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Monday, July 29, 2013

July 29, 2013

I had an awesome week full of miracles!!!!  These people are all new investigators we found and are going to meet with regularly.

On the 24th we were just doing some finding and street contacting and we weren't having any success. I suggested that we say a prayer. I prayed that we would be able to find some new investigators to teach. We found this kid on the street a few minutes later who wasn't interested, but said to try his friend’s house. We went to his friend’s apartment and his dad answered and let us right in. Their family is from El Salvador and he doesn't speak very good English. He (Jose) said he knows that God sent us because he is having really bad family troubles. His wife won’t talk to him and might leave him and his son won’t listen to him. We taught him and his 8 year old daughter Ashley. We taught them the first lesson and they accepted it and said they would read the Book of Mormon and pray. He also said he would come to church. He hasn't done any of those yet and is having trouble keeping his commitments, but he also committed to be baptized! We are probably going to turn him over to the Spanish elders.

It’s a similar story with this guy: We prayed to find someone and ran into a 25 year old guy from Peru named Jorge. He was really excited to talk and learn more. He is looking for a "spiritual connection" right now. He is really friendly, but he has some strange beliefs. He thinks that aliens helped a "supreme creator" to create us. He also said he wants to have an out of body experience to "find himself". He thinks being a hippy and doing some drugs will help him with that. Then we told him about Joseph Smith.  He is really willing to listen and accept our message, but it will take some work to get him where he needs to be.

We also prayed for this one: After saying a prayer we turned around and a lady was walking her dog. Elder Littledike recognized her and started talking to her like an old friend. Turns out he taught her and her family in his first transfer of his mission. He says they would have been baptized if it wasn't for her husband. The crazy part is that they just moved here from the area that Elder Littledike taught them before. Maybe that’s why he was sent here again.

Then yesterday we were not having much success, so we prayed. At the third house we knock on a guy opens the door and says "You guys are probably here for my wife." Then he said she wasn't there but let us right in. We both looked at each other like "What is going on!?" He starts talking about how his wife usually takes the lessons and he hasn't listened in before, so he’s thinking we came to his house on purpose. We just go with it and keep talking like we know who he is. We teach the first lesson and commit him to read and pray. Then right before the prayer Elder Littledike says "Sorry, I completely spaced your name" and so he tells us his name is Matt. We pray and leave still not knowing what was going on (haha).

Elder Miles with the new mission transportation!?

Just some more stuff about the area: Pretty much every other license plate is customized. The best one I've seen so far said "4 Narnia". There are tons of really nice cars too. I've never seen so many BMW's and Mercedes. There are tons of all black Camaros too that are pretty sweet. Also everyone owns at least one dog, sometimes two or three. We talk to tons of people out walking their dogs, which is pretty distracting cause they are trying to deal with the dog and listen. Then if the dog craps the person grabs it with the baggy and we get to smell it the whole time we talk to them. There are bike/jogging trails that go all over the place. We use them to get around, but it bugs me how they go up and down and curve side to side cause it doubles the distance we have to ride. 

There are so many people from different cultures. I've met people from so many South American countries. The Middle East and India are the most common. It’s rained a couple days this week for awhile. I have a wind breaker jacket that I wear, but that’s only good for about 20 minutes then it gets soaked through. The gnats are super annoying too and they fly all around our heads and faces while we are teaching.

The members in the ward here are awesome and we have a dinner almost every night. They also give us lots of food to take back to the apartment for later. Last night we had dinner with the Gunderson family. We get talking and they say they know some people in Cedar Hills. Then later they say something about how they know Jason Buck. Turns out the dad (Brian Gunderson) played at Ricks with Coach McGeary and Jason Buck. He played safety on the team. He also knows Gary Gardner from when he coached there and said he was trying to recruit him to play basketball. Brother Gunderson also knows Coach Gardner’s son and even dropped him off at Gary's house once, so he’s been to our neighborhood before.

The 4 Elders in the apartment

Some funny stories from the week: Some guy gets out of his car and says to get off his property before we can even talk. Then we start talking and he just says "This is private property get off". Yesterday some guy answered the door and just said no to everything we said, was super rude, then slammed the door. Other people just ignore us as they walk past. Others come look out the window, we make eye contact, and then they close the blinds and walk away.  I don’t really mind it much though (haha). Lots of people tell us they are just fine with their religion or are already saved and don’t need help. We met this guy who was out fixing his car. He was wearing a do-rag, black boots and huge red shorts. He was also short, chubby, and white. He grew up in the ghetto and talked like he was from the inner city (haha). He also was a huge bible guy and kept throwing bible verses at us.

