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Monday, December 30, 2013

December 30, 2013 - Seasons Greetings :D

Merry Christmas from Elder Miles
It was awesome to be able to Skype everyone on Christmas!! That was definitely the highlight of my Christmas... even though I got some pretty sweet new ties! On Christmas Eve we had dinner with a member family and watched "Joy to the World". On Christmas we ate breakfast with a member family, opened some presents from them, read the Christmas story, and Skyped. Then we went to Denny’s for lunch with the Zone Leaders. A random lady that wasn't even a member paid for us! We all really appreciated it! When she saw the bill she probably had some second thoughts (haha). Then we had dinner at another families house and played Jenga - that was probably one of the more intense games of Jenga I’ve ever played.

Christmas was over all really fun, but it went by way to quickly! Everyone was under the impression that we got to watch movies on New Year’s Eve, because they did last year, but they told us we don't get to. I was super excited to see Despicable Me 2, but it will have to wait until Halloween next year!

Mount Vernon Ward Church on the Potomac River
We had a trainers/trainee meeting the day after Christmas. During our lunch time President Riggs decided he wanted to play a game of Lightning (Speed, Knockout, Tornado, or whatever you call it). We had a line of probably 30+ missionaries playing and I came away victorious :). There was also a football people were throwing around and President Riggs knows I played QB (so did he), so he challenged me to a little game. He called it "Burnout", but I had never played before. The game is you line up across from each other and throw the ball as hard as you can at the other person. Whoever drops more loses and you are supposed to move closer and closer. I haven't really thrown a football in a long time, so that was pretty tiring for my arm (haha). I’m pretty sure I won cause he dropped more than I did, but he could sling it pretty hard!

My birthday is coming up this week - be creative and I will appreciate anything!

I mentioned while we were Skyping that we ran into some drunk guys on Christmas Eve. They wanted Elder Van Dykes jacket (haha). I hope I didn't scare anyone (mom or grandma) because everything was fine and it was pretty funny. Speaking of which there were some drunk guys outside our apartment the other day (haha). Thank goodness for the word of wisdom, so we don't make fools of ourselves!

Some apartments where Elder Miles has been tracting
We took a recent convert/less active member to the Christmas lights this week. He is a cool black guy. We watched a violin performance and after one of the songs while everyone else was clapping he stood up and put his hands in the air (haha)!

I love you all. I’m getting kicked off the computer (public library).

-Elder Miles

Monday, December 23, 2013

December 23, 2013 - Transferred!

Elder Miles and Elder Oyler
I got transferred this past Thursday for my first time! I spent 6 awesome months in the Ashburn Stake - Algonkian ward and now I've been moved to the Mount Vernon Stake - Mount Vernon ward. My new companion is Elder Oyler from Filer, Idaho. He just turned 19, so I am yet to be older than any of my "junior" companions (haha). He has been out for one transfer, so I am finish training him. He is a great kid and we are getting along great. I was also assigned to be the District Leader for the Mount Vernon District. We have five other companionships in my district (12 total missionaries) which is a pretty big district. The zone leaders are in my district, one set of sisters, and 3 sets of Elders. When I found out who my zone leaders were I got super pumped! They are both from Lone Peak! Elder Jeremiah Van Dyke and Elder Allen Hawks. Elder Hawks graduated in 2011 and Elder Van Dyke in 2012. We live really close to them and we get rides with them, so it’s crazy to have 3 people all from LP together. This will also be my first transfer without a car (of course right when winter is starting).

It actually has been very warm here for the last several days. It got up to like 67 degrees and sunny, so it definitely doesn't feel like Christmas time right now. The area that I have been moved to is known throughout the mission as being very ghetto and packed full of Africans (mostly from Ghana). There is even an apartment complex known to missionaries as "little Ghana" because it is like 90% African. 

Elder Miles' apartment in Alexandria
My apartment was definitely a down grade. When I first got here it was super dirty and messy, so I assumed it was one of those missionary apartments that has been open for years. Turns out it was only opened less that 5 months ago! That's what can happen when you don't clean for 5 months I guess... I’ve cleaned it up a little and it’s looking better (haha). The worst part about it was when I looked in the fridge and the cupboards and saw nothing... I was used to my last area and having a fridge and pantry so full that we were stuffing food into whatever space we could find. Now I don't think that will be a problem. We don't shop till Mondays, so I’ve been surviving on what little stuff there was. I’ll be buying plenty of food today to make it up! I might just waste away.

I had the opportunity to give a baptismal interview less than 24 hours after becoming a District Leader. It was an investigator that was being taught by the Zone Leaders. He was a guy from Ghana and he didn't have a car, so we did it at his apartment. While everyone waited out in their front room, we went into his bedroom and sat on his bed to do the interview (haha). It went really well and I’m glad I was able to do it. It was a great chance for me to teach and testify. We weren't able to attend the baptism the next day because we couldn't get any investigators to come with us. We have several investigators who have said they want to be baptized. One needs to quit smoking first and the other works on Sunday, so he needs to come to church a few times. This area has some very humble people looking for help and I’m so grateful that I have the blessing to be able to share the gospel with them. I also gave another blessing to a less active member who has some health problems. At first I was thinking "I don't know this person", but it was better that way because I was able to go by the spirit instead of relying on me knowing their needs. It was a great experience.

