Thursday, September 22, 2016

August 15, 2016 New Assignment

Typed up from photos of journal pages:

Aug 2
For some reason, I never thought the day would come that I’d open up a new journal.  I’ve always wished that I could capture on paper  what a mission really is, but I’ve come to learn that doing so would be impossible.

I generally tell people that I’m a year and a half in, but I supposed the date at the top gives away the fact that I only have 4 ½  months left.  I can scarcely imagine how devastating it will be when I have to take my tag off.  I love being a missionary with all my heart.  All my might.  All my mind.  All my strength.  I love my Savior.

The big news of the week is that Daniela is getting baptized on Saturday.  She is so special.  I remember running her down in a parking lot just a couple months ago, and now it’s happening.  She will be a member that blesses many.

Aug 6
The previous days have been  a whirlwind again.  President asked me to be his assistant.  That’s made my other two assignments a bit difficult this week, and at this point I suppose I’m just trying to wrap up the affairs of Hampton Bays and my district and our zone as gracefully as possible.
I just got back from spending two days in the city with President and the other assistants planning for the coming transfer.  It was truly a great experience.  I wish more missionaries knew of the process, of how much time and effort and revelation goes into selecting their companions, areas, and assignments.  Transfer planning is like sitting down at a massively complex puzzle, a mind game, for two days – all day.  We worked and worked and ripped our hair out, took everything down and rearranged, until God was satisfied with our effort, showed us what was right, and let us feel his warm and confirming Spirit.

Being with President was so enjoyable.  He is an example of a man who has so much unfathomable amounts of wealth and power that he could literally be doing almost anything he wanted to right now.  Instead, he is here serving humbly and working harder than anyone because he loves the Savior.
I’m excited to be back in Hampton Bays to see Daniella baptized tonight.  She is going to be such a strength in this church.  She is so humble and pure, and her conversion brings me so much joy.

Aug 7
Today I baptized Daniela.  What a tender mercy.  She is so pure, so humble.  She is going to be a fantastic member.  I feel so much the love Heavenly Father has for her and her daughter.  She thought we were trying to get a jump on the baptism by fire when they opened up the font doors and steam billowed out…we had to put some cold water in there.  Not sure how that happened.  But tomorrow she will receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost.  Heavenly Father has blessed me so much to be able to witness that.  And Javier was sitting on the front  row, so happy, remembering when he was in the font a month ago.  Hampton Bays has been unforgettable.  I’ll be sad to leave.

Elder Ko and our mansion of an apartment
Aug 10  The last few days have been some the wildest.  On Monday, Elder Ko and I officially became companions.  We had a large group of new missionaries coming in from two different places.  Normally they come in by five, but Delta was delayed, and we picked up the first group at 8:00 and took them to the mission home.  That was such a fun experience!  They were all wide-eyed and so excited to get to NY  As we helped them contact for the first time in the airport we saw that this group is exceptionally good.  We arrived at the mission home, fed them, got to feel of their wonderful spirits, and put them to bed.  Then we were in President’s office helping him match trainees and trainers.  What a process.  There was such a feeling about it as we sought the Lord’s guidance and realized how important their trainer will be in the course of their eternity.

We finally got to bed at 1:00 a.m., still without word as to when the second group would arrive.  At 3:00 we got the call.  Elder Young and I took off to pick up the Mexico group.  The poor missionaries were so exhausted.  We got back at 5:45 and went back to bed until 6:30.
Back in the fifteen passenger
In the morning (sort of…we let the Mexico group sleep until 10:30) we had a small devotional.  President spoke, and then the assistants gave testimony.  As I did, I felt the Spirit so strong.  Being with that group of new missionaries was special.  I can’t describe what I felt, but I had to excuse myself afterwards and let tears flow.  It was so special.

