Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas, Transfers, etc.

Merry late Christmas to you all, and have a happy New Year!

We got transfer calls on Friday. I was pretty much 100% sure that we weren't going to be moving around, but Elder Peterson is going to Bay City (20 minutes away, in the same zone) and I am going to be training in Midland 2. I am excited for this opportunity and I'm excited for the work in Midland. 

The Holidays were really good. Christmas eve day was actually a really good finding day -  we picked up a new investigator named Chris. Everyone was busy but very nice and said they wanted us to come back in week or so (after the New Year, etc). On Christmas eve night we spent time with the Henson's; Sister Henson is a ward missionary and Bro Henson is hilarious and well-read in church history and religious texts. We had dinner with them then they enrolled us in a dress-up Christmas story (picture included) and then they had presents for us. I love the Henson's. On Christmas we spent most of our time going around to Part-members and less-actives to carol and give out Joy to the World DVD's. Then we had Christmas dinner with the Jones' family - Bro Jones is our Ward Mission Leader. Their kids were in town which was fun, they all attend BYU and live in Provo. We played some games with them and had a merry time with them. They also had gifts for us which was so super nice. 

As far as teaching lessons went, this week was tough but we did a lot of door-step teaching and great potential finding. We set a date with Nick, Heather's son. He's doing alright but he is having to deal with anti stuff from his aunt. I don't know where people get the idea that we worship Joseph Smith or sacrifice children in temples (concerns we've had to work through). 

That's about it! I love you all very much and I think about you all of the time. I am excited to report about the work in the upcoming weeks in Midland and I hope that I can make a good impression on my "boy". Does anyone have any advice for me? I'd appreciate it if you do. All I know is that I want to continue to work hard and get better, and have a great time while doing it.

Happy New Year!

-Elder Schmutz

Elder Peterson was the angel.
I was the sheppard.
Alex was the donkey (buffalo pelt).
A cousin of the Henson's was the wise man, and the children played Mary and Joseph.
 It was a great time. 

I forgot to write about everyone else in the District, too. Elder Peterson is going to Bay City as I said in my big email. Sister Wamsley (sister in the front) has been in Midland for 9 months (half of her mission!) and is going to Portland. The other sisters are staying together for another transfer. Elder Heffner is going to Greenville and he's way stoked. Elder Derricott (my district leader) is training in Midland 1. Sister Empey (who was with S. Wamsley is getting two other sisters with her. She's excited because one of them is a Visa waiter so she'll have someone to practice Portuguese with.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas (week)!

Happy Holidays to you all! I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas full of laughter and cheer and other good things. 

This was a very personally meaningful week. Two Fridays ago we had 1/2 mission training and focused a lot on finding. This week I finally realized what it means to teach while you find and find while you teach. Finding and teaching are inseparable activities, one and the same. I felt I had overcome a huge thing when I realized that I really love and enjoy knocking on doors now. 

This week we found many potential investigators and picked up some solid new ones. Most exciting thing this week -  we felt prompted to stop by Franky/Ansley's again on Friday. They are a referral from members, and we've talked to Franky once briefly and he didn't seem very interested and we've tried to contact them several times since then. I was surprised when Ansley opened the door and let us in right away. They were super friendly and we taught them a really powerful Restoration lesson. They are going to read the Book of Mormon together. Way cool. 

We also picked up a former named J.J. - He's met with the missionaries once a week for a year-and-a-half for a long time. He was dropped by the missionaries the same time last year. We talked with him and he is way cool - I think he knows many of the doctrines of the church are true but he struggles to believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet. We're going to try and help him with that - it'll be tough. He's a very smart man and an ex-pastor. 

Funny/long story now. The other investigator we picked up this week is named Patrick. Elder Derricott and I knocked into him two weeks ago and he told us to come back another time because he was sleeping. We went back on Thursday and he let us in. I don't know where to begin with Patrick. He's a 50-year old man with a huge beard and scruffy hair, and it is very hard to understand him. He whispers everything he says and repeats it over and over again. Later in the lesson he whispered to me that he is clinically insane, so that should set the tone for the rest of the story. When we walked in, he sat on his couch and started writing numbers in no particular order in a grubby notebook. He told us he writes code for the military to make money on the side (sketch). He was listening to club music on the radio and was watching Fox News on TV which was a pretty funny mix to me. I asked if we could turn it off and he said that was fine. After that, I asked him some questions and his answers were unintelligible. Elder Peterson and I asked him to speak up and we tried to listen as best as we could but it was impossible to understand him. I asked to use his bathroom (I needed to compose myself). When I came out the first thing I heard was Elder Peterson asking, "So what was it like to see God face to face?" Patrick told us that statues and pictures of St. Peter, Mary, Jesus and God come to life and he speaks with them and we could believe it or not, but it was the truth. We didn't argue. He also talked a lot about Esau and having multiple wives (not sure in what context). We gave him a Book of Mormon and invited him to read it. He said he would, and he already believed that Christ's ministry in America was recorded in the Bible (When Jesus was walking on water, he was just getting back from Central America). We said a prayer and got outta there. It was an awesome experience that I will treasure forever. 