This past week we had a couple of meetings for trainers. One of the meetings was at the Mission Home with President and Sister Riggs and the Assistants. There were only 14 trainers at the meeting which made it a great opportunity to learn from the mission leadership in small groups. We split into four stations to learn different things and then we would rotate every 45 minutes. I love anytime we have to listen to President Riggs and this time it was even better because we were in such small groups. He talked about how to treat your new companion and the need to set a great example for them. When this portion was done, President Riggs said "Hey Elder Miles I was looking at your thighs. How much do you squat?" I told him I didn't really know (haha). He was just blown away at how muscular my legs are I guess :D (haha).

The second day I was here we got to go up with the office Elders and a few others companionships to direct traffic at the DC temple! We got there, they strapped some reflective vests on us, told us where to go, and gave us lightsabers! Not really :(, but they did give us light sticks to direct traffic. It was super busy that night and they filled the Visitor Center, temple, and church parking lots all the way up (over 700 parking spots). The road to get to the temple is just a little two lane road and it was packed and pretty crazy!

Have a Merry Christmas! Love you!

-Elder Miles

Monday, December 16, 2013

December 16, 2013 - Christmas Conference

O Christmas Tree
We had our mission Christmas conference this past week. It was the first time that I have been together with the mission all at once. It’s interesting how many people I have never even seen before (haha). That’s probably because I’ve stayed in the Ashburn zone the entire time... but not anymore! 99.9% chance I am moving to a new area on Thursday (so don’t send any mail to my apartment at this point). I got a call from the AP's last night. They informed me that I will be a district leader next transfer and also finish training a missionary. That was pretty shocking. I have a feeling not to many 18 year old missionaries have been district leaders. I’m grateful for the opportunity, but it will definitely be growing experience. I’ve been in the same ward for six months (4 transfers), so it will also be a great experience being in a new area. Change can be scary because it’s not always comfortable, but I know it will be really good for me! I’m excited for new experiences and opportunities.

It has been pretty cold here (usually in the 30's), but it’s been fine because we have the minivan and we don’t have to bike. Hopefully, when I get transferred I will still have a car.

Elder Miles and the DC Temple Christmas Lights
So, at the Christmas conference we had a talent show (mostly singing), lunch, and the departing missionaries spoke along with President and Sister Riggs. It was fun and we even got some early presents. We got a "yearbook" with everyone’s pictures and info in them. Let’s just say I wouldn’t mind if I could retake my picture (haha). We also got some Christmas music, a letter from the First Presidency, and Washington DC South key chains. Along with that, we each received a "man card" (haha). I’ll send a picture of it. President Riggs said he will pull people’s Man (or Woman) Card if they break rules. We had the Ward Christmas party on Saturday and we had one investigator come.

Elder Miles and Elder Seely
Along with the Christmas season comes the opportunity to take people to see the temple lights. There are Christmas performances every night and nativity scenes set up from around the world. This has been a good way to start talking to people either on the street or while tracting. I think everyone in this area has seen the temple at one point or another. It is just right off the freeway coming from Maryland. Everyone we talk to has seen it, but might not know what it is. After we tell them the huge white castle on the beltway they know what we are talking about. That has been a good starting point of conversation with people. We were able to go twice this week to the temple - once with an investigator and once with a less active member. The first time it only took us about 40 minutes to drive each way but the second time it took us over an hour and a half thanks to traffic. The first time we were pretty much the only ones there and the show that night even got cancelled because of weather from earlier in the day. It was awesome and I got some cool pictures. The second time I went I ran into a DC North missionary that I knew - Kenny Schoemig. He helped coach football my junior year. It happened to be the night he was assigned to help with directing traffic at the Visitor’s Center.

The Christus Statue in the DC Temple Visitor's Center
I am doing awesome! I am eating good and sleeping good (I wouldn’t mind a bit more though). I haven’t got sick at all, but I've felt a little under the weather here and there. Could you say thank you to these people for sending me letters: Troy Gagon, Steve & Gina Brown, Larsens, Ryan and Maria, and Greg’s family. I would love to reply to all of the letters, but I don’t have much time to. Please tell them I appreciate it a ton and love getting letters :). I did get the package from you and both from Grandma. Also I got one from Greg and Nicole.

It was a great week and this next week should be even more interesting with transfers. I’ll let you know how that goes!
Elder Miles and DC Temple
I can’t wait to Skype on Christmas! I’ll probably have more details next week! Merry Christmas!

Love you!

-Elder Miles

Monday, December 9, 2013

December 9, 2013 - Winter is here!

