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Monday, February 24, 2014

February 24, 2014 - "I'm Flabbergasted!"

We have been teaching Zohra a couple times each week and we usually have a different member of the ward with us each time we go over there. Every time, after the lesson, the member has been amazed with her. She has been so prepared that it is almost ridiculous. We tracted into her just over a month ago and you would never know it by talking to her. Elder Van Dyke commented that she is probably the most solid and prepared investigator ever tracted into! She only knew very basic things about Christianity and now she is like a scholar! (haha) When we go over there and talk about what she is reading in the Book of Mormon (she is in 2 Nephi right now) she understands almost everything. Her questions are more about what words mean, like "What is Zion?" and deeper questions like "Where did God come from?".

In just over a month she went from not knowing much to having a strong testimony and knowledge of the gospel! She always bears her testimony to us and it is amazing! She has so much faith in the power of prayer. The stake did a "mini MTC" for all the youth and she was one of the "investigators" for them to teach. It was mostly just adult members of the wards. The youth were learning how to teach about prayer. She said she would bear her testimony to them about the power of prayer! Zohra is also being a missionary! She has been inviting the non-member husband of the family she lives with to read the Book of Mormon with her! It’s too bad that the only thing holding her back is her divorce. She is so ready to get baptized.

Elder Miles
She had some very bad anxiety and depression when we met her and now she doesn't even take medication. She’s always so happy! The gospel changes lives! After Saturday’s lesson the first thing the member said to us when we got back in the car was "I'm flabbergasted!" (haha). He then proceeded to go crazy about how amazing she is! It’s so fun teaching her and my own testimony is strengthened every time we get to teach her. I always come away feeling the spirit and wanting to work even harder! I’m going to try and remember to get a picture with her next time.

Here is a poem that was shared by President Monson in an October 2013 General Conference talk titled "I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee."

Good timber does not grow with ease,
The stronger wind, the stronger trees.
The further sky, the greater length.
The more the storm, the more the strength.
By sun and cold, by rain and snow,
In trees and men good timbers grow.

We shared this talk with Zohra and she loved it. She has a testimony that the trials in our lives make us stronger. In my personal study today I came across this verse in the Doctrine and Covenants 136:31 -

"My people must be tried in all things, that they may be prepared to receive the glory that I have for them, even the glory of Zion; and he that will not bear chastisement is not worthy of my kingdom."

I know that God allows difficulties and trials to occur because he knows that it will strengthen us and prepare us to receive the great things that he has in store for us! Always remember "Good timber does not grow with ease!"

Ian (investigator) and Elder Miles
Ian (attached picture) is still progressing slowly, but surely. He wants to get baptized when things settle down. He is currently in a housing dilemma. He is so funny and except for the fact that he smokes in his apartment, I love going over there!

We are going to visit Mount Vernon (George Washington’s home), a Masonic temple, and TC Williams High School (from Remember the Titans movie) today for preparation day! I’ll send pictures and let you know how it goes in my email next week! Have a great week and God bless!

Love you!

Elder Miles

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

February 19, 2014

Funny sign
We weren't able to email on Monday because of the holiday and yesterday we had a Zone Conference pretty much all day! It has been a good week. It started off very cold and snowy. We got around 6 inches of snow and we spent the whole morning helping people shovel their driveways. Everyone was really appreciative and friendly. Some people offered money and others made us coffee... which we had to turn down. Why aren't people that nice when we go tracting!? Service really does soften people’s hearts! Several people were interested to hear about what we do which led into gospel discussion. Today it’s 60 and sunny! It feels great!

The other day after it snowed really bad it was pretty warm and the snow turned into tons of slush. We trudged around in it all day and my shoes were completely water logged by the end of the night. On our way home that night we passed a lady carrying tons of groceries in the slush and cold. We asked if we could help and she was so grateful. She knew God had sent us to help her! We helped her carry everything back to her place which was about a mile up the road. Turns out she doesn't live in our boundaries! Too bad cause she was really excited as we taught her about the Book of Mormon while we walked. We have to pass her to missionaries in another ward.

The work has been going great! Some of the things that we talked about after the Saratov approach were pretty good. We talked about how every person that we talk to has a story. Both the kidnappers had different stories and reasons for what they did. We need to get to know the people we talk to and look for ways to relate to them (they talked about bball cause he was wearing a bulls hat). Elder Tuttle also talked about how he felt the spiritual warning and he didn't follow it. We need to follow our spiritual promptings! You can learn from the faith they had, how they struggled in terrible situations, and still finished their missions, etc.

We have seen a couple of raccoons around here lately (picture I sent). One scared me pretty bad when it jumped out of a trash can. We have seen stray cats, fox, skunk, and squirrels. One guy that we talked to the other day said he eats squirrels!

Zohra is still doing awesome! We are still just waiting for her divorce to finish before she can get baptized, so we really have no idea how long that will be. We have been teaching her some of the commandments recently. Tonight we are teaching her about modern day prophets and we are going to watch the October 2013 talk by President Monson.

There is a missionary in my zone from Heber. His name is Elder Wagner. He mentioned he was from Heber and I told him I have family there with the last name Sparks. Turns out Hal was his Young Men’s leader! Small world in the mission field.

Sorry for the short email this week! Love you!