I got letters from Kurt and Shaun this week, but I don’t have their emails. Thanks to them for writing me! It’s great to hear about how things are going. Also Shaun shared a really good scripture about missionary work that I really like (D&C 18:10,15-16). I haven’t had a chance to see any national monuments or go to DC yet. We can go every other transfer (a transfer is 6 weeks). Also we can go to the temple every other transfer.

If you didn't catch it, I've had some very cool experiences with prayer and my faith has grown every day. It is so amazing how we find some people and there is no way it is by accident. Heavenly Father directs us to who we need to meet, even if we don’t know it at the time. I've been reading a lot about faith and it really does require action. We can’t just believe something will happen. We have to go out and do something to allow it to happen! I love the time we get to study in the morning. It really flies by and I wish I had more time.

 It’s time to go ball it up on the street court in our apartment complex and throw a football around. Our football is a crappy rubber one that has a beer company logo on it and says "Please drink responsibly" (haha).

Love you so much!

Monday, July 22, 2013

July 22, 2013

Hello family!

I can’t believe I’ve been here for almost two weeks and its even crazier to think I’ve been gone for almost a month!

A little more about my roomies and my companion: Elder Littledike played soccer and football at South Summit. He is leaving after six weeks with him, which means I’ll have a different trainer for my last six weeks of training. He is great and we are getting to know each other a lot better. He is going to Utah State after he gets back. Elder Johnson (MTC buddy) is still s stud. We get don’t get too long to talk cause we are working all day, but during meals, p day, and at night we get to chill. On the airplane we were talking about how crazy it would be if we got to be roommates and it happened somehow. His companion is Elder Gorton, from San Antonio. He is half Philippine and has been here for 6 months.

We just got back from playing some sports at the stake center. We played some basketball at first, which was way fun. I gotta keep up on my game so I can beat president Riggs (haha). Then we played Gatorball. It’s like handball pretty much, but the missionaries made it up I think.

Elder Johnson and I have been cooking some good food now that we get to go to the store. We’ve made omelets, pasta salad, alfredo, stir fry, fried rice, soup, etc. I need all the energy because the little amount of sleep is rough. We can only drive the van a certain number of miles each month and the elders before us used most of them, so we are on bikes till the end of the month. Yesterday actually felt pretty good because it was cloudy and sprinkling a little, but the three days before that were ridiculously hot! It was like 100 degrees, plus the humidity. Plus we were biking in the middle of the day with church clothes on. That is definitely the hottest and sweatiest I’ve ever been (haha). We eat dinner at members houses pretty much every night, so it’s awesome showing up dripping with sweat.

Elder Miles and Elder Littledike

Things have been picking up lately and we’ve been able to get some investigators. We've had several scheduled appointments with people, but they’ve all fallen through. We have a meeting with a guy from Ghana tonight, so hopefully that will turn out. We’ve run into people with so many different beliefs. I’ve met someone from pretty much every religion. Some of the classic responses from people include: I’m doing fine with the religion I have, I’m not looking to change religion, I’m Muslim, I already believe in Jesus and the bible. I feel like the women that answer are definitely nicer for the most part. We haven’t had too many doors shut in our faces yet. A guy from India we met the other day gave us his Quran to read and we gave him a Book of Mormon in return. It’s also Ramadan right now, so that’s also a big excuse for not wanting to listen to us (haha). That reminds me. Elder Littledike said some missionary he knew did their own Ramen-dan (eating only top ramen for a month) and ended up in the hospital. I thought that was pretty hilarious.

Elder Johnson and I got to go on an exchange together the other day cause we had a new missionary meeting to go to. Afterwards we went contacting together. We would be good companions. We got like four contacts in an hour. Some girl slammed on her brakes and yelled "Are you guys Mormon!?" then she got out and said she really respects us and that she used to go to church with her boyfriend. Turns out she is in Elder Johnsons boundaries, so they got to teach her. That was disappointing because she’s already read the BoM, come to church, and has lots of good questions. She'll probably end up getting baptized.

Elder Miles and Elder Littledike

My favorite experience/miracle happened on Saturday. We only had an hour before we had to be somewhere, so we just went to a random apartment complex to try and find some people. We ended up running into this 17 year old kid getting his mail. We talked to him for a couple minutes and he seemed pretty excited. Then his little brother runs out to greet us. Then his mom leans out and gets all excited and tells us to come in. We go in and it turns out there is a whole family there ready to listen to us. They all came here from Egypt a month ago. They won a visa lottery in order to be able to come live in the U.S. They were Christian and spoke Arabic for the most part. They all knew enough English to understand our lesson (I hope), but the 17 year old can speak English fluently so he had to translate a few times for his mom. Elder Littledike also happened to have a testimony written in Arabic of the BoM and Joseph Smith from another guy he met awhile ago. We had the dad read it out loud to everyone and I think that helped a lot. They want to read the Book of Mormon, so we need to track down an Arabic copy for them. I really felt the spirit and I hope they did too. They said they knew that God had sent us to them, which made me feel pretty good. They said to come back anytime (they don’t have a phone) and teach them more. Hopefully that can turn into something good.

