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Monday, June 22, 2015

June 22, 2015 - Last email

We just got back from DC. It was fun to tour the city for the last time. It could be awhile until I get to come back. It takes a lot of walking and it really takes it out of you. 
Elders Johnson Miles on one final visit to DC

This last week wasn't too eventful. We went on several more exchanges with Elders around the mission. We also had our departing temple trip on Wednesday. We went up in the morning and went to a session. Before the session started President Riggs, the temple President, and his wife all spoke to us. Afterwards, we took pictures outside and went to Café Rio. I look forward to attending the temple more frequently. The spirit is always very refreshing.

I believe I said this last week, but it honestly doesn't feel like my mission is ending this week. I have loved being a missionary. It was pretty difficult and tiring at times, but it was so worth it. I think as this week progresses the nervous feeling in my stomach will keep getting worse. It is a sad thought to think that I will be leaving, but I am also very excited. 

President Riggs and Elder Miles at the DC Temple
I'm sure I will feel a mix of emotions at transfer meeting. 
After the departing missionaries bear their testimonies the whole mission sings "Onward Christian Soldiers" as we walk down off the stage. That will be a very special experience.

4 days until Elder Miles' return to Utah
After the meeting, we will all stay at a hotel because the mission home is being cleaned out for the new mission president. We will all have a life talk with President and Sister Riggs then go to bed. In the morning we will all wake up really early and head to the airport!

I'm excited to see you on Friday!

Elder Braden Miles

Washington DC South Mission

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

June 15, 2015 - Departing interview

This week we had our departing interviews with President Riggs. Usually when he does interviews with missionaries they are about 15 minutes. For departing interviews he talks to us for 30 minutes. We were not aware that we had our interviews until two hours before it started. Our zone leaders got the times to us late... so I wasn't able to think about to many questions to ask him. It was a really good experience. Mainly he talked about how great of a missionary I have been :D and gave me advice and counsel for my future (school, work, marriage, etc). A lot of his advice is stuff that he tells everyone, but there were several things he said he felt prompted to tell me that were specific to me. He also offers to give everyone a blessing at the end and of course I accepted. That was a great spiritual experience. It was pretty hard not to feel good about myself after the interview.

We met with President Riggs yesterday afternoon to talk
Elder Miles at a location know as "great falls"
about our assignment. While we were there he said he won't be available to play me in 1 on 1 during preparation day before we leave. He offered to pick us up this morning and take us to the stake center so we could play. He is very good at basketball. He is not super athletic, but he can shoot and he just knows how to play the game. Plus he is tall. He usually destroys missionaries when he plays them (one missionary has beaten him). We played best 2 out of 3 (going to 11 by 1's and 2's). I beat him the first game 11-6 and the second game 11-7. I was pretty winded after, but it was worth it. I feel like my mission is accomplished now (haha).

I started making a list this week of the things I have learned on my mission. I have really come to love studying the gospel. Before my mission I would read my scriptures for maybe 5 minutes a day right before I went to bed. Let me tell you, that felt like a big sacrifice! Now I wish I had more than an hour to study every morning. I have gained a lot more gospel knowledge during my mission and more than anything, I love learning from the spirit. I have come to recognize the edifying influence of the spirit and when he is trying to teach me something.

Learning to recognize the feelings and promptings of the spirit in my life has been a huge blessing. That was a bit of a struggle for me before I left. I questioned whether or not I had ever felt the spirit before. Obviously I had, but the adversary was trying to tell me otherwise. Now I would be lying if I denied the feelings I have felt in my heart and mind - especially the spirit confirming the truth of the gospel and the Book of Mormon.

I have also learned a lot about developing Christ-like attributes (patience, humility, charity, etc). I feel like I have made great strides in a lot of areas, but I am still working on it just like everyone else. So don't expect me to be perfect :). Some of my favorite spiritual experiences have to do with charity and seeing other people as Christ sees them. I feel blessed when I get a glimpse of how God feels about each of us. I know he loves us more then we can comprehend.