We then headed to transfers, which was a whirlwind, as always.  After transfers, we took the departing missionaries to the mission home, and had quite the night!  It was so nostalgic to be with a group of missionaries I’ve served around for a year and a half.  There were some giants in that group.  Elder Young, Elder Voorhees, who I looked up to so much as assistants.  Elder Chair, Sister Robinson, Sister Urizar(sp?) – I’ve looked up to her since Jamaica.  We had another devotional, the perfect, juxtaposition to the devotional earlier that morning.  A group of missionaries who’ve been through it all.  All the pain and happiness and sorrow and pure joy of serving God’s mission.  There were many that had completely avoided all that opposition for two years.  People that never learned to understand the Doctrine of Christ, people that shied away from anything hard.  The result was obvious in that moment.  They avoided much pain, and in that moment of truth, when they all bore their testimonies, they had received no joy from serving.  There was no light in their eyes.

And then there were many who had served so profoundly in such a consecrated manner, that the veil became thin as paper for them as they bore testimony of the Savior.  The holiness that pierced that room that night will never be forgotten by me.  It was one of those times that the Spirit could not be restrained to just whispering.  It was one of those times where the character of God was revealed and manifested in such an unusual manner.  It was the second time I found myself crying like a baby that day.

Got to bed at 11:30.  The next morning, we woke up at 3:00 again to take the departing missionaries to the airport.  It was a bit sad.
At the mission home with a few of the departures

It’s been such a special few days.  Wish I could say more.

Aug  12
We had a great Misison Leadership Council today.  It was a bit odd to be on the other side of that one giving the workshops.

Had a sweet second lesson with Dominick, whom we found 2 days ago, our first night we actually got to proselyte this transfer.  It’s been so weird to have been into proselyting so much and now as an assistant to have less than a third of the time to proselyte.  The pool is completely dead.  Elder Ko says it’s super tough to balance everything and they just haven’t been able to focus on proselyting.  I want to figure out how to do it.  I want to be able to set a good example of finding, feeding, and baptizing.

Dominick is super pure in hear!  He’s 16.  Has all the right questions and loves what we taught.
I love Elder Ko.  We’ve known each other more than a year.  Never thought we’d be companions.  He’s great.  I’ve loved being an Assistant.  I love the craziness, teaching, and getting to hang out with President and his wife.  Between them and the Martinos, it’ll be nearly a year that I’ve worked very closely with a mission president and wife on the mission.  What a blessing

Thursday, September 8, 2016

August 8, 2016 The Hampton Times coming to a close

Daniela baptized!
Alicia & Javier did an incredible job fellowshipping Daniela

Dear family and friends,

What a week! God has really been good about loading up on the tender mercies the last week of each of my areas for me. Daniela got baptized on Saturday. She is so wonderful! So pure. The feeling of joy I had as I saw Javier come to Daniela's baptism and knowing beyond doubt that the two of them will not only stay active to the end, but be incredible leaders in the church, was indescribable.

I have loved the people from all my areas but nothing has compared to what I feel towards Hampton bays. I feel like in Hampton bays I became something more. It's nice to feel the approval of the spirit for the last six months. Elder Peña and I grew so much together. He's a stud! I'm now serving in Lynbrook, my companion is elder Ko! He is so awesome! We've known each other for a year now - never thought we'd be companions.... he's Korean and I'm Spanish. But we both speak English so we're going to be rocking it here in Lynbrook. I am looking forward to this transfer so much.

I love being a missionary!! If I thought it was possible to describe what it means to me to be a missionary, I might make a better effort at doing so. But what I can say is that the mission is the best decision I've ever made. It has changed me so much. Why? Because of a total focus on the doctrine of Christ 24/7! He is the one that truly has the power to change us - His grace, not the mission. The longer I'm here he more emphatically I feel with all my heart that I will never not be a missionary. This gospel means everything to me. I know it's true. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Sirrine

Cannot express how much I love he tuba family . They will be getting baptized the coming transfer!

Lucero family

My gangsters. Diógenes and Dionisio.

The district
The martinos blow my mind

August 1, 2016 The Hampton Times FACEBOOK edition

So as many of you have noticed, we have been on Facebook.  Yep.  A week ago that might have been a fairly apostate activity for a missionary in NY South, but then the missionary department called President Reynolds, had him schedule an emergency mission leadership council, and then came to tell us to go train our zones the next day that, while we have absolutely no idea how, we are now going to use Facebook in our proselyting efforts.  I've never seen such a frightened herd of zone leaders and sister training leaders in my life.  For the last year and a half, Facebook has been the subject-which-must-not-be-named that has loomed ominously on the horizon.  It was a horizon that all of the mission leadership council hoped was far off. Of course, when the missionary department came and told us that it was a tool that the Lord expected us to use for good when we've been "sitting on our backsides" letting the adversary take control of it for the last year and a half, we repented speedily.

