Monday, November 25, 2013

Greetings from Midland, MI

Hey family and friends! I am now in Midland Michigan and have been since last Tuesday. Everything I heard about Midland before I came here was basically a perfect summary of the town. Everyone works for DOW or DOW Corning, and the Ward is fantastic. Midland has two wards with two sets of missionaries in each (I am in the 2nd Ward). We have tons of support from the members and our ward mission leaders and missionaries are very involved. Way excited for that.

White-washing has been a challenge, but very rewarding as well. We first got here having no clue where anything or anyone was and we knew no one. Now that we've been scrambling around for the past few days I feel we have a pretty good idea of what's going on in Midland. It was also difficult transitioning from having many to teach to knocking all day every day. I learn every day more and more that this Gospel is very precious to me and the Spirit truly does testify and comfort. 

One of the greatest sources of comfort has been Heather Hale. Heather is a soon-to-be single Mom with a 13-year-old boy and two young girls, 4 and 3. She was raised Baptist and has always had a strong faith in Christ and the Bible. She is going through a difficult divorce and was referred by a friend to the missionaries. She's been taught almost everything by the previous Elders and has a strong testimony of the Book of Mormon and everything we teach. I'm copying and pasting what I wrote to President Hess: 
We taught Heather Hale twice this week- she is the investigator with a baptismal date. She is progressing really well and is excited to learn more. She got anti'd by her therapist of all people but we worked through those things with her and she is still confident in her new beliefs. She is going through a really tough time with her divorce but has found amazing strength in the Gospel. 

Heather truly is going through many great trials, but her whole life has been turned around by the message of the Restoration and the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This has been a huge comfort to me because every day we face almost constant rejection and coldness. However, I know that there are people like Heather that desperately need our message but don't know where to find it and don't even know how much they need it. This is what will keep me moving forward as we have a lot of door knocking ahead of us.

The Lord and the Spirit truly are in this work. I have felt the Spirit comforting me and testifying of the truth of our message more than I ever have, I think. One of my favorite chapters of the Book of Mormon is 2 Ne 2, and I love verse 11. 

For it must needs be, that there is an aopposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad...

On Saturday we were knocking on doors and came to one that had a card on the door that said "No Solicitation". We see these frequently, and it doesn't stop us from spreading the word so we knocked on the door. A man came out and seeing us, immediately pointed to his "No Solicitation" sign and asked/yelled at us, "Can you read?" I didn't say anything: this was the first time that someone seemed to categorize us as solicitors, so I was amused and probably stared back at him with a dumb-founded expression. Elder Peterson said to the man, "We're servants of Jesus Christ sharing a message about him." I don't remember what else Elder Peterson said because the man screamed over him, "Get off my porch" with several words in between. We walked off after telling him to have a good day. He continued to scream profanities at us as he slammed the door. After we had walked away for a while, the man came out of his house and continued to yell and swear at us. Elder Peterson again told him, "we're just sharing a message about Jesus Christ" as we walked away to the next door. I was pretty crushed over the situation, since this was only the second time I've been yelled at since I've been on my mission. I was so discouraged, in fact, that I thought about asking Elder Peterson if we could take a break from knocking. I didn't though, and we moved on to the next door. This door had a scripture plaque hanging on the front, something from Ephesians I think. We knocked, and the man let us in. This man, Matt, was very kind and loves the Bible and talked to us for a while about his beliefs. He has met with the missionaries several times before and enjoys talking to us. We talked to him on topics of baptism and the Godhead, and got into a friendly debate/discussion about it. At the end we invited him to read the Book of Mormon and set up a time that we could come by again. 

I have seen several times so far on my mission that whenever something really discouraging happens, the Lord blesses me with comfort in some way soon after. Now, I hope I don't mean to be self-righteous when I say this but after being yelled at by a really mean person it was quite comforting to talk to a really kind person that has a portion of the truth but is clearly confused without the fullness of the Gospel. The trials and opposition I've faced in the past week have helped me to understand more deeply the righteousness and holiness of this work, and the Gospel. I've come to see the unending goodness that the Lord has blessed me with, and I realize now that I need to appreciate those things more.

I forgot to say a bit about Elder Peterson. He's from the San Fernando Valley of Southern California. He is great. He takes great pride in the fact that we are so young, and even greater pride in the fact that he's a transfer "older" than I am. He does not get discouraged by door knocking which is perfect for me. He was completely unaffected by our experience with the old man which was kind of scary (I was pretty bummed out about it) but his example was very strengthening. I have a lot to learn from Elder Peterson. 

Well, that's about it. Midland is great. I'm excited to work hard and find people to teach. I hope all of you are doing well. I love you, and I hope you know that the Lord loves you more than you or I can comprehend. God is good, and God is love. 

-Elder Schmutz
Here's a picture of me and Elder Petersen

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

I'm Goin' to Midland!

