Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Nov. 23, 2015 in Catawba, South Carolina


Things in Catawba are just peachy. Peachy as in R___ accepted a baptismal date for the 19th of December! Woohoo! And she came to church again this last Sunday and loved it. We had a lesson Wednesday with Brother B___ (Ward Mission Leader) about the word of wisdom and it was super good! So yeah, R___ is pretty much the best. At the end of that lesson, Brother B___ told her the story of the Catawba Tribe (he is an Indian, though kinda distantly) and she was super amazed. She really likes Native Americans. Keep praying for her! Thanks for all the prayers already! 

Church on Sunday was wild, cause we had something going on all the time, plus ward council, plus choir at the end. We got to share a training in ward council on Vision, Goals, Plans, and Accountability. It was pretty fun. Then in church we helped pass the sacrament, as well as give the opening and closing prayers. Elder B___ taught the Gospel Principles class the second hour, and the 3rd hour we stayed for part of Relief Society so that Elder B___ could play the piano to accompany Sister R___ while she sang a song. It was good!  After church we went to choir. The Sister who conducts is super nice, and makes good apple crisp.  ;)  The piano player is the actual choir director, but he is usually playing the piano. Elder B___ helped people get some things worked out  and it all turned out good.  That was our crazy Sunday to cap a crazy week. But that is how I like it!

On exchanges this week I went to Monroe where we were feeding the homeless. Some other highlights this week include seeing the C___'s.  During our lesson with them this week we were teaching their 10 year old son and 8 year old daughter, and the son totally wants to get baptized soon and at the end of the lesson the son volunteered to pray and prayed that he could be baptized! So please pray for them too.

We saw Brother S___who we are going to start teaching. We also saw Brother P___  and the C___ Family. Brother C___ makes Catawban pottery, and he had some sweet pieces he showed us! We had a good lesson with them, gave them blessings, and at the end they invited us back when we didn't have a dinner sometime, so nice of them.   :)

On Saturday we went to Sister C___'s (yes, they are related somehow) and raked her leaves from her huge backyard into one gigantic pile. Here in the fall, everyone out in the country rakes their leaves into piles, lights them on fire, and let them smolder for the next 3 days. We made a huge pile and then jumped into it. It was a blast! (Elder B___ had only jumped in leaves a couple times before, so he really enjoyed it). Afterwards she fed us homemade soup and banana pudding! (Banana pudding is my favorite! :D) It was well worth it. I'll include some pictures.  :)

We are always praying and fasting to find more friends to teach. We found a couple good leads this week, so we are looking forward to this next week, especially with it being Thanksgiving. I've realized even more than before how thankful I am for my mission, and the longer I am out the more I feel this sense of urgency and excitement for the work.

I am ponderizing 2 Nephi 2: 25-28 this week.
Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy. And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given. Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself. And now, my sons, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit;

Thanks for the emails and fun stories! I sure love ya!

Happy P-day! 
From Elder Branch

So I have always heard about the infamous doughnut hamburger, two Krispie Creme doughnuts for the bun, burger in the middle. This week, thanks to the anonymous kind gift of a whole box of doughnuts and buying hamburger meat, I decided to give it a whirl. It honestly tastes a whole lot better than it sounds, but it is definitely the messiest and probably highest calorie hamburger I've ever had.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Nov. 16, 2015 in Catawba, South Carolina


So I don't really remember much of this week. We ended up getting pretty close to reaching our BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) that we set during weekly planning last week, so apparently we did something right. Here are a couple of highlights from what I do remember:

We met with a friend named J___ we haven't been able to see since I got here. We had a super great lesson, and he committed himself (like made his own goal without us asking) to read and pray every day this week about the Book of Mormon. He is great! We also taught the C___'s this week. They are doing really good, they are a fun family! They were out of town on Sunday but they should come to church next week.

The highlight was R___! She loved the church tour last Sunday, and sure enough she came to church this week! She liked it a lot and is coming again next week!! We got to teach her after church and it was a great lesson. We had some total homie moments with her and with the member we brought and some powerful spiritual moments in the lesson too. :)
We focused lots this week on helping people receive revelation, and I feel we are on the right track. They are definitely feeling the spirit, and they are starting to recognize those feelings for what they are. I have high hopes and high visions for these people.  :)

Other than that, we haven't had hair cuts in like over a month and my hair is getting really, really, ridiculously long (that is where the spiky hair pictures come from.) We saw Kelly twice this week, and that is always fun times. I helped Elder B___ buy winter clothes because he is from Arizona and has never been cold before, and an REI lady tempted me to be a REI member. I think I would like to work at REI while I am in college, because then I can get discounts on kayaks and rock climbing stuff and I can go on lots of adventures, which is what I love! :D     That and the gospel ;)

This week I am ponderizing Mosiah 7:18-19 and 33
18 And it came to pass that when they had gathered themselves together that he spake unto them in this wise, saying: O ye, my people, lift up your heads and be comforted; for behold, the time is at hand, or is not far distant, when we shall no longer be in subjection to our enemies, notwithstanding our many strugglings, which have been in vain; yet I trust there remaineth an effectual struggle to be made.
19 Therefore, lift up your heads, and rejoice, and put your trust in God, in that God who was the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob; and also, that God who brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt, and caused that they should walk through the Red Sea on dry ground, and fed them with manna that they might not perish in the wilderness; and many more things did he do for them.
33 But if ye will turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in him, and serve him with all diligence of mind, if ye do this, he will, according to his own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage.