I have also learned a lot about less spiritual things including planning, using time wisely, teaching, public speaking, etc. These are just a few of the thoughts I have had this week. I am tremendously grateful for this opportunity I have had to serve a mission. I can't believe it is almost over. I have been thinking about being a missionary my whole life and now, all of the sudden, it is coming to an end. I also get nervous when I think about leaving because I don't quite know what to expect. I am very excited to come home and see what life has to offer me, but it will be hard to go.

Thank you to everyone for all of the love and support!

Yours truly,

Elder Braden Miles
Another picture from "great falls"

Another picture from "great falls"

Monday, June 8, 2015

June 8, 2015

Elder Miles with Harrison Littledyke (his trainer) -
Harrison is working in Virginia this summer
It was another good week full of exchanges and meetings. I am not sure what else to say about it... Nothing too exciting happened on exchanges, its pretty fun to help some of the younger missionaries. We had the last mission leadership council of our missions. That will be the last meeting with President Riggs until transfer meeting on the 25th. I'm sure that meeting will be crazy because it will be the last mission conference before the Riggs leave.

I receive a text message from Zohra this week. We are going to meet her for lunch at some point this week. It will be good to see her before I go. I hope I can see a few other recent converts as well before I leave. Zohra said she is doing pretty well right now. She is going to school and doing some work as a translator on the side. She also just bought a brand new car.

Elders Miles and Johnson with their
"super trunkys" - flight and departure info
Part of our "Super Trunkys" is a letter from President Riggs encouraging us to write down our testimonies, conversion stories, goals for the future, etc. It is really hard to describe in words how much my mission has blessed my life. I am going to try to start writing some of those things down over the next couple of weeks.

When I think about coming home I have a lot of mixed emotions. I am excited to see everyone and get back to doing a lot of things that I love. I also get a nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach when I realize that I don't have much time left. It is about the same feeling that I had before leaving on my mission. It will be hard to leave a place and people I have come to love. I have heard missionaries say that going home is like leaving home for the second time. I find that very true. It will be strange going home because I feel like I have just been a missionary my whole life and this is how it will be forever. When Elder Johnson and I talk about it we feel like there is no way we are going home in a couple weeks.
Visit to the White House

Love you!
Elder Braden Miles
Washington DC South Mission
Elders Johnson and Miles behind the White House.  The top floor is the Obama residence.
The door is to the Press room.
Elders Johnson and Miles by the door to the West Wing where the Oval Office is.

Monday, June 1, 2015

June 1, 2015 - The Eagle is in the nest

It took almost an entire year, but finally the member followed through on his promise! Last year when I was in the Burke ward one of the members offered to take us on a White House tour. When the day came, he had to cancel because something came up. The same member is moving in a couple weeks and he wasn't busy today, so he took us on a VIP White House "tour". It wasn't much of a tour actually. He signed us up for an "appointment" to meet with one of his buddies as a cover so that he could show us around. We had to walk about half a mile from where we parked on a sunny, humid, 90 degree day all while wearing our suits. It was super muggy and hot.

In order to go in we had to take off our name tags and go by our first names. That was really strange. He also told us he wouldn't be able to be much of a tour guide since he wasn't technically supposed to give us a "tour" today. We had tags that showed we had an "appointment". He did show us around a little bit and gave us some background story as we walked around but it was very low key.

We started off in the west wing where all the important people have offices - including the President. We were unable to go in the oval office because President Obama was in there working. We walked past the door and there were several tough looking secret service guys. He was literally just on the other side of the door from us! That was pretty crazy. We walked through the rose garden (which is where the President has tea with all the famous people when they visit) and several other really famous rooms.

We got to step into the press conference room for a moment and see where the President speaks when he is on national television. The room was much smaller than I thought it would be. There were a bunch of people from the media in there, so we weren't able to get a picture at the pulpit. :'(. We met the member’s friend briefly. He is the head communications guy for the President and basically follows him around 24/7. We had lunch in the Dwight D. Eisenhower building next door and then took off. All in all it was really cool. It was also a lot smaller and less crazy/intense in there then I thought it would be. We just walked around like we belonged there and nobody cared. We got a few pictures on the member’s phone. I will send those home next week once we get them from him.

