they reached out to the North  Mission and the South Mission, and the zone leaders are coordinating with the church public affairs
representatives to mobilize missionaries to respond to these calls. We will be doing this the whole winter.

This is fruit from many hours of community service over the years, including Hurricane Sandy, and is a huge step forward for public relations in a powerful state that is currently a big source of opposition to the church.

God works in mysterious ways, as they say! I love being a missionary and being able to see that at a very broad level and at a very personal level. My testimony is that God hears and answers every single sincere prayer we utter. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Sirrine

January 19, 2016 Manhattan Temple trip

Life is going great here in "3 celestial zone"! My simple testimony is that I love missionary work and know it is a true work (check it out sometime, see your local missionaries for details). In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Manhattan temple! It worked out great because it was Elder Cottle's 18 month anniversary, so we got to go together!

January 18

So I will be emailing tomorrow instead of today just FYI - anniversary temple trip tomorrow and so we will combine preparation day with that.

Elder Sirrine

Text from photos of journal pages:


Yesterday was the long awaited coming of Elder Lee Donaldson and Brother Watson from the missionary department.  It was so good!  We learned so many good things.  Possibly the foremost subject (well, besides the Doctrine of Christ, because we’re missionaries so every training is focused on the Doctrine of Christ) was planning.  They taught us the newest training on planning and actually helping people instead of just hoping.  They warned us that for the first bit it would be long and frustrating.  I didn’t actively believe him but right about now the leadership of the mission is like a bunch of chickens running around with no heads.  We are absolutely boggled.  We’ve practically been planning non-stop since we left the meeting, skipping language study, adding “companionship study,” etc.  And we’ve made it through plans for three people.
Another bomb dropped on the leadership is a new style of exchanges.  Bro Watson was in a meeting with the Quorum of the Twelve last week in which they told him to change exchanges so that the entire non-leader companionship comes and works in the leader’s pool.  That puts some pressure on the leaders to have a stellar area!  The idea is that they can observe exactly what is done to have a great pool.  The actual logistics of pulling it off are surprisingly complicated.  We are the only mission in the world testing this right now.  It’s going to be fun.

January 18
Wow our pool is looking so solid right now, we are really working with some pure in heart.
Today we taught three amazing new investigators; a Mexican with family problems who is pretty smart, and a Dominican couple who was super awesome.  All three accepted a baptismal invite.  We really taught well, and the Spirit was there.  The Mexican guy, Javier, just got divorced a few months ago.  It turns out Elder Cottle and I had both spoken with him on the train before.  That’s interesting.  (another train story – after the Dominican appointment on the way out, a group of kids were walking in the building and one of them interjected, “Hey I’ve seen that guy on the train before!”  Yeah.  Everybody’s seen us on the train before…two well-dressed white kids that talk with everyone.  By the time I’m done with Bushwick, anyway).  So we taught Javier, and after he prayed, there was a long silence, and we asked him how he felt, all this just after explaining the fruit of the Spirit.  He felt it.  He felt peace for the first time in a long time.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

January 11, 2016 Several journal entries

Typed from photos of Journal entries (pardon any name misspellings):

Dec 19, 2015
I can’t believe it’s nearly Christmas.  On exchanges right now with Elder Walker.  Last night was fun – got home at 6:00 and they still hadn’t managed any “shares” with the Christmas video (the goal is 10/day).  So we set out with a prayer and started walking the streets.  After a bit I felt like we ought to give knocking a try.  First door we knock, a woman about our age invited us into a beautiful home – there were roommates there prepping for a party!

We asked to share the video and they insisted on hooking it up to the TV.  They were super impressed, and we started talking about missionary life.  More people soon joined.  45 minutes later, we’d had so much fun together and had made some wonderful new friends, and one of them invited us back to dinner.  It was just like being back in college.

Dec 22, 2015
Just started exchanges with Elder Harris.  Such a relief.  I needed some time away from my companion.  Today after a great lesson he told me that I’m too animated during lessons and smile and use hand gestures too much.  I’ve been trying to be tolerant of the fact that he is awkwardly quiet and shows no emotion in lessons because I assumed he was doing his best.  Little did I know he had the opposite goal in mind.