Now that that's done with, I had a few other cool realizations this week - Prayers can be guided by the Spirit. I've read so many times that the "Spirit...teacheth a man to pray" (2 NE 32:8) and finally realized what it meant. I did the personal prayer evaluation in Preach my Gospel and have been allowing the Spirit to guide my prayers. My relationship with Heavenly Father has increased tremendously as a result. I've also been praying for charity and strength for obedience. So yeah, that's cool. 

Me and Elder McGraw, my zone leader. He graduated from Timpview a year before I did so my Provo friends know who he is.

Thanks Amy for the mustache/lollipop!

My desk space

Fresh to Death

I thought I'd include a picture of our fun little Christmas tree. Thanks Amy for the decorations and string of lights, they were perfect for the tree.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Almost Christmas, What da Heck?

So, first of all, Heather got baptized this Friday! Yaay! She is the best. For those of you that are familiar with "The District", her baptism reminded me a lot of Amor Robles. Before she stepped into the water she started to cry, and after coming up out of the water, she looked up at everyone and smiled a big smile. She got confirmed this Sunday which was a really good experience. Heather is a champ- she's gone through so much in the past but she's making huge changes in her life. She is very humble and loves the Gospel. We met with her last night and asked her about how she feels about the church besides her whole family not supporting her. She said that the Church was the best thing she's ever found in her life, and she thanks God that the missionaries came when they did because they were an answer to her prayers. 

That's about it. We've been knocking on doors a lot. Most potentials we find say they'd love to talk AFTER the end of the year which is kind of frustrating but good as well. If people were for real about meeting with us after the holidays we'll have like 20 new investigators after New Year's. Looking forward to that. 

I am way out of time, p-days are crazy. 

Love you all! Be well and have a merry Christmas.

-Elder Schmutz

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Merry Christmas From Midland, MI

Hey there!

Good week. Heather is still progressing and will be baptized this Friday. We met her 13-year old son Nick for the first time and we're going to start teaching him on the weekends when he's in Midland. 

We've been doing a lot of finding. This week we didn't have a lot of outward success but Elder Peterson and I feel good about our efforts and are determined to work hard and find the elect that the Lord has prepared. 

I think the theme of this week was finding amazing, kind people that have no interest in conversion. We door-knocked into the Marcou's who have listened to, fed, and loved the missionaries for 15 years since their daughter converted. They told us right away not to get our hopes up because they're not converting but they're going to feed us dinner this week. So yeah, they're awesome and love the missionaries.

We had a very similar experience with Kathy and Richard. We door-knocked into them and they let us in right away. We kinda stood there for a sec because we didn't realize they were inviting us in. They were just finishing lunch with their Catholic friends who attend the same congregation from down the street. They fed us pumpkin bread and herbal tea (it was hilarious to watch Elder Peterson drink his herbal tea, it was his first time having tea of any kind). We talked a while about our families and ourselves. Eventually, their friend asked us to "explain our religion in a nut-shell". We taught the Restoration and had a great discussion. They all kindly declined any invitation or commitment of any kind, but we still had great conversation. Richard told us to let him fix or tune-up our bikes whenever they need it. They are awesome people. I think the most significant thing of our conversation was when they asked if we could say a closing prayer. We all held hands (it was normal-feeling this time) and Richard said the prayer. He addressed Heavenly Father, thanked God for our blessings, asked safety to come to us, and closed in the name of Jesus Christ. This was a humbling experience for me. I think I had categorized them as trinitarians (a big obstacle around here) but we talked after and I realized that they believed in what we call the Godhead. So that was a cool experience.

