Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Jan. 25, 2016 in Catawba, South Carolina

Hello all!

Wow, what a week. We really focused on getting out and talking to people this week, as well as inviting people to baptism, and we were able to teach more people as a result. We are still just working on finding people who are ready but it's been a struggle. Maybe we are finding those who are ready but we just aren't interacting with them in the right way. Anyways, we will keep working at it, and something is bound to happen. I think in our companionship, we need to focus on not just teaching lessons powerfully, but teaching people powerfully, and that if we can master that, we will help those we teach understand how important our message is, and they will act with more real intent than they have been recently.

So a couple stories about this week:

On Tuesday we had a worldwide Missionary devotional held by the missionary counsel of the Church, and that was pretty amazing! There were lots of good trainings on fundamentals, including following the spirit, teaching people not lessons, finding, and the Doctrine of Christ. I will send some of my notes home in a separate email. It was a great meeting, now we just have to apply the things we learned!

On Thursday, we got to go with the C.'s out to dinner, go bowling with them for FHE, and then join them for family scripture study. It was lots of fun, and also a very interesting learning experience. I think Mom will especially like this story. So before bowling we were all talking about who would win, and just kinda joking around, and I mostly just joked about how awful I was (Like if I get over 70, I did halfway decent). Anyways, we got to the bowling alley, and it was full of people, so we had to head over to another Bowling Alley, which is not the normal place the C.'s play. As we started bowling, Sister C. went second and both of her balls seemed on target until the last second where they curved hard and went in the gutter. She was disappointed, but as others got up to go, a couple of them also had really bad bowls until it got to me. I'm still not sure what happened, but I got up, and hit 8 with my first roll. On the second roll, I hit the remaining 2 perfectly and got a spare. Everyone was surprised (including myself), especially because I had joked about how bad I was. Brother C. finished out with a spare of his own, and the second frame came around. As Sister C. bowled, once again the balls curved and she ended up with another 0. By this point she was kind of mad and blamed it on coming to this place instead of the normal Bowling Alley. Then came J. and Elder P., and once again they both had pretty poor roles. When it was my turn, I got up and once again got a spare, only this time I got 9 pins on the first and the last one (one of the back side ones) on the second roll. Brother C. followed up this round with a pretty bad roll, and now the negativity from everyone's first two rounds started to turn on me.

Now at this point, I had 2 options. 1) Continue to dominate the entire game, possibly achieve my own personal best score ever? Option 2 came partially through my own thoughts, and partially by the spirit. It was 2) Hold back and begin to help teach and encourage Sister C. and the others who were struggling, so as not to hurt our relationship with them, and as a result, possibly hinder or lose their salvation. I decided to choose the second one, and began to simply hold back on some rolls as well as give others tips on what I was doing to bowl so well on this lane. I had to endure probably 3 more frames of what was practically verbal abuse. (Sister C. even blamed me as the reason for the bad luck they were having, and Elder P. wasn't much help.) It worked out though, and I just responded as nice and as helpfully as I could. Sure enough, their bowls did start to improve, and by the end we were back to a much better attitude, though they still had this personal vendetta against me that included Elder P. following me and trying to block the ball or distract me on my turns. It came down to the final frame, and on Sister C.'s last bowl she managed to get a good amount of pins, with a decent overall score. Meanwhile, Elder P., Brother C., and their daughter, had all got within 10 or so points of me. As Elder P. bowled his last frame, he actually managed a spare, that along with a strike he got in the 9th frame, put him 6 points in front of me right before my final bowl. Once again, Elder P. distracted me on the first roll and I got a gutter. The second roll I tried to turn and do quickly so he wouldn't have time to follow, but Sister C. kind of yelled as I released and I only hit one pin. I ended up at the end in like 3rd or 4th place, but I was worth saving that relationship. Brother C. even stood up for me to Elder P. and Sister C. at the end too, so it all turned out ok. So yeah, it was a pretty long story, and afterwards we went and had a good lesson, but I wanted to share just because it was a pretty interesting experience that fortunately worked out well.

Other than that, we had a couple other good lessons with some friends, and we had interviews with President. On the weekend all of Carolina had a storm and all the mission cars were parked, so we walked or got rides from members everywhere. The members here are so great!! :) One day we walked close to 7 miles bundled in snow clothes and boots. Another time while out with a member, we kept on sliding around the corners and we practically couldn't see out the windshield, but we survived to missionary another day. I'll send some pictures of our snow day.