Typical house in the area

I’m out of time, but I have some other good stories I could tell you. Thanks for all the prayers and support! Love you all!

-Elder Miles

Monday, July 15, 2013

July 15, 2013

Well it’s almost been a week already here in DC! It was great being able to talk to the family at the airport before we left. Our flight was three and a half hours and my seat was right next to Elder Johnson while everyone else was spread throughout the plane. It was awful having the TV right in front of me the whole time and not being allowed to turn it on (haha).

President Riggs met us at the airport and he had all of our names memorized already. He looks even younger than his picture because I almost thought he was an Elder at first. We went to their house and had dinner and a testimony/get to know you meeting. Then President Riggs interviewed us all just to meet us and get to know us better. We have even more in common than you would think. He actually committed to play football at Mesa before his mission and played a little spring ball there after his mission too. Their stadium is actually named after his great uncle. He said he was more of a throwing type QB and loved basketball too. Both of the AP's told me he is really good at basketball still and has never lost to a missionary, so they said I’m the only hope (haha). He also said that lots of the missionaries already know who I am because of the church video they did on LP basketball and they were excited that I was coming (He said some wouldn't know or give a crap either (haha)) . He also said everyone will be looking up to me because of that and that I need to be a good example in all I do. President Riggs also said because everyone looks up to me I’m going to be a great leader. At the end he said I have everything going for me and he thinks that I have what it takes to be the best missionary ever to be in this mission and he is excited to see how I do. That was pretty cool and motivating. He also said he wants to play me in basketball. The AP's wanted to see pics of my rings so if you could send me some that would be cool. 

The next day we went to a meeting to get a little orientation, get companions, and find out where we would be going. My trainer/companion is Elder Littledike from Kamas, Utah. He played soccer in high school and has been out for 22 months, so this is his last transfer before he goes home. He is really good at talking to everyone we pass. Seriously we talk to everyone. 

We got assigned to the Algonkian ward in the Ashburn stake/zone. If you look on my mission map you can find it. It is a pretty nice area for the most part, but there is a ghetto area we haven’t been in at all. All the houses are colonial style, which means they all have red brick on the front and plastic siding. I’ll send a picture of one next week so you’ll have an idea, but they all look the exact same so that will be enough. Elder Littledike says they are million dollar homes even though they are on small amounts of land and they aren't too big. The cost of land is really expensive.

The kitchen

Elder Miles' bedroom

Here is the biggest shocker, Elder Johnson got assigned to the exact same ward as me and we are staying in the same apartment together. That was pretty exciting to find out and also means I’ll be with him for at least the next 12 weeks. For the first couple days I was eating dry corn flakes and sleeping with no pillow until we were able to run to Wal-Mart.

So we had bikes for the first several days until they brought us a van. Good thing to cause my butt was killing me. After the meeting an elder that was aunt Dixie's neighbor said “Hi” and I think his last name was Orme. Then another elder told me he can see it in my face that I’ll be a great missionary, which was pretty cool.

So the usual schedule is get up at 6:30, run to the little gym in the apartment complex and work out till 7. Then get ready till 8, personal study till 9, and companionship study until 11 (its two hours until I’m done with training). Then we go out for a little, lunch at 12 (we have an hour so I usually get a quick nap in), then head out until dinner at 5. After dinner we do some more proselyting until 9, plan for the next day, and repeat (over 700 times (haha)). Monday is my P-day, so that’s when you can expect emails. We have the same morning schedule and then have till after dinner to do anything we want to do. We just went shopping, did laundry, and slept, but you can use that time to go to DC every other transfer (so every 12 weeks). We can also go to the temple every other transfer or we can take investigators to the Visitor’s Center anytime.

We had to start from scratch with investigators because my companion was just transferred here, but he was here earlier in his mission which has been helpful. We don’t have any solid investigators yet, but we have several potentials. We've actually done lots of street contacting and door knocking because members in this area don’t refer many people. That’s mainly because nobody here knows their own neighbors, which is pretty weird.  