Life is good, hope it is for everyone else!

I got the package today, it is super fun! Thanks for all y'all do for me, I love you!

Happy P-day! From Elder Branch

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Nov. 9, 2015 in Catawba, South Carolina


Wow, so I know I say every week is crazy, but this one might have been even more so! We had a great start to the week and were able to see a couple people, but come to Wednesday and things just got super busy! On Wednesday we had a Zone Conference with the Alexanders and it was fantastic!!! The best Zone conference I have ever been too, hands down! We talked all about the Sabbath, the Sacrament, and watched Elder Holland's talk entitled: "This do in Remembrance of Me", from October 1995. It is only the best talk about Sacrament ever!

Probably the wildest part of the Zone Conference came in the second half when we talked about Vision, Goals, Planning, and Accountability. We were having a really good discussion and all of a sudden the Alexanders surprised us by telling us that we would have no more "standards of excellence" and to excursive our faith so that we could be personally accountable for reaching goals. I think it is amazing! Later in the week as we did our weekly planning we saw a huge difference! Our goals are higher than ever this week, and I feel full of more faith to personally accomplish them.

Anyways, after the conference, Elder H___ and I went on exchange but it turned into more of a sleep over because we got back pretty late, went to coordination meeting, and went to bed. The next morning we studied and then went back to Catawba to exchange back. So all in all nothing eventful, except for the fact that I traded him for a snazzy tie with tiny little shields on it that looks pretty legit. So we are going to do another exchange later on. On Friday we had Zone Meeting and it was pretty good. They announced that we are going to start having Zone Conferences and Interviews every single transfer, so that will be way fun too! I sure love the Alexanders!

As far as friends, M___ dropped us. It was all really weird. Sad. Good news is that R___ came to a church tour on Sunday! She wasn't able to make it to Sacrament, but she was able to come later and we showed her the building and had a super spiritual lesson. She liked everything, and she has next Sunday off so she is going to be able to come to church! :D  Her husband hasn't shown interest yet, but please pray for her and him, that everything will continue to work out! We did have 3 friends show up for church this Sunday, they are a family we have been teaching for a little while. We hope to help them understand baptism this week. So pray for them too, their names are the C___ Family.

So anyways, that's my week. I haven't chosen a Ponderize scripture yet, I might do last week's again, I wasn't able to Ponderize it as much as I would have liked due to the craziness of the week. It was wonderful though, and I know God answers humble prayers of faith! I am so excited for the next week!

A couple other random stories about today: I got to see Elder G___ and the other Rock Hill Elders! We ran into them at Sams Club, and they were able to set up a time to see K___, so I got to see her! It was a party and a half! :D Anyways, thanks for the emails and all the stories. Y'all are the best.
Happy P-day!
Elder Branch

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Nov. 2, 2015 in Catawba, South Carolina

Hello :)

So this week was absolutely killer crazy fantastic wild! We were super busy almost all the time (except for Tuesday), and we saw lots of good stuff. For the most part, this week was super rainy due to the other hurricane that apparently came close to land, so we bundled up and went a-walking. 

Monday: Had p-day and went to that citizens building we sent pictures of last week. We also stopped by a little farmers-markety kinda store except it was in downtown and bought delicious chocolate covered pretzels and chocolate covered toffee. Then on the way out I was stopped in my tracks by a glass bottle cheerwine soft drink that screamed in my face "buy me!" It was so annoying that I decided to appease him and bought him. Then just to show him who was boss, I drank him. He was delicious.

After p-day, we went and taught some investigators named A___ and A___. It went well except A___ is being kinda stubborn. He says he wants to know the church is true because it would be fantastic if was, but he won't do anything! He openly admits that it is cause he is lazy and church is boring, and it is driving us nuts. We are just trying to help him understand that if he wants to know, he has to do it.

Tuesday: As mentioned above, we didn't have much going on Tuesday. So we went out and tried to contact lots of potential investigators. We saw like 1 person briefly, but at least we tried. It was super wet and kinda cold, and as we were standing on the side of the street, a truck hit a huge puddle and splashed us. But it was funny for the most part, and we laughed about it.

Our dinner was good though, the family (who actually live in a different ward but are assigned to help out in Catawba) took us to a local deli style restaurant and it was delicious. The man's mother came as well, and she is Pentecostal, and we had a fun little discussion about Christ washing the Apostle's feet, the 3 kingdoms, and corrupt preachers. That night, we went out with our Bishop and visited the A___ family and had a super good visit with them! We are going to start giving them the missionary lessons.

Wednesday: We had district meeting, and then taught a couple people with members. We taught M___ and reviewed the baptismal interview questions with her. She is coming along, but there are still some things she isn't sure about. Unfortunately, she is having some health issues, so we can't see her again until Wednesday. It was a good day in all, and I got to go out with a fun member at night on some visits and he told me all about Stalin (the Russian general guy).