Dec 27, 2015
Well, Christmas happened, just like they said that it would.  It didn’t feel like Christmas.  It felt more like trying to run down Elder S.  He escaped.  We got a call in the middle of studies from an out-of-breath Elder Harris, who was trying to run him down, but Elder S outpaced him.  He made it all the way to Manhattan where he skyped his father ((I suppose that’s just what you do on Christmas), and we spent the rest of the day looking for him.  We later went to a dinner appointment at the Stake President’s house with the rest of the district.  We gathered there and offered a prayer.  Shortly thereafter, President Reynolds received an email from Elder S saying he was all right.  The next morning, it was discovered that the spare key to the Sister’s old apartment (now vacant) was gone.  The Assistants knocked on that door (which is right next to the Elder’s current apartment) and Elder S opened up.  He had taken all his things, gone to Manhattan, and moved right back in next door.  He is in the mission home now.  I’m so worried about him.  I pray that everything will turn out.

Dec 28, 2015
Today we had a great lesson with Miguel Bisano, an inactive guy.  Super nice fellow, love him a lot.  He’s got good questions and wants to learn.

After that we went to the Rojas family (also inactive) for an appointment.  The son said we’d have to reschedule when he opened the door because his mom was super sick, so we asked if we could give her a blessing.  They let us in and we ended up having a great talk.  They had both read the talk we gave them – “The Why of the Church” by Elder D. Todd Christofferson, and were very impressed by it.  Getting them to church seems hopeful.  It was good to see the results of my efforts this morning to more focus my studies on investigators and receive revelation for them.  I received strong impressions about parts of the Plan of Salvation that were direct answers to a question Miguel had that I otherwise would have answered improperly.

We had really good experiences on the street.  Shared the video with a man who had just left a disaster at his girl’s house and he was so grateful for the message and the timing.  He was blown away by how perfect it was.  Another fellow didn’t want to talk to us, but after coercing him into the video, volunteered all his information and an appointment tomorrow!

January 3, 2016
Today we had an epic lesson with a new investigator named Maria.  That was a huge blessing because she is fruit  of talking to people on the trains, which we have no visible success from, but continue to do diligently based off of faith and obedience.

We taught well and the Spirit testified in high voltage.  At the end, she offered a beautiful prayer, apprehensive at first, but nearly as soon as she opened the prayer we were all wrapped in Heavenly Father’s arms of love.

Junior is off track for his Jan 17th baptismal date, due to his family.  Trying to soften their hearts seems like trying to stop the tide – always defensive, really never pushing forward.

Transfers on Tuesday.  President called us a couple nights ago in a conference call with the Sister Training Leaders and Zone Leaders, informing us that there will be no more transfer meetings.  The missionary department is taking that out, as it is not a principle found in the Mission President’s Handbook.  So we counseled together on how on earth we are going to get people to their new companions and new areas, and we are all still scratching our heads a bit.  I am sad that the majority of musical numbers are going to be done away with, but I know this will help the mission if we are humble and don’t complain.  Calling the zone tomorrow will be fun…

January 6, 2016
Pretty solid day, talked to a lot of people on the street, with an exceptional success ration – out of 42 people we talked with, two accepted the idea of a visit.  Hopefully we can contact them.
Josh Carreno came out teaching with us .  He’s such a stud.

So far my comp and I are off to a better start than last transfer.  It’s been discouraging to feel like our relationship is so irreparable – very disappointing to me that while I’m preaching faith and repentance I can’t seem to apply them in my life.  But, overall, I have improved some and gotten stronger.  In the past conference, Joseph Smith was quoted:  “God will feel after you and wrench your very heartstrings.”  How true that is.  My comp tries my pride and submissiveness in such an exquisite manner.  I am left dumbfounded.  And, unlike my last companions, I didn’t learn my lesson within two transfers, so now I’m with him for three.  By the grace of God, these two have gone by quickly.  Hopefully the next one does as well.  Not sure how the Assistants and President think we are so wildly successful because of how much the zone has increased in performance while within we are struggling so much.

January 7, 2016
Tonight we had a great lesson with the Escobar family in which the daughter in law cooked for us.  She’s Mexican, so there was some hotness to it.  Hermana Escobar was making a huge deal out of it, it was hilarious…a Hispanic lady about to wimp right out on us and the two gringos agreed that there was hardly any spice.  Guatemalan people.