As you can imagine it is super humid and we get really sweaty, especially when we are on bikes. One of our potential investigators is a lifeguard, named Rich that we ran into while he was outside on his break. He said religion confused him, so we gave him the first lesson about the restoration and told him how Joseph Smith had lots of confusion too. Anyways it went really good and we gave him a Book of Mormon and a Restoration packet to read. Then before we left he told us how all morning his mom had been telling him that he needed to "find Jesus". He thought it was crazy how we happened to show up when we did. He also said we have a good "aura" about us and he liked how he felt and we explained that it was the spirit. We called the next day to see if he wanted to go to church, but he couldn't because he had work. He said he read the packet and is going to read book and wants to talk with us after he does. He is probably our best chance right now at getting an investigator.

We've given out lots of books and cards, but we haven’t got too much out of it yet. Lots of people say they read the bible and that is enough for them. Most people are nice and say no, but some shut the doors in our faces. One guy sitting on his porch drinking and smoking with his shirt off told us he believes there’s a God, but everything else about religion is just made up stuff so that people can get money off suckers that believe it. That was an interesting conversation and he said he felt bad for us (haha).

There are tons of different ethnicities that we've run into. There are tons of people from Ghana and many missionaries learn to speak their language (Twi), but most of them are in the Mt. Vernon zone. I hope I get a chance to go there eventually. We watched the AP's talk to some people from Ghana at the airport and they got their contact information. They really light up when you starting speaking their language and it really opens them up. Also lots of missionaries learn Spanish, including elder Littledike. He taught two people on the street in Spanish while I just sat there (haha), but I really want to learn so I can join in on the fun.

I've learned tons and grown a lot even just in the last week. It’s really true how the Lord works in mysterious ways. Personal study time is really awesome and I love that time to learn as much as I can. I’m working hard every day to get better and be the best missionary I can be! Love you all! 

- Elder Miles

MTC District and 2 MTC teachers on the right

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

July 8, 2013

Week two is in the bag!  It’s crazy how fast this week has flown by! It’s been a really good week though. We've been teaching investigators, but they are members who come and act like it. It’s very realistic and good practice for the mission field. I've learned so much about teaching in the last two weeks and I know it will pay off. We've taught four lessons like this and we also teach our teacher a lesson once a day, plus a bunch of role playing with other missionaries, so I've probably taught about 15 or more lessons. I’m really learning to rely on the spirit because things just don’t work out as good during a lesson if you just do it yourself. It’s an amazing thing when you just open your mouth and start talking, even though you have no idea what to say, and the spirit really does put the words in your mouth.

We've had a chance to listen to a lot of devotional talks, but my favorite has been from George Durrant this past Sunday. He was pretty funny and talked about being bold. Sometimes I get nervous to ask certain questions or say things when teaching investigators, but being bold is so important. Also we have learned a ton about learning how to love our investigators, because when you love and see them the way Heavenly Father sees them, then you can just talk to them like a friend and everything just works out better. 

We've had like 8 different teachers over the past two weeks. Brothers Hilton, Makahilahila, Sebesta, and Fairclough have been our main teachers and they have really been awesome. They each have certain teaching styles, but I've learned so much from each of them.

Sounds like everyone had a pretty good Fourth of July even though you didn't watch fireworks. On the fourth, we had a special fireside where we had one speaker, watched the movie 17 miracles (about the pioneers), and then watched the fireworks from the Stadium of Fire. The movie was pretty good all around, but my favorite part is when the 18 year old boys carry everyone across the Sweet Water river and give their lives to save everyone else. For the fireworks we had to try to find places to watch, but it was hard to see because there were trees in the way for the most part. Besides that it was just another day normal day at the MTC.

The other day we had in-field orientation which is for missionaries that are leaving the MTC pretty soon. That was a very long 9 hours. It went from breakfast to dinner and they taught us some stuff that was relevant, but I think they could have told it to us in an hour.

In other news I successfully earned $15 on a bet yesterday. Hope that’s not to bad (haha). Elder Johnson and Elder Timmons were talking about some challenge that is supposed to make you throw up automatically, but I said it sounded easy and they bet me I couldn't do it. The challenge is for you to eat two bananas and drink a whole liter of sprite and apparently they've seen tons of youtube videos of people doing it and throwing up. I took them up on the bet and downed it all in less than five minutes and didn't even feel sick, so I proceeded to eat a bunch of other food too (haha). 

For gym time we've been playing basketball lately. It’s pretty fun, but it’s hard because everyone is so good and they won’t pass me the ball...(haha). Elder Johnson and me get along the best and we are pretty good friends now, hopefully we are in the same area when we get out there.

I’m not sure what else to say and I am running out of time, but I’m excited to leave tomorrow for DC! It’s kind of sad to leave the MTC, but I’m ready to get out there and work hard.