-Elder Miles

Monday, February 10, 2014

Feburary 10, 2014 - The Saratov Approach

We had a nice big surprise this past Thursday! The morning of transfers they sent out a mass text telling everybody to come to transfer meeting even if we weren't being transferred. President Riggs had seen the movie "The Saratov Approach" and learned lots of valuable lessons from it and wanted us to see it. In order to get a whole mission conference together he needs the church Missionary Department in SLC to approve it. He didn't receive approval until the morning of, so it was a little rushed and last minute. The movie is about the missionaries in Russia who got kidnapped. It was pretty intense and I liked it a lot (any movie we get to watch is amazing). It’s not every day that you are approved to watch PG-13 movies on your mission (haha). A guy in my last ward served in Russia and knew the guys in the movie. Overall it was good and I learned some good things from it.

We also were told at the meeting that this will be the last transfer that we will be using paper planners. Which means that after this transfer we will be getting our iphones and ipads. That isn't the first time we’ve been told that... We were supposed to get them mid-December and now it will be mid-March. Elder Oyler and I are both staying in Mount Vernon for this transfer, but he will probably be leaving on the next transfer. I have four new missionaries in my district this transfer, including a new Zone Leader. Elder Hawkes (from LP) got transferred. The new Zone Leader is from Taiwan. Not very many new missionaries have been coming in because our mission is at capacity right now.

Our investigator, Zohra, is going amazing! We give her a pamphlet the day before a lesson, she reads it once, and then tells us the whole thing almost word for word. She has a photographic memory or something. It has been awesome to see her faith increasing and the difference that it has made in her life. Our last lesson with her was very spiritual and she got emotional several times. The member we brought with us also got pretty emotional. He has been deployed to Afghanistan several times and seeing Zohra (from Afghanistan) growing in the Gospel made him get teary a few times. He told her that people like her are the reason he serves. We have almost taught her everything and she understands it all. She has learned faster than any of our Christian investigators! She has committed to be baptized, but we have to wait until her divorce is over. No telling how long that could be. She also said she had another dream that she was sharing the gospel with her friends! She is awesome!

We have other investigators that we are working with, but the ones I mentioned last week are the most solid. I have done two baptismal interviews so far and they are really fun. They are a great spiritual experience and I like doing it.

The mission is awesome! I’m glad for the relatively warmer weather we have been having. We have been seeing lots of success and improvement. Last transfer was really great and the work has been picking up speed. I can definitely feel the work hastening just as the prophets have been telling us it would! I can see a big change in myself spiritually and I’m glad I still have lots of time left. If we just give our will over to the Lord, he will mold us into the people we are meant to become.

I love you all! Thanks for all the prayers and support!
Elder Miles

Monday, February 3, 2014

February 3, 2014

We just got an awesome text from one of our investigators! It was from our investigator from Afghanistan (Zohra). We had a great week with her and she has been progressing a lot!  It has been different with her because she doesn't have a Christian background. The second lesson we had with her we taught her about prayer. The next lesson after that she was so excited to say a prayer! She said she had been practicing a lot. It was an amazing prayer! I was blown away by how good it was. She is so smart and picks up on things so fast. She loves meeting with us and is always asking us when we are coming back over. She has been coming to church every week (except yesterday cause she wasn't feeling well). We invited her to watch a baptism and she was really excited to go. She also added that she would really like to be baptized as well! She texted us like 10 minutes ago and told us about a dream she had last night. She said she had several scary dreams and she woke up and said a prayer in the middle of the night. After she went back to sleep, she had a dream about her baptism! That is a great testimony builder for her on the power of prayer! One lesson we had with her, the member (a lady from Ethiopia) shared a very powerful testimony and I was feeling the spirit very strongly!

Another one of our investigators is a 47 year old man named Ian. We have been teaching him for awhile and he is moving slower because he has some mental issues, but he has been making progress and it is awesome. We’ve been teaching him a lot about prayer, reading scripture, and going to church (to keep it simple). He has come to church like 10 times now. He really loves drinking the "holy water" (the sacrament) (haha). He has said some pretty funny prayers. He said one of his prayers "in the name of the father, and of the son, and of the holy ghost, in the name of Jesus, amen" and he started one of his prayers by yelling "Almighty God!" (haha). He is doing great and we have lots of fun teaching him. He has a smoking problem right now but has accepted baptism.

We are teaching a lady from Ghana named Rose. She wants to get baptized! Yay! I've noticed that Ghanaians all have very unique laughs. They also tend to be a little flaky, but they accept the message very well. They love it when you speak some of their language and know how to say their last names. I know how to say hello and God bless you in Twi (the language they speak in Ghana). We ate some Ghanaian food that a recent convert made and it was interesting... They have a name for each day of the week and whatever day you are born on that is your name. Some don't go by that name, but she says all people are named that way. I guess they could only think of 7 names (haha).

A fox that has been living behind the apartment.
It was in the 60's yesterday which gave me some spring fever! It felt soooo good after having a couple weeks of snow and freezing cold. It is raining hard right now and is supposed to snow later on... The transfer is ending this Thursday. Nothing should be changing for us, but we will see. We went tracting last night during the super bowl and we heard updates here and there. Sounds like I didn't miss much.

Love you all!
Elder Miles