This week we trained the whole mission on how to plan for lessons. There were four different conferences and we went to each of them to train the missionaries. It was pretty fun. During our Zone’s Conference on Friday President Riggs took about 90 minutes and told stories from his life and a lot from his mission. It is cool to see how he is a normal guy and went through a lot of difficulty just like everyone else. We also went on several exchanges with Elders during the week. It is strange that missionaries look to us for advice and training. I don't feel qualified. I still feel like a new missionary half the time! (haha) 

There is no way that I have been out for 23 months... It is a blast being with Elder Johnson and traveling around the mission. I am so grateful that I have had this opportunity to serve a mission. It has been a huge blessing. 

Elder Braden Miles
Washington DC South Mission

Monday, May 25, 2015

May 25, 2015

Our schedule was thrown off a little this week. The AC was broken in the car that we got, so we took it into the dealership on Tuesday morning and we still haven't gotten it back yet. We assumed it would be a pretty quick fix, but they haven't even called to give us an estimate yet. For two days we were on foot until we finally got a loaner car until ours gets out of the shop. The dealership won't give us a straight answer as to when it should be done. That has been pretty frustrating. Due to the car problems we had to reschedule one of our exchanges, so we only had three this week.

The Office Elders think they're funny!
It is pretty fun traveling the mission with Elder Johnson. On Saturday, we had an exchange with some Elders that live close to where Elder Johnson and I lived in Algonkian. We stopped by the old apartment for a minute for old time's sake. It was crazy to think we served there 18 months ago. President Riggs liked what we have been training the missionaries about so much that he is having us present it to the mission this week.

This week we are receiving "Tiwi's" in all of the mission vehicles. They are little boxes that track where you are, how fast you are driving, and lots of other things. If you get too many warnings they take away your driving privileges. Luckily, we only have to deal with them for a month. While those are being installed we will be doing our training with all of the missionaries.

It has been fun to be back in the Burke ward. Last year there was a member that was going to take us on a tour of The White House, but he had to cancel on us. He is moving in three weeks so he isn't working right now. I asked him when he is going to show us around The White House and now we are going with him next Monday!

Elder Miles' latest cooking
experience - fried chicken
We don't really have any investigators to work with right now. It is hard because we started from scratch and only have 3 days each week to work in our area. Hopefully we can get some things going with our limited time.

I am honestly not sure what else to write about... Not all that much happened this week. Love you all!

Elder Braden Miles
Washington DC South Mission

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

May 18, 2015 - My last transfer!

Last week we received this email from Elder Miles -

I just read my weekly email from President Riggs. This is what he said: "I would like to meet with you after transfer meeting. The Lord has an interesting assignment for you."

I have no idea what that means... but I assume that means I am getting transferred. I will let you know next week what my "interesting assignment" will be.

On Saturday we received this email -

Elders Miles and Johnson with the mission transfer board

I was transferred back to the Burke ward on Thursday. Guess who my new companion is!?!? You guessed it! It's Elder Johnson! Our "interesting assignment" is that we are traveling assistants. President Riggs said technically he isn't allowed to have 4 assistants, but that we are basically traveling assistants. He told the mission we are "traveling 
trainers". We will be on exchanges with others Elders all over the mission 4 days a week. I will fill you in with more details on Monday.
Love you!

Here's this week's email -

I found out what my "interesting assignment" would be on Monday evening last week. Elder Johnson called and asked me if President Riggs had talked to me. I told him no, but explained the email that he sent me. His response was that we were definitely going to be companions! He said he received a similar email, but then he learned more when he ran into President Riggs later in the day. I don't remember all the details, but essentially from everything he gathered he figured we would be companions. He called me just to confirm his suspicions. He was told we would be some sort of "traveling trainers". That got me super excited and all
Elders Miles and Johnson in President Riggs' office
week I was pumped for transfer meeting.

