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Thursday, August 21, 2014

August 18, 2014

Elder Miles at Rachael's baptism
Rachael got baptized this week! It was a crazy week trying to prepare for her baptism because of the very short notice. We had to review and finish teaching her the lessons, have her baptismal interview, and prepare the program for her baptism. We also took a trip up to the temple visitor center with her and her member boyfriend. To top it all off they even fed us several times! That was great because we don't get fed in the singles ward much. Even though it was rushed, her baptism went very smoothly. It was a great service that was full of the spirit.
At the Washington DC Temple

Many of the Spanish sisters that taught her came to see the baptism and President Riggs even came. She shared her testimony at the end and talked about how Elder Ni and I helped her to realize that baptism is not the end, but the beginning of a journey. The next day in sacrament meeting was her confirmation and she asked me to confirm her. That was an awesome experience and I'm grateful that I had the opportunity. She leaves for Massachusetts on Sunday to go back to school, so we have been in contact with the bishop in that ward to make sure the transition is smooth. She will be taught the new member lessons by the members and missionaries up there.

We are now done with 7 out of 10 zone conferences. It has been nice because I have been able to get to know a lot more people in the mission and we get fed lunch :). Another one of the responsibilities of the assistants is to write a "keystone" each week for the whole mission to read at district meetings. Elder Ni and I alternate each week and this week was my turn. Here is what I wrote:

Anytime my trainer and I would visit a less active member, the “go to” lesson was always grace. Before my mission I never quite understood what grace meant or fully comprehended its importance. I knew grace was something very significant, but it was always a mysterious and unfamiliar word to me. It was not something taught in Sunday School or discussed in Priest’s Quorum. If you would have asked me what the word grace meant I would not have been able to tell you. You can imagine the dilemma I was in when my trainer told me, on my first day in the mission field, that we would be teaching people about grace.

I quickly learned the basic definition of the word by turning to the scriptures. The bible dictionary states that “The main idea of the word is divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ... It is likewise through the grace of the Lord that individuals, through faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ and repentance of their sins, receive strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means.”

Who wouldn’t want to receive divine help and strength? I continued to study and learn more about grace as my mission went on. Later, President Riggs gave us this formula about how to receive grace: faith + humility + diligence = grace. Now let us apply this formula to our missionary work. If we are going to achieve our goals as a mission and become fully consecrated missionaries, we need the help and strength of our savior and redeemer, Jesus Christ.

In a matter of weeks, we have seen the blessings and the miracles that come from being consecrated missionaries. Key indicators have jumped and many more people are coming unto Christ. Many times we have seen a huge surge of energy and a spike in key indicators due to a new theme being introduced. All too often, that energy dies down after several weeks and business continues as usual. Why not have that energy and work ethic all the time? Think of the miracles our mission will experience if we faithfully, humbly, and diligently continue to become consecrated missionaries. Becoming fully consecrated to the work is not achieved in a few weeks. It is a process. It is natural for an energy source to run low after exertion, but if we access the grace of Christ, we will have the strength we need to press forward.

In his BYU devotional, Brad Wilcox stated that “Grace is not a booster engine that kicks in once our fuel supply is exhausted. Rather, it is our constant energy source. It is not the light at the end of the tunnel but the light that moves us through the tunnel. Grace is not achieved somewhere down the road. It is received right here and right now.”

I know that God lives and loves us. This is the church of Jesus Christ and I am grateful for the privilege to bear his name. I now know that the grace of Jesus Christ is real. Let us all access that divine strength and witness the miracles that come from relying on Him.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen,
Elder Braden Vaughn Miles 

It took me a little while to write this because I haven't
Elder Ni and Elder Miles with the transfer board
needed to write much in the last year besides emailing... (haha). I wish I could attach the PDF so you can see the whole page that we send out, but I'm emailing on my iPad so I can't. Somehow, the end of the transfer is already approaching, which means we have lots of stuff to do! Next week we have several meetings and we get to do a session in the temple with all the departing missionaries.

I am learning a ton everyday and having a lot of fun.

Love you!
~Elder Miles
Elder Miles with the sign on the Mission Office building

Monday, August 11, 2014

August 11, 2014

Elder Ni, Elder Miles and the mission truck
We didn't have any meetings this week, so we got to do lots of proselyting. Two weeks ago we visited a less active member of the ward and his non-member girlfriend was there. Her name is Rachel and she actually lives in Massachusetts, but was down here for the summer. It turns out she took lessons from the sister missionaries before (starting about a year ago). We asked if we could start teaching her and she said we could. Last Sunday was our first lesson with her. She said the biggest thing keeping her from being baptized was her mom. She had never prayed to receive an answer either. The reason she never prayed was because she was afraid of receiving the answer! So pretty much she already had a testimony of the gospel but was nervous to act upon it. We came back for the second lesson and committed her to be baptized. She is going back to Massachusetts on the 24th, so she is actually getting baptized this Saturday. The sister missionaries taught her most of the lessons already and she has been to church a bunch, so all we had to do was review and teach a few things. After committing to a date, Rachel said she must have gone easy on us because it only took two lessons and the sisters were trying forever (haha). She is prepared and ready for Saturday! We have already been in contact with the bishop in her home town, so the transition will be as smooth as possible.