So aside from everything else, the Midland Nativity Exhibit was amazing. It was this weekend all day every day where over 600 nativity scenes are displayed for the public to see. The whole building was full of Christmas trees and lights and unique displays. So that was awesome. We hosted a room on Friday and Sunday and that was really nice. No one asked us about Gospel-related things (we were instructed not to start such conversations) but I think it was a good use of our time. The Spirit was strong and many non-members smiled and greeted us as they moved from room to room. 

I'm running out of time, so that's about it for now. I love you all a lot and you're great! I hope you all got to hear the Christmas devotional, because it was awesome. Honor the Savior this Christmas season by reaching out to those who need love, comfort, and a higher purpose in life.

-Elder Schmutz

Monday, December 2, 2013

Week 2 - Midland

Hey friends and family! This was a fantastic week. The Lord has been blessing us with bounteous blessings that I feel unworthy to be given. I feel I have learned a great lesson on gratitude and relying on God and His Spirit in the work. Mission work would be impossible and unendurable if the Lord was not in it. He is. I know that very strongly. 

Heather is progressing really well still. She came to fast and testimony meeting yesterday and had a very powerful experience. Truly, things have not been going well as she's been investigating the church. She's faced endless opposition it seems (darn Satan). Heather is very humble and thankful for the Lord's blessings which has also been a big lesson for me. She is just great, and will get baptized December 13th

We also had a miracle find that was a huge blessing! This Tuesday we went to follow up on a potential, but ended up talking to her older sister-in-law, Christa (26). At first she was pretty stand-offish and was like, "I believe that there is room for everyone in Heaven, not just 144,000." So we were like, "That's the Jehovah's Witnesses..." This opened up further discussion that led to us being invited in. When we walked in, her dad and not-even mom-in-law gave us a very cold welcoming. We ended up going downstairs to talk away from the others that weren't so interested in us. Christa cried for a while and apologized on behalf of her family and also expressed some serious discouragement concerning religion. The pastor at her church had recently been put in jail for serious crimes, and this had shaken Christa's faith which she was feeling guilty about. We used the Book of Mormon to work her through many of her questions on faith. This lead into the Restoration and how the Book of Mormon came to be. She was way excited about all of the points of doctrine, especially that there is a modern-day, living prophet that we know and sustain. We're excited about her and she is excited to learn more. Also, her Dad came in and out of the conversation and realized that our intentions were good and ended up apologizing for his and his girlfriend's rudeness. His girlfriend was still super rude when we left, but oh well. I think we're going to end up teaching Christa, her kind-of sister Courtney, Chris (her dad) and her ex-boyfriend Tony. So yeah. Miracles happening there. 

Other than that, our week was filled with finding and getting to know some of our investigators and hunting for potentials from the previous elders. 

THANKSGIVING WAS GREAT. We did weekly planning, then our Ward Mission Leader called us to come over and help prepare for Thanksgiving (that's where we had Thanksgiving). It was the best! Along with Bro/Sister Jones was the Jenkins and their 5 kids and a widowed Sister, Sister Doring from our ward. It was a blast and the food was very good. After eating we went out and met with some less-actives and recent converts until it was time to go back for dinner (dessert) at the Jones'es. My favorite was the blueberry pie (the Michigan blueberries make ALL the difference, Mom. I finally get it now). After having dessert the Jones'es requested that we play some games with them, the first being "Guess Zoo?" which is a matching game for ages 3+. It was pretty funny because it reminded me of getting into some heated Matching games with my parents, so I felt right at home. We also played Bananagrams. I really struggled because the whole time I worried about spelling inappropriate words which says a lot about my pre-mission vocabulary (I am in sore need of repentance, I guess). The Jones'es are great and I will get a picture of them when Christmas comes around because they're having us over for Christmas too which I'm way stoked about. All their kids will be in town which is fun because they're all college-aged and/or married and at BYU.

The holidays are great. The Midland wards put together a Nativity Exhibit every year that features over 600 Nativity scenes from all over the world. Last year like 2,000 people came through the doors to see the exhibits. It's a huge deal around here. Expect pictures next week. 

I LOVE CHRISTMAS-TIME SO MUCH. Have a blessed December and remember to keep your holiday cheer focused on the Savior. I've been studying the New Testament/reading Jesus the Christ and I'm blown away by the fact that I do not know and love Christ nearly as much as I have previously thought. Always remember to take part in and appreciate His love and eternal sacrifice in any way that you can. Pray, study His word, and worship Him always and LIVE LIKE HIM. 

God bless you, friends and family. I LOVE YOU SO SO MUCH.

-Elder Schmutz