Everyone was pretty shocked when we were put together because most people know we are really good friends. We were in the MTC together, roommates for 6 months, and were in the same zone for 3 other transfers. It was just fitting for us to finish out together as well. President Riggs announced to the mission that we would be traveling around the mission to train missionaries. After the meeting we met with him briefly to learn a little more about our assignment. He told us that he received some pretty strong spiritual impressions about the need to extend this assignment to us. President Riggs said "the missionary department says I can't have 4 assistants, but if I could you would be called traveling assistants". Instead we are "traveling trainers".

Our assignment is to spend the entire day with a companionship to train them on the work 4 times a week (Tues-Fri). We will leave our apartment after studies, spend the entire day training and working with them, and then get home at 10 or later. We are going to be doing this with some of the younger companionships that will really take our training to heart and apply it. We are really excited for our assignment, but exchanges can really wear you out. We are going to be pretty tired by the end of this. We will only proselyte in the Burke ward Sat-Mon, so it will be hard to get as much work done in our own area.

We have some pretty nice perks as well. We have another Ford Fusion which is one of the nicest cars, we get extra money (since we will have to eat out a lot), and we have really comfy queen size mattresses. It was awesome to see some of the members of the Burke ward again at church yesterday. A lot of people remembered me even though I wasn't here too long. President and Sister Riggs are speaking in other wards every week before they leave, so they weren't at church. Their 3 daughters were all surprised and excited that I am back in their ward.

At the same time I was sad to leave the Manassas 1st Ward.
Elder Miles with Sophia and Destiny
Mostly because I wanted to be in the ward when Destiny and Sophia get baptized and so I could make sure they are ready for the date we set with them. I trust Elder Wagner will do a good job though. I will still get to go back and attend the baptism next month. They were both sad that I was leaving to a new area as well.

It is going to be a really busy final transfer for us!

Elder Braden Miles
Washington DC South Mission

Monday, May 11, 2015

May 11, 2015 - Happy Mothers Day!

Elder Miles at the site of the Battle of Bull Run
Remember how while we were Skyping yesterday you asked if I have crazy experiences while tracting? Well last night we went tracting right after dinner (by the way the members made us the best salmon I have ever tasted. It was amazing). After about 30 minutes of knocking doors, we see an Asian looking guy getting his mail. As usual, we approach him and start talking to him. After talking to so many people over the course of my mission, I can tell very quickly the level of someone’s interest in what we have to say. In the first 30 seconds of talking to him it was apparent that he wanted to "teach us a thing or two about Jesus". For the next hour or so he told us all about how all we need is grace and the bible is God's only word. He talked basically the whole time. At one point I looked over at Elder Wagner and he had the most blank stare on his face I have ever seen (see Acts 20:9). At the end he invited us to read the bible and seek for truth. We informed him that we do that every day, thanked him, and continued knocking doors.

Elder Miles with a statue of Stonewall Jackson
After receiving that hour long sermon, we visited a "lost sheep" on the ward list. It was a Cambodian family and they had some sort of party going on. Some drunk guy basically dragged us into their house and was trying to make us sit down and eat some food. I escaped the drunk guy and started talking to some of the other people. Elder Wagner wasn't quite so lucky. He ended up "entertaining" the drunk guy for about 10 minutes. He said the guy made him pray for him and was trying to hold his hand (haha). The people I talked to were pretty cool and want us to come back sometime. We never did find the guy on the ward list though.

Destiny and Sophia are doing great. They were going to
Home at the Battle of Bull Run site
come to church, but Destiny was pretty sick. They are coming this upcoming Sunday. Hopefully I am still here in the area (I will find out tomorrow if I am getting transferred). We started teaching them about the Plan of Salvation and it went really well. We are getting better at teaching really simply, so they can understand. I also feel like they are learning a lot and getting better at comprehending the gospel. We have another lesson with them tonight and then they are going to mutual on Tuesday. They are both really excited to get baptized on June 13th!

It is hard to believe I will be starting my last transfer on Thursday. I want to make the most of it!

Until next week,
Elder Braden Miles
Washington DC South Mission

"There stands Elder Miles like a stone wall" - Elder Braden Miles

"GQ pose" - Elder Braden Miles

Cannon at the site of the Battle of Bull Run