Well, I was surprised to see that all of my family already knows the transfer news (Sister Ongert told Mom), but I'm being transferred to Midland. I will admit, I was surprised that I'm being transferred. Elder Reheis for the past couple weeks was telling everyone that he was sure he was leaving and I would stay and I started to believe him. Heh. I'm very excited though. I am white-washing Midland 2 with Elder Peterson. I haven't met Elder Peterson (I'm still in Spring Lake, leaving this afternoon) but he sounds great and I'm excited to work hard with him in Midland. From what I've heard Midland has two big wards with two sets of missionaries in each. That will be really cool I think, I'm stoked in general! It was tough to say goodbye to the people I've taught but now I am just way excited to get to my new area. I'm even packed up already (that sucked).
So, Tuesday we had half-mission training with Elder Golden of the 70. He was the greatest and his wife was really sweet. He blew everyone's mind talking about mission work and that was a really powerful experience. The Spirit was very strong. President Hess made an announcement early in the training that Spring Lake was going to become the new area for zone leaders and the Grand Rapids zone would be split. This was way exciting- Elder Reheis and I were sure that meant we would be adding two new missionaries into Spring Lake along with us. Now that I say this I'm surprised that I was suprised about the news.

Elder Reheis (pronounced Re-"hi"-sss) is staying in Spring Lake and is becoming a Zone leader. He is going to be zone-leader trained by Elder Larsen, who has one transfer left and he's leaving (he's been an AP for the past few months). I'm way excited for Reheis, and also really excited for Larsen because he was trained here like me. He's going to be born and "killed" in Spring Lake which is pretty unique and cool.
It was an amazing week other than all this stuff. Most importantly, Kilian Storm Daniel Jacobs got baptized on Saturday. There was an excellent turn-out and coolest of all, Hamish got to baptize Kilian. The first time Hamish said the prayer he forgot the "of's" and the second time he forgot to put his arm to the square. The third time was perfect. For all we know he could have messed up on purpose so he could immerse Kilian three times, which he did perfectly each time (heheh). But seriously, it was beautiful. I was very honored that Kilian asked me to do the confirmation the next day which was really nice. Man, I love the Jacobs and the Ongerts quite a lot. I'm going to miss them.
What else can I say? I'm excited.

For the next week or so send mail to:
 1400 Abbott road. ste. 310
 East lansing, MI

You're all great and I love you. I have to get going, not much time today.

-Elder Schmutz

Here's a picture of the district. 
In the front (L-R) is Elder English, Sister Procopio, Elder Gledhill, and myself.
Everyone else other than Elder Stoker (jumping in the back) (L-R) is Sister Young, Sister Pyper, Sister Braun, Elder Donofrio, Elder Reheis, Sister Harris, Elder Harris, and Sister Pierce.

A picture of me, Hamish, and Kilian at the baptism.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Nearing the End of A Transfer...

This is the last week of the transfer! It's been fantastic, we're going to end up baptizing five people just in this transfer which is a huge blessing. I'm super excited/nervous for transfer-calls this Friday because it is likely that Elder Reheis is leaving. We've had a great time in Spring Lake together and I'm excited for the things that are coming anyway. It is likely that I will stay in Spring Lake for another transfer (that's what I hope at least). 

It was a great week. We had a great lesson with Kilian at the Ensign's home on the Restoration and the Priesthood. He is ready for baptism this Saturday which is way exciting. Even cooler is that Hamish was ordained a Priest since he turned 16 this Sunday. He will be baptizing Kilian which will be an amazing experience for all to see. It was so heart-warming to see Hamish pass the sacrament this week. 

Other than Kilian being a boss, we set three other baptismal dates this week. I had a great trade-off with an even greenier greenie, Elder Stoker, in which we set a date with Venessa. Venessa is the fiancee of Carlos, a less-active. She is a sweet Spirit, that's for sure. She has had three sets of Elders teach her and she's never found much motivation to work for baptism so we hope that we can can change that and help her in any way possible. Elder Reheis and I set a date with Trevor, our favorite medicinal marijuana grower. He has a strong desire to be baptized but has many concerns with the "rules" of Mormonism. We're excited for him though, and his family is way stoked I'm sure (they're recently converted members in Battle Creek). We also set a date with Rosalie, Tony Lee's new wife. She came to church this Sunday and brought her 18-year-old son Dalton as well. They are great and we love them. Rosalie will be baptized pretty soon here (December 4th). Her last obstacle for baptism was giving up coffee but we committed her to stop drinking it last Tuesday and she has stopped since. She says that coffee has been harder to give up than her smoking. 

That's the biggest news as far as the work goes. On Wednesday (after district meeting) and Thursday I did a trade-off with Elder Stoker. He's a Visa-waiter who actually got his visa to Brazil and was shipped off yesterday, but anywho he's a great missionary (he came out a transfer after me). We had a great two days and had some really powerful lessons. One was with Venessa- we finally got something through to her and re-committed her to baptism. We also had a really powerful lesson with the DeVries. I don't know if I've told you much about Paul, but he's a less-active member who is super sweet and way cool. His family has been listening to missionaries for like a year and they love the Gospel but for whatever reason can't commit to changing churches. This week I made some flash cards for teaching the Plan of Salvation that has been helping a lot. They enjoyed the lesson and I think we got Sister DeVries really close to committing to baptism. They are super sweet people and love Jesus Christ. They gave me a pair of knitted booties (see picture) that are amazingly comfortable.