Love you all! Bye bye.

-Elder Miles

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

July 3, 2013

Hey everyone! 

This is my first P-day and my first chance to send an email. The MTC has been really awesome! As most of you know I was sooo nervous to leave, but right when I arrived I already felt comfortable and ready to go. When I got here they ran me through check ins to get my name tags and keys and stuff, dropped my stuff off at my room, and went to class. I met my companion and the other elders and sisters in my district when I got to class. My whole district (11 people) is going to my same mission so that’s pretty cool.

My companion is Elder Hansen and he is from Ephraim. He is 18 and played soccer in high school. He is really enthusiastic about being here and got called as the district leader. My other room mates are Elder Timmons and Clarke. Elder Timmons is from St. George, 20 years old, and went to SUU. He is really funny and fun to talk to. Elder Clarke is from Cedar city, 18, and is pretty smart. He is the super analytical type. Some of the things he says and thinks about makes me wonder what’s going on in his head haha, but he’s really spiritual and works hard. Then there is a trio of missionaries next door who are in my district: Elder Farnes, Gemar, and Johnson. Johnson is 18 and from Wyoming and played sports till he broke his leg a few years ago. He is really fun to talk to and we laugh a lot. Elder Farnes is 19, from Davis, plays college soccer, and loves to laugh. Elder Gemar is 18 and from Saratoga Springs. He wrestled in high school and is a pretty big guy. He is kind of quiet, but we get along. Then there are four sisters in my district. Sister Call is from Bountiful and goes to Utah State. Sister Jorgensen went to Riverton and now goes to SUU. Sister Adair is from Utah, but I’m not sure where. Sister Vaitulala is from Orlando and Poly, she is happy and laughs all time. I’ve also seen tons of kids from Lone Peak and others I know. Most surprising one was Alex Baggely (friend from elementary school in West Jordan).

Elder Miles' MTC district

Our whole district gets along really good and we all sit with each other at meals. We get distracted sometimes during study and we all laugh a lot and have tons of fun. There are 7 Elders in our district, so the sisters named us all one of the seven dwarves. I got named Happy, so I guess you could say I’m having a pretty good time.

We have two 3 hour classes each day, lots of study time, gym, and some other meetings or devotionals. Our gym times are either first thing in the morning or last thing before bed. Yesterday our gym time was at 6:05 am as if I wasn’t tired enough, but it’s usually been at 6:25. We've switched up what we are doing a lot during gym time. We play soccer, volleyball, basketball, or some other random games.

For class we have different teachers in the morning then we do at night. My favorite has been brother Makahilahila. He went to Fresno on his mission and got off a couple years ago. He is really spiritual and a great teacher. He really cares how each of us are doing and makes sure we are doing alright instead of just teaching. We do tons of role playing with other people in our district during class after we learn something. Then at the end of class each companionship teaches the teacher and they pretend to be an investigator.

During study time I’ve been trying to finish the Book of Mormon and I’m in Ether right now. 3rd Nephi is an awesome book and I love reading about Christ’s visit. It’s so awesome to feel the spirit at all times. I pray way more than I ever did before and I can say that prayers really do get answered if we have faith. My faith has increased in myself and what I know so much in just a week. I also have gotten better at teaching by the spirit instead of just checking off stuff to say during lessons. We taught our first "real" investigator yesterday. They are members who come and pretend to be investigators, but they are actors so it seems real. We taught a man named George and it was pretty rough cause he wouldn't really open up to us at all, but we have another meeting with him tomorrow and we have a good idea of how we can help him out.

We've had two devotionals so far - one yesterday and one Sunday - Brother Swenson on Sunday and Brother Matthew O Richardson (Sunday school presidency) yesterday. They were pretty good, but those are the meetings where my lack of sleep catches up to me.

 I’ve heard we have the nicest classrooms and the other buildings have crappy school desks, but we have nice rolling chairs that recline (probably doesn’t help my drowsiness haha). I haven’t actually fallen asleep during anything yet, but I get really drowsy and it’s hard to pay attention. Its lights out at 10:30 but it’s usually more like 11 when I fall asleep and then we get up before 6:30 every day, so that’s been pretty rough, but I’ve been getting used to it. The food is getting old already. It’s okay food, but after a week of cafeteria food I want some real food. Also there’s no way to get food outside of your scheduled time besides vending machines or bookstore snack, so I’m hungry a lot and a little something in the mail would be appreciated. Today is my only P day while here cause we leave next Wednesday in the morning for DC.

Love you all, thanks for support. The church is true! I’m doing great and loving it!

The Roommates

The Men of the Washington DC South MTC District