Thursday: Absolutely rushed crazy day! We had 3 member present lessons, 1 recent convert lesson, 1-2 other lessons, and no time left for weekly planning. One of the other lessons was with a lady we met out in Van Wyck, and as we were teaching, her 2 teenage daughters showed up with their friend and we talked with all of them. We are going back by in a week and a half. That night, we had a lesson with a woman named R___ who actually lives just down the hall from us in our apartment building. She loves to go on vacations, so we talked lots about the west. She is the most solid person ever though! We taught her the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and she loved it. She has been reading the Book of Mormon, and in the closing prayer said she is excited to be baptized! The only hold up is that she works on Sundays, but she is talking to her boss this week about coming in for the night shift so that she can attend church. She's the best! Please pray that it will work out and she is able to come to church :)

Friday: We weekly planned, and at night we got to go to the ward Halloween party/chili cook off. They asked us to be the judges, so this is the 2nd official chili cook off I have judged this year. The Catawba's know how to cook, and I liked this one a lot! Judging was hard, but the one chili that won had super delicious smoked pork in with the beans and everything. Turns out the member had stayed up until 2:30 the night before smoking it, so we were glad we had chosen him ;) Then all the kids went around the church building and trick or treated, and Elder B___ and I got to hand out candy at our door. I kept asking the kids to do a trick instead of a treat, but none of them would, so I took it upon myself to do the tricking for them by juggling the candy and then tossing it into the kids buckets. "Consider yourself tricked, kids!" It was a good time.

Saturday: Halloween! Wasn't much different from any other day, except that we had to go in at 6:00 so that we didn't get mugged or framed for any Halloween mischievousness. We got to borrow some board games from some members though, so it was fun.

Before our curfew though, we were able to teach like 4 people, including a members friend who lives down in Lexington, SC. He had already been taught before, knows the church is true, and has even stopped smoking, so he will get to be baptized soon we assume. He was great! We also got to see some other friends. One of the people we ran into I had actually met before over in Rock Hill! So there is a member family in Rock Hill named the Y___'s who have a daughter who lives in Catawba with her husband. When I was in Rock Hill we got to help the Y___'s move their mother in law/grandma into the Y___'s house, and this family was there too. Anyways, I realized just a couple minutes into talking with this man, that he had been there and that we moved a 500 pound gun safe together. This obviously made us homies so he said we could text them and come by sometime. It was funny.

Sunday: Went as follows: Church (my favorite thing!), choir practice (my favorite thing!), walking to an investigators house in the rain (my favorite thing!), eating dinner (my favorite thing!), and then taking R___ to a fireside in Charlotte done by President Alexander (my favorite thing!). It was a super good fireside too, and helped R___ lots.
This was my favorite part - President Alexander gave us an assignment.
He asked us to write a book about ancient Tibet, we can't be older than 23, and can only have taken 3 years of formal schooling. We aren't allowed extra research. It must be 3,000+ words and we can only use 1 unpaid scribe to write it all. We must describe 2 main groups of people, and cover their religion, their politics, their geography, their economy, their monetary system, and everything else about their society. It must include 50 war chapters, 20 historical, 70 doctrinal, 50 with visions, and 20 chapters about Jesus Christ and his personal ministry among the people. We have to make up 280 completely new names. It should include allegories, parables, poetry, and it has to sound like it has been translated from another language. We have to use about 24 different writing styles spread logically throughout the book, as if multiple people wrote it. Archaeology research for the next 180 years must support this book. We have to have 3 witnesses who are respectable people in the community claim that they saw an angel with the book, and they can never deny that which they said. It must include a promise that if anyone reads it and asks God in faith, they will receive a witness that it is true, and it will change their lives for the better. Millions have to try this promise and receive an answer. We have to watch our followers be persecuted and killed. We will be persecuted (just like Jesus), and at age 38 must willingly give our own life to protect our testimonies and this book. You have 65 days to write, good luck..

Yup, pretty obvious that it is true. And the best part is that I have felt that spirit too, and know it is true. 

One other thing happened on Sunday. One of the members of the Church was the chief of the Catawban Tribe for 30 years. He gave me an official Catawban Indian name this week, it's "red woodpecker." Pretty cool to get an Indian name!

Anyways, so that was the week for the most part, honestly it may have been the busiest week on my mission, or at least close to it. I am excited for whatever comes this next week! 

This week I have decided to ponderize Shiblon, in Alma 38:2-3. And now, my son, I trust that I shall have great joy in you, because of your steadiness and your faithfulness unto God; for as you have commenced in your youth to look to the Lord your God, even so I hope that you will continue in keeping his commandments; for blessed is he that endureth to the end. I say unto you, my son, that I have had great joy in thee already, because of thy faithfulness and thy diligence, and thy patience and thy long-suffering among the people of the Zoramites.
I love this chapter, and am super excited to ponderize it! Anyways, thanks for all the stories! I sure love you, y'all are the best!

Elder Red Woodpecker Branch

There is a cemetery behind the church building.

Halloween at the C___'s home.