We went back with a member and talked with K. and J. We didn't get super far besides testifying of prayer and them saying that that was too "subjective." At the very end though I read them that assignment that I posted on the blog, and they were actually super interested in that and in other archaeological evidences of the Book of Mormon. So anyways, it was interesting but we probably won't go back.

So yeah, that was our week! Hope it gets better ;) The bed bugs are still all dead as far as we can tell, hooray!

Happy P-daay!

Love, Elder Branch

Jan. 17, 2016 in Catawba, South Carolina

Howdy howdy howdy...

So first off, an update on the whole bed bugs deal. The exterminator sprayed and the total kill period is 15 days to make sure it got all the eggs too. So far we have seen 0 new bed bugs and we are up to day 10 or so, so we are still just hoping and praying that they are gone. It seems that so far we are good, I hope it did work!

I'll start off this week with an update on last week's p-day. We had a zone activity at the park and played Pioneer Paintball! Essentially we put flour and colored chalk in socks and threw them at each other all while playing capture the flag. There were no safe zones or anything, you just had to not get hit. Anyways, we did Senior Companions vs Junior Companions and it was a fun activity. Today we are having one final district activity with the district before transfers. We are doing bowling and possibly laser tag, so as always it will be a blast!

As far as transfers go, the only changes in our district are Elder H. and Sister D. who go home this transfer. (It's weird! My Sisters are going home! I'm old!) Sister K. will be getting a trainee, and Elder R. will be getting... Elder L.!!!! :D

Well, I can say one thing for this week, and that is that we did all we could. We were able to see some good blessings as a result, for example, we have quite a few investigators who are keeping their commitments to read the Book of Mormon currently, and now we are mostly working on inviting people to baptism and finding new progressing investigators and families. We have been struggling with finding recently, and as I was pondering on why, the Spirit whispered "Once you start inviting people to be baptized more, and show that you are focused on the Doctrine of Christ, then I will lead you to those who are truly ready to make those covenants now." It was a humbling thought, and we are definitely going to be better at inviting our investigators to be baptized!

We worked really hard to find people and once again only found like 2 people, and they are both super scary. (As in they know the Bible super well but seem to get caught up/lost in all the minor details.) For example, we were just beginning to teach them and talked about how understanding our message takes time and keeping invitations. They asked what invitations and we told them CPR (Church, Prayer, Reading). They asked why those three things and we were like "Cause that is how you can know of truth." They were all like "Show us where it says that in the Bible" so we shared James 1:5 and Matthew 7. Then the guy went off about how we were using those verses out of context, and how they were originally talking about other things, not about praying or learning truth. Then he showed us a verse where it talks about the people comparing Paul's teachings to the Bible, and how because they compared they came to know what he said was true. It was so frustrating because they couldn't even accept answers to prayer or the Holy Ghost as ways to know truth. The only scriptures I knew that would have taught ways to know truth are in the Book of Mormon, and I knew that if I used those they would be like "Well how do you know that is true?" and I would say "I prayed about it.." And they would not take that as legit. Anyways, got any suggestions? We are going back next Sunday, so we will see how it goes.

Later that day we met an interesting guy who believes the Book of Mormon, but doesn't believe Joseph Smith is a prophet. He said he could be an Apostle though.. He also believes abominable doctrines about the Fall, and he wants to read "The Gospel of Mary." Anyways, so the finding aspect of the work is kinda rough right now, but we're hoping it will improve.

Our investigators are all doing kinda ok-ish. The C.'s are good, and this next week we get to go bowling with them and then teach them.

B. has been reading the Book of Mormon, but had to move a couple appointments, so we are hoping to meet this Wednesday (pray for that!)

Pastor R.C. is hilarious as always, and seems to be enjoying the Book of Mormon. So yeah, it's not all bad here, we're getting along.

Well, thanks for the fun emails! I sure love y'all!
Happy P-daay!

Love, Elder Branch

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Jan. 11, 2016 in Catawba, South Carolina Come what may and love it - Wirthlin

Hey family!