They only gave us small insights into the efforts and success of the first pilot group that retested Facebook recently, and we are truly all excited for the extremely powerful tool that we are receiving.  The missionary department has completely revamped the way that Facebook is used in missionary work compared to what it was a couple of years ago, and let me tell you (after having done it for a year and a half without Facebook) that it is a tool that has the potential to solve some of our biggest problems in missionary work that have had me ripping my hair out for the last year.  Our intention with Facebook is close the 'teaching gap'.  Here in New York, meeting with people more than once or twice a week is extremely difficult, and Preach my Gospel says "daily contact".  We will not be using Facebook to communicate with people outside of our area boundaries, but if we ever post things, share them with everyone! I look forward to giving you all some more insights about ways you can help the missionaries in your areas through Facebook as well.

On a different note, the highlight of the week is that Daniela is getting baptized on Saturday!!! She is such a miracle.  This has been such a sweet experience because, like Javier, we found her only a couple months ago.  I still remember clearly running her down in a sketchy parking lot for the first time....(missionaries are super awkward, which isn't always a bad thing as it brings in the 'pity factor'. Works for persons that have been saturated by New York about 5 years or less. Other cases and true New Yorkers are generally pretty pitiless).  She is absolutely incredible, and has the most adorable little six year old that reminds me of Mary.  I feel like we are reaping a lot of the fruit of our efforts from the last several months in Hampton Bays.  The Tuba family is SO close! They will definitely get baptized next transfer (I LOVE that family)!!

Transfers are coming up in a week.  Unfortunately, I have this feeling that I've always had in each area right before I leave. I could be wrong (hopefully).  I'm really getting into the swing of things and learning how to do missionary work, which is nice.  Now we've got to relearn how to do it with a huge change in online proselyting.  It will be fun! I just really hope that the future missionaries here will not be spared the horror of learning how to talk to any New Yorker visible on the 100 degree streets of the city.... that'd be a shame.  My testimony is something that I love and always want to share! I know that this work is the work of God.  It changes peoples lives.  It's changed my life so much that my old self from a year and a half ago would hardly recognize who I am now (and like 95% of that change is positive, which isn't bad.  Patience is the one virtue that might have suffered a little out here.  Hopefully that one rebounds when I get home and just sit in the wilderness for a couple days).  More importantly, I have seen hundreds of other lives change.  I've seen and am a witness to the joy that enters into someone's life who decides to do what it takes to come closer to the Savior and live the gospel.  I know that He lives, loves us, and answers our prayers.  In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Sirrine

Sunday, September 4, 2016

July 25, 2016 The Hampton Times

The most epic exchange ever to take place! The assistant trio took in two zone leader companionships for a day. We ate lots of food. Good thing they have a Costco. 

Wearing out the members
Your average car in Sag Harbor

This week went so fast! We saw a lot of miracles and also a lot of stress. Knocking on exchanges we ran into a long lost member and we talked a bit and she wants to come back! She was living in a nice place we named "little Guatemala", not too far from "little Mexico". There's an awful lot of white people here but we have been finding the hidden little pockets of hispánics.

A sad event was that the Tubas little boy, Ryan, had a biking accident and yesterday they did an emergency surgery. They are our number one family right now, the dad is a less active and the rest aren't members, but they've changed so much in the last few months and are so close to being married so Liliana can get baptized! I love that family so so much. Thankfully, the surgery went well. Keep them in your prayers. We are hoping that this is what brings the family together and helps them take the leap of faith towards their next steps. It's been an interesting experience, and I have seen so many miracles through it, with the Lord  guiding us as we have tried to help. I am so grateful for all the experiences I have had here in the Hamptons over the last few months, my faith has strengthened.