Had a wonderful lesson with Fransisco Poveda, a new investigator who has great desires, but is very addicted to alcohol and tobacco.   Sat down with the rest of the family as well and they are lovely.  The situation seems to have potential.

January 8, 2016
Today we had a wonderful lesson with Junior, and Bairon  joined in and set a baptismal date! Also had  Mission leadership Council today, it was super good.  Great Spirit there.

January 8(?), 2015
Random thought:  we are going to teach Miguel Bisano(sp?) tonight so we’re buckling down for a wild ride.  Miquel is an interesting fellow.  He’s the only person I’ve ever met who could mess up the ice-cream truck driver analogy used to teach authority.  “Miguel, what would you do if an ice cream truck driver pulled you over and tried to give you a ticket?”  “Bro, I’d strike up conversation!  Like you undercover or something?..”  on and on and on.  At another time he said he’d like to tell us his two passions in life.  “First, to be the greatest UFC Champion.”  Scrawny little Miguel who spends his days smoking weed and playing video games.  “I wanna be the greatest fighter who ever lived.  And second… juicing”  That’s where all powers of speech failed him (which for Miguel is incredible), as he stammered out half sentences, clearly distraught that he was not capable of communicating to us the profound joy of putting together a few natural fruits and veggies with no sugar.

January 9(?), 2016
So we taught Miguel last night.  Wow.  That’s about all I’ve got right now.

(big space)

Okay, now that I’ve had a day to recover I can give it an attempt.  His friend, Michael was over.  They spent the first half hour arguing about UFC.  Finally we were able to assert ourselves enough to crank up a Mormon Message (that’s about all the hope we had left).  As soon as it was over, Michael counter-maneuvered by showing us a video trying to convince people to convert to Islam.  After learning about Allah, we pieced together a hopelessly confused Plan of Salvation lesson, which led us to separating into Miguel and myself and Michael and my companion.  That’s about where I’ll call it quits, as making an attempt to describe what actually went down would probably cause carpal tunnel and mental breakdowns.

January 10, 2016
Yesterday we had the most amazing day at church I’ve experienced on the mission.  Seven investigators came!  Along with several less actives we’ve been working wo hard with lately.  Junior came to church – with his aunt, Bairon, Denis, and his mom.  Bairon and Junior are on track to be baptized together on the 31st of this month.  The only thing that pushed Junior’s date back from the 17th was his aunt, and she came and enjoyed it!  Such a miracle.
The less active Highlights were Jonathon and his mother (hadn’t been in years), and Miguel Bisano.  So I guess our two and a half hour “lesson” last night did some sort of good.
Also, a random guy the English elders spoke to on the street showed up at the Spanish service.  So I translated – he stayed all three hours – and then we taught him about the Restoration and he said he wanted to be baptized.  I swear something like that happens every time we work with the English missionaries here – it’s awesome!  And the mission office sends them dozens of internet self-referrals every day.  Most of them just want a free Bible… but the Bushwick English program is seriously great right now.  The whole zone, actually, is on fire.  All the missionaries (almost) stayed the same last transfer, and after much blood, sweat, and tears on the matter, we are a TALK WITH EVERYONE ZONE!   I can’t say how rewarding that is to see.  It’s changed the work here in Bushwick.

December 28, 2015

Well Christmas was fun! Had some good food among other adventures. It was so fun to skype the family!

Our zone has some challenges but overall is doing really well. On Sunday two kids got baptized, one of them (Isaac) was a convert baptism, because his dad is a member but Isaac was eleven. That was so cool to see and I was so happy that Elder Ruiz was able to be a part of that. He is a great missionary who is going home next week and it was great to have him see success during his last little bit here. Our investigator Junior is still on track to be baptized on January 17th. Pray for him! He is so pure in heart but it's a tough situation with the family, all very unsupportive and he's only ten. Blows my mind though. He loves church so much and has been praying every day and reading out of the Book of Mormon illustrated and is doing so much better in school and at home just so his family will let him get baptized. This week we are going to give him a real Book of Mormon and try to help him read it and help him quit drinking coffee. Our other super promising investigator is unfortunately heading to the Dominican Republic for a month. So we hope we can get him in contact
with missionaries there.

Love you all so much! Thanks for all the support. I love being a missionary! I love the gospel and know that it's God's plan for our happiness. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Sirrine