Sorry for the super short email today, we had a Zone Activity and then Elder P___ went on exchange with Elder H___ in Monroe, and I am in Catawba with Elder R___. So anyways, life is good, we had a pretty okish week. We are seeing some good things, and we are mostly trying to help those we are teaching progress. A small and simple thing we are working on this week is inviting people to be baptized. I have been studying the principles in Preach my Gospel and as I was studying today, I came up with this acronym:
     Chapter 3 is EPIC!
I am seeing the power that is coming as we work on being better teachers of every principle, it is something I definitely want to get better at. 

Here are a couple highlights.
C___'s: We finally got to see them again! What is even better is that we invited them to come to a baptism that the Lancaster Sisters had in our building, and Brother C___ had to work but the others came!!! :D So it was good progress with them, keep praying for them!!!!
Pastor C___: Didn't get to see this last week, but we are seeing him tonight over Skype!
B___: Saw him again, and had a super good lesson about the Book of Mormon.
R___ is doing super good! She is super excited about family history now too :) 
We saw a couple other people too, but those are the main updates. We are starting to work with the C___'s again which we are excited about.

Other than that, we're mostly just working on finding more solid people.

The bed bugs are finally dead!!! Hurrah! We are excited for this so that we can put all of our focus and energy into our purpose again. Actually, I should say we're pretty sure they're dead. So what had happened was the exterminator scheduled a treatment on Thursday to come and heat the entire apartment up super hot and kill them all. As a result we had to empty out everything that could melt onto the back patio area. They came and heated it up, but when we got home that night, not only did we find our couch upside down, but our beds were standing up leaning against each other. As we started to put them back together, lo and behold, a live bed bug was walking around on Elder Petersons mattress. So we both got super super mad and depressed and had to stay up until 12:00am washing all our sheets. They rescheduled to come and do a chemical treatment when they found out it hadn't worked, but since then we haven't seen any more bugs, so we should be good (finally). 

One funny part, the day after the treatment, we were going to make lunch and so we turned on the oven to cook some crescent rolls. Well lo and behold, the exterminator had put our fire alarms and light switch covers in the oven, so next thing you know we have smoke coming out of the oven all over and the fire alarms going off inside. We opened all the windows and in the end we got it smelling better and the mission office paid for a lunch, which was nice of them. So yeah, that is our week. Hope y'alls goes great! Thanks for the fun stories!

Happy P-daay!
Thanks for all you do! Love ya!

Elder Branch

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Jan. 4, 2016 Happy New Years from Catawba, South Carolina

This last week we sure worked hard! It was a week of many meetings. The meetings were very inspiring, and I am so excited for where the mission is heading. There were like 2 training meetings, and when you add weekly planning and 12 week training for Elder P___ on top of that you end up with plenty of stuff to do and not much time to do it! It was a better week than the past few though, we weren't as "bugged" by the bed bugs, they have seemed to stay in our room and ever since we killed 14 in one day, the numbers of them have seemed to go down. We have only killed like 5 or 6 since. I keep telling Elder P___ that its really just survival of the fittest, and that we are only killing the dumb, slow bed bugs while all of the fast, smart, vicious ones are hiding as they combine their efforts to breed a massive bed bug army that will completely overwhelm and surprise us in our sleep, sucking us dry and leaving nothing but a fragile empty husk of us left. It's not a very pleasant image.. I hope the exterminators come soon...

So anyways, R___ is doing well. We are doing family history tonight with her, which is super exciting!

We had lots of other appointments set up for this week, but after loads of cancellations we spent most of our time finding. We were rewarded for our diligent efforts with 0 new investigators and the knowledge that we have loads more patience than we thought we did! We did meet one kinda eccentric guy named M___ M___ who told us he was looking for a church! We also had a lesson with our favorite Pastor R___ C___, and it was one of the most intense Restoration lessons ever!! We are like in the middle of the first principle, God is Our Loving Heavenly Father, and I mentioned we are his spirit children. Next thing you know, we are being asked what our thoughts are on the triumvecta (probably not spelled right), and why we believe God has a body. We were able to kinda answer (kinda), but told him we didn't really know and that we would study on it. 5 days of studying later and I still don't really know what the triumvecta even is (or why it is important) and the best I can come up with for God having a body is if Joseph Smith is a prophet, then we have to trust him and the translations/revelations he received (in other words, pray about it). So yeah, the rest of the lesson was pretty good, and more deep and funny and interactive and random and yet still powerful than any I have ever had. Elder P___ did a great job answering lots of the questions, and in the end Pastor C said he would read and pray about the Book of Mormon! That night a member showed us a neat video of a Baptist Preacher being interviewed about the Book of Mormon, and how he actually really likes it, and so we sent that to R___ and asked about how his church went. He said "Hey Elder, Church was awesome on SUNDAY. We had a great time! Thanks so much for asking. Looking forward to getting into my Nephi this week!!!" So yeah, he is lots of fun :)

For this next week, my ponderize scripture is Doctrine and Covenants 33:9-11 to help raise my faith that there are more people ready here to hear God's message, despite the tough weeks we have been having. I believe there are, and we are just doing our best to find where they are at.