Freezing Rain
Yesterday we got the first snow storm of the season! It didn’t snow a whole ton and it wasn’t too cold, but it was very icy. We had church in the morning and got there safe and sound. In the morning it was just snowing, but later on in the day it turned into freezing rain. It was raining, but right when it hit the ground it would freeze, so it was very icy and not good conditions to be outside in. The Assistant to the President sent out a text saying to stay inside unless you really had to be somewhere and in that case just to get a ride with a member. We had a member pick us up for dinner and then we stayed inside for the rest of the night. Time goes really slowly when you’re stuck inside all day (haha). It is still icy and raining today, but not as bad. We will see what will happen tonight.

Winter in Virginia
The usual office we email at wasn't open today for some reason, so we are emailing at the library and my computer has been really terrible so far.

Thanks to anyone who has sent me a letter/card in the last couple weeks! Thanks mom for the package this week! I really love getting stuff in the mail. It’s nice to get stuff during the week and not just on Mondays. :)

We had zone conference this past week with President and Sister Riggs. It was a lot smaller than the last zone conference probably because they have more zones to visit because of the zones being split recently. It was shorter and the AP's weren't there. We learned about repentance and how we receive forgiveness because of the merits, mercy and grace of Jesus Christ. We can receive these things through repentance. Repentance isn't just for huge sins we commit, but it can simply mean change (bible dictionary) - changing our actions, thoughts, and desires is important. Through repenting daily of our mistakes we become more Christ-like and will eventually be able to return to God’s presence!

We were able to give a less active woman a priesthood blessing this past week and that was the first time I’ve done it. It was kind of shaky, but it went well and I’m glad I had the opportunity! From all the studying this week my testimony has been really growing! The Book of Mormon and the Bible are meshing much better and I can see that they preach the same gospel! The restoration and the plan of salvation are making so much more sense and the spirit has testified to me that this gospel is true! As my testimony increases it gives me a greater desire to share what I know with everyone around me! 

Elder Miles and Companion on the go
A great quote that we learned about this week says "If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign tasks, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea" - Antonine de Saint-Exupery. We need to help people to desire eternal life (the sea) instead of just making them do things to get there (baptism). If they have a desire for eternal life then they will do what it takes to get there, baptism being part of that. Mosiah 2:41 shows exactly what we need the investigators to desire - "never ending happiness"!

Hopefully, that all made sense (haha). I’m running out of time. Thanks for everything you do! Love you!

-Elder Miles

Monday, December 2, 2013

December 2, 2013 - Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! We had a great Thanksgiving out here in Sterling! We ate dinner with the new ward mission leader and his family. They are really awesome. We have done lots of work with him in the past and he is super excited to do missionary work. It gets me excited when people in the ward are excited to do missionary work! We weren’t supposed to go out and do any work besides with members on Thanksgiving, so we played some games and did some puzzles with the members. It was nice to have a little break. We got some left over Thanksgiving food to which it always great!

We have a zone conference tomorrow and along with that comes car inspections. So we cleaned the car out, filled the tires, and took it to a car wash. Only problem is that halfway through the car wash it stopped. We sat in there for like 10 minutes until someone came to the rescue. (haha) We got to redo it for free and it worked the second time. We have also been trying to contact a new investigator that we tracted into a couple weeks ago and he never answered the door. We went back several times and we could see him looking out the peep hole and he just wouldn’t answer it. So we were going to try one last time last night and some lady opened the door really quickly and said she wasn’t interested really quick and shut the door. Me and Elder Seely just stood there for a minute and were in a bit of shock. We checked the address and turns out we were knocking on the wrong door for the last couple weeks. (haha) We tried his actual door and he answered! Turns out he has been gone on a business trip for the last couple weeks anyway. We've probably been freaking that lady out by knocking on her door so much. (haha)

I don’t remember if I mentioned this in a past email... We had a General Authority come and speak to us a couple weeks ago. It was Elder Teh from the First Quorum of the Seventy. If you look in the conference Ensign his picture is in there. He was really interesting to listen to. We spent the morning listening to him talk. He talked about how we as missionaries can’t get caught in the "current" meaning that we can’t get caught in the habit of just getting by each day. We need to give it all we can each day and be the best missionary we can be. I’ve always liked the saying "good is the enemy to great." We can’t just settle for being good as missionaries or as members of the church. We need to rise up and be the best we can be. Leave a legacy!

We got to tour a catholic church with our ward mission leader yesterday. He wanted to take us to see it because he said it was really cool and it would help us to learn about Catholicism. We showed up and it was closed, but the father let us in, showed us around, and explained some of it to us. It was pretty interesting to see and learn about another religion. There are lots of Catholic people around here and it helps to know where they are coming from and what their beliefs are. The Catholic Church is called Our Lady of Hope and it is right off the main road in our area. The first thing you notice when you walk in is the huge cross hanging from the ceiling with Jesus on it. I just felt strange looking at it. Catholicism is similar in lots of ways, but also very different in others. It’s interesting to learn about other’s beliefs and it helps to affirm my own beliefs.

I was going to write my Christmas wish list but I’ll have to think about it and post it next week! Anything is appreciated though! :)

Love you!

-Elder Miles
Elder Miles and Elder Mathews - Jedi Masters