That's about all the news I've got. I've come to realize that all missionaries have something that makes them stick out. For instance, Elder Reheis is freakishly tall and really likes girls. I think I'm becoming the missionary that everyone else thinks is a psychopath that really likes making up visual aids for any lesson. Elder Reheis tells me he's concerned that I talk to myself and laugh at my own thoughts and jokes way too frequently. Also, whenever we're preparing a lesson I try way too hard to include a visual. I also need to lay off on sarcasm. Repentance is a process. 

I forgot to tell you all a couple more things. Last Monday, I was at the mall buying boots and stopped in at Homestead or something like that (I found some really nice Rockports on sale).  and the sales associate asked us what our tags were about. We said we were missionaries of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and he was like, "No way, I was baptized in your church at the age of eight!" His family was active in the church until his parents split up and he moved from Salt Lake to Michigan. He's been looking to come back now that he's older and was way excited to see us. His Mom doesn't want any contact with the church but we're still stoked about meeting Trevor. He is a great guy and is only 5 days younger than I am. 

Another tender mercy- today we hung out with the Ongerts. They took us shopping and got me a SICK tie. It's the coolest tie in all of the MLM, fo real. We also had lunch with them and had a blast. They are such a blessing in my life. I love them so much. 

Well, that's it, folks. Love you all. I wish I had something inspiring to say, but all I know is that I love being a missionary and I don't know how to fully express it. The Spirit is fantastic and it's such a blessing in our life. Always strive to be worthy of the Holy Ghost's presence and things will turn out all the better. God loves us. That's all.

-Elder Schmutz

the picture is of me right before comp study sporting my amazing new sweater from Celia and Benson and my home-made, knitted booties from Sister Devries. 

Elder Reheis hates when I call them booties or slippies. He also hates when I use the word "fragrance". Arizonians are so weird. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

What A Great Week

Hey family and friends! Good to hear from y'all again. 

There are some really exciting things going on in Michigan. The Lord is in the work and things are going really well. Yesterday was a wonderful Fast Sunday, and we're already seeing results of the fast for mission work throughout the whole mission.

I was in Holland earlier this week with Elder English. It was a good, busy day and I got to meet Bro Rose. Bro Rose's wife is an active member and he is an active investigator. He's been coming to church for a long time, but didn't want to get baptized until he had read all of D+C and the Pearl of Great Price. He's wonderful and knows the Book of Mormon is true. Yesterday, I found that he wants to be baptized this Saturday! That was way exciting to hear.

I don't remember if I told you about Alicia, but she's a college student who has studied the Bible and showed up to sacrament meeting a few weeks ago. We taught her for the first time this week on Halloween. We taught her the Restoration and talked about the Book of Mormon. She is way stoked to read it and pray about it. Woo!

We also taught Jasmine Malcolm the Restoration and invited her to read the Book of Mormon. I am so excited to teach her the Plan of Salvation next time we see her.

I was on trade-offs with Elder Leavitt (one of our zone leaders) this Friday in Wyoming. He is an amazing teacher. The first appointment of the day, we went to go see an inactive member, Gary. Before we sat down, we saw his wife (nonmember) Peggy in the hallway. She told us she wasn't feeling well and that her sister was dying of cancer as we spoke. Before she could leave to her room, Elder Leavitt asked her if she had ever talked with missionaries about the Plan of Salvation, she said she hadn't. He then told her that was exactly what she needed at the moment, and that talking to us would bless her life. She seemed off-put, but said she was going to go lay down for a while then she'd come out and talk. We talked with Gary for a while about the Atonement until Peggy came out. We then taught them the Plan of Salvation. It was amazing to see- when we started teaching Peggy was indifferent and clearly upset and angry. Within the hour, her countenance completely changed. She cried and expressed her love for God and her family. Her heart had been softened by the Spirit and she accepted an invitation to baptism. That was an amazing experience.

OK, here's a kinda funny story. Last night we went to try and start teaching potential investigators. Pete and Jessica, a young couple, invited us in which we were way stoked about. As we were preparing to sit and teach, their pitbull Rosco escaped out the back door and ran off. So, instead of teaching we helped them find Rosco. Elder Reheis and I ended up walking back behind the house for an hour in some deep woods. I fell into mud which was pretty hilarious. When we gave up and headed back to their house, we saw that they had found him and were sitting outside with him on a leash. They saw me and the muddy mess that I was and felt bad for me. We're going to go see them and actually teach them later this week. 

Well, that's about it, folks. I love you all and you're amazing. Thanks for all of the mail and packages, I don't deserve all the kind things you do for me. I pray and think about you all the time.
Much love, 

Elder Schmutz