I sure love all of you! Fight the fight, keep the faith! God IS your LOVING Heavenly Father!!! :)

Happy P-daay! 


Elder Branch

So this was funny. We tried knocking on a trailer over behind this house, and no one answered. We thought we had seen someone inside but it was pretty quiet. We went over and took some pictures next to the house, and all of a sudden a man came out of the trailer. I guess he was freaked out that we were taking pictures of the place, but he turned out to be very nice. We shared the Restoration and he wasn't interested, but we were laughing afterwards that we had found the secret way to get to talk to people. If they don't answer, just start taking pictures and they will come! Haha, anyways, hope you have a great week!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Dec. 28, 2015 Merry Christmas from Catawba, South Carolina

Hello friends!

Well we just got done with an intense round of laser tag for our p-day activity. Thank you Rachelle and Debbie Pearson for the great Christmas gift! ;) We figured we would take the Christmas break opportunity when there would be tons of families and teens out and go and play. Unfortunately the kids we played were only like 8-11, but it was still fun 6 v 6. But yeah, so I am writing this in the arcade waiting for maybe one more game. Haha, I'm glad you enjoyed the package!

So my main update is about trying to get missionary work done despite having our apartment infested by bed bugs! We had a rougher week due to a bed bug infestation, (but we were able to have some good days towards the end, and next week will be good). The pest place is on vacation until January and we have been trying to keep it under control with some help from a senior missionary couple. We weren't sleeping in our room for a couple nights, but they came and got us bed sheets that are bed bug proof. We sprayed and vacuumed the beds, and then put those over top and it seems to have helped. We are doing our studies and such on the back porch where the bed bugs can't get us, and we are able to sleep on the beds again in our room, as long as we spray the ceiling so that they don't climb up and skydive onto us at night.

Anyways, that slowed us down a bit but we still are seeing some good. We got in contact with B___. We also set up an appointment with S___ and he told us his fiance would be there too, and we could teach her! :D We are teaching R___ the new member lessons and hope her husband will join us! :) We are still trying to find more people to teach, but we are excited. We got back in contact with Pastor C___ too, which was a blast, he is hilarious!

So the members were great for christmas! They gave us tons of presents (mostly canned goods and Walmart gift cards, the best missionary presents!) "Santa" (aka the C___ family) left us some marshmallow guns and a bag of mini marshmallows on our doorstep, so we were able to have a pretty intense war after we skyped home. We also had a bunch of fake snowballs (thanks mom and Sister T___), so we made those worth 3 points each, where as marshmallows were 1 point each. Elder P___ beat me (again) 24-23, but it was fun. I'm so grateful for the amazing people here in Carolina! They are so great to us :)

Our mission Christmas party was blast! Every missionary got to bear a 60 second testimony, which was powerful. Then the senior couples all came and did a Nativity scene which was pretty funny. At lunch, Santa Allen Alexander came and gave all the Elders hugs and the Sisters handshakes. The best though was the enormous kiss he planted on Sister Alexander, sweeping her down into a dip like a princess. Then we played an intense game verses all the different zones, and our zone took second. For the game, they would ask questions like "Who has a band-aid on them? Who knows the scout oath? Who wrecked their car this week?" and everyone who had done that or knew that had to run into the middle to the assistants (who were fearing for their lives by the end.) Anyways, one was "who was in a bike wreck this week?" and Elder P___ and I ran up along with a couple other companionship's. I told them that it was Elder P___'s first p-day and that he got hit by a car, and they gave us double points. So we did our "handshake" and everyone laughed. I also won the scout law, and reciting Doctrine and Covenants 4. After lunch we had a couple closing testimonies from the Alexanders. It was lots of fun :)

I'm glad y'all had a Merry Christmas! Thanks for the prayers, I sure love ya!

Happy P-daay! From Elder Branch