I love being a missionary, so much more than I could ever express. I know that God is there and answers our prayers. Many times I've wondered why He prefers to require faith and doesn't make let us discover him with our natural senses. But through a lot of time of study and prayer, I've come to know for myself that Gods slow, patient way of converting the world is truly best. I've gained so much spiritual strength through that very process that I really wouldn't have if God had simply shown himself to me. I  know this church is the church of Jesus Christ. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Elder Sirrine

July 18, 2016 Life is good

Hello there! Life is good out here, we are teaching this amazing family, and the parents want to get baptized on August 6th! The mom will make it for sure if there aren't any legal problems. They are so
sweet I love them.

Things are going well here in the zone and right now we are going to throw a bday party for Daniela!
Got to go
Elder Sirrine

July 11, 2016 Note of no letter

Dear family and friends,

I won't have the opportortunity to write today, this month is crazy with meetings and we've got a lot of zone training planning to do!

The work is good!

Elder Sirrine

July 6, 2016 The Hampton Times

Found this in my drafts. Apparently it never sent, but obviously this was from a few weeks ago

Well the biggest news of the week is that, if you've been following all the ups and downs with Javier's eligibility for baptism, it's looking like a go for the 25th! We are going to get there. It's been a
wild roller coaster ride but that family is so pure in heart we are not going to stop until he is baptized and they are in the temple!

We have a fantastic district and the branch continues to grow. Last week a big Mormon family from Utah was visiting and sacrament attendance hit 92. That is absolutely crazy. Only after having tried
to get members and investigators to church RELENTLESSLY for the last year and a half could I fully appreciate how much of a straight up miracle it is that only four or five months ago attendance was only 40 with English and Spanish, and now we've swung up to being one of the bigger units in the mission. God has some big plans for this branch. Now we've just got to get some of these people baptized..... In the last transfer alone we've had four solid baptismal candidates fall through because of legal issues. We really feel like Hampton bays is about to break through and finally get these people into the water.

Elder Sirrine

Hello hello! Another week has passed us by. Life is epic. Javier is such a stud it blows my mind. He literally  studies the gospel at 2 am. And his wife is a saint.

Hampton bays is still the best branch in the mission.

To answer a few personal emails: I'm doing well, really. The last couple of months have been hard for me because of a lot of different things, but what has really been frustrating me is just that I have felt like I'm not progressing so much like I used to at the beginning of the mission, and sometimes it's hard to feel successful as a leader when your missionaries change out every six weeks, so after all sometimes you feel like you're running in place. I've been a zone leader for too long haha ;) I've seen every last member of the mission leadership council come and go and I'm still here chilling! But it's been good. I've learned a lot. It's a job that require a true, absolute focus on just serving. Any slight deviation of motives results in the worst discouragement because it's an unwinnable fight if you try to win the war single handedly and forget that you're just a soldier in the army that does his job.

Funny side story: I will serve happily in whatever way I'm asked to, but I've always told our district leaders that I often miss being a district leader because they are the ones who are really in the trenches and working on a personal level directly with the missionaries in their area - I loved being a district leader because I felt close to the missionaries and had more focused power to help them. Of course I forgot to be specific with the Lord about being released from being a zone leader before going back to being a district leader, so this transfer I got stuck with both....

As always before, added responsibilities have given me a second wind.

I truly love this work. I love missionaries. It's been interesting to see my focus change over the last several months from being completely focused on our own work to being so preoccupied with thinking about other missionary's work. Making minor improvements in our own work blesses people's lives. But the blessed and sometimes frustrating journey of helping fourteen other companionships do the same blesses a lot of people's lives. Anyway, the point of telling you all this is just to let you know that you have leaders in the church, some who know you well and some who may not know your name, that care for you. They care for you so much they stay awake at night praying and thinking about you. The Savior is capable of blessing them with his love, which reaches us all even though we may not understand how that's possible.

I love this work, with all my heart, might, mind and strength. The gospel is a different thing than what I thought it was a year and a half ago, and understanding it will yet be a nice long term adventure. From the very get go, right in the MTC, the meaning of the phrase "I know this is true" has changed, and that is my testimony! In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Sirrine