Besides that we did a lot of visiting less active members. Our bishop has asked us to share the 2014 April First Presidency Message titled "A Firmly Set Anchor" with the members of the ward. One of the paragraphs that I like from it says this:

"Adversity can come as a great storm to blow us off course and threaten to cast us against the rocks. But sometimes we are also in danger when everything appears to be safe--the winds soft and the waters smooth. In fact, we can be in the greatest danger when we are drifting and movement is so slight that we scarcely notice it."

If we aren't "anchored" in the gospel we can "drift" and not really notice it until we realize we've gone way off course. Doing the simple things like reading scriptures, praying, going to church, and others will keep us anchored, but when those things are not in our lives that is when we are in danger. I have seen this so much and I know it's true!

We have four Zone Conferences this week so it will be busy again. Elder Ni and I are doing as much proselyting as we can, even when we are busy, and we have seen the blessings come from it. Sacrifice truly does "bring forth the blessings of heaven"!


Elder Miles

Monday, August 4, 2014

August 4, 2014 - Nationals Game

At the Washington Nationals game
I failed to mention in my email last week that we were going to a Nationals baseball game this week. We went to the game on Saturday night at 7. They played the Phillies and it was exciting at first, but it got pretty boring towards the end (Nationals won 11-0). We sat in the nose bleeds again this year with the DC North mission. We got the closest (if you can call them close) of any missionaries. We sat on the same row as President and his family, the office Elders (our roommates), and our Zone Leaders (Elder Johnson and Elder Hansen). Elder Johnson and I sat next to each other last year at the game, too. We both talked about how it’s crazy that it has been a year since the last game. 

Elder Miles with Elder Johnson
This year we did a Book of Mormon Blitz at the game. Everyone took a Book of Mormon and had to give it to someone at some point during the night. I got rejected 5 times before I finally gave it to a lady working a hot dog stand outside the stadium. She actually had a book about Jesus with her too. It was really fun to see random people walking around with a Book of Mormon or talking with missionaries on the Metro. We got home at around 12:30 am and most people were talking about how late it was. For us we actually got to bed sooner than usual (haha).

I can’t remember if I mentioned this last week, but we are assigned to the singles ward in the area. We cover 3 stakes in total and about half the mission geographically. One of the stakes is outside the mission boundaries, but we still get to proselyte there because it is part of the ward. I had never been to a singles ward before, so that was a new experience last Sunday at church. It was a little odd. It also makes it harder to find people to teach on our own. The best place to go to find new investigators is at George Mason University campus during the day. We have to work through the ward members a lot because they know plenty of young single adults. 

Yesterday we actually started teaching a less active member
Elder Miles and Elder Ni
and his girlfriend. She had been taught by missionaries on Skype awhile ago and has been to church a lot. She said that she lied to the sister missionaries about praying to receive an answer. She was scared that she would get an answer and have to act on it. She brought out all her concerns and from what I see she is ready to get baptized. Her biggest concern is that her parents don't support her in doing it. Hopefully we can commit her to baptism this week when we teach her. It will be a lot different working in the singles ward from what I’m used to.

There are a lot of responsibilities that I have with my new assignment. Each transfer we are expected to go on exchanges with each companionship of Zone Leaders at least once. Each transfer there is always one of two things: Either President has interviews with everyone in the mission or zone conferences and it rotates every transfer. This transfer happens to be zone conferences, which means we also have ten of those to go to and train missionaries. We also go to any other meeting in the mission and write up the agenda for it. This week we had 4 meetings: Zone Conference Tuesday, Mission Leadership Council Wednesday, New Missionary Expectations on Thursday, and a half Mission Conference on Friday. Depending on how much stuff we have going on that week, we usually end up working in the office after proselyting every night. Last week the normal day was to wake up at 6:30, go to a meeting all morning and afternoon, proselyte from 6-9, and do office work until like 1 or 2 am. Thankfully, it is going to be a lot slower this week than the last two weeks. We also help President with any other needs of the mission. We work with him on deciding transfer and leadership assignments. We give our input and he has the final word. There are other tedious things to do to. We also get to run errands for President. For example, last week we had to go and jump Sister Riggs’ car (haha).

Friday for the half mission conference the topic was about consecration. Elder D Todd Christofferson said this about consecration: "To consecrate is to set apart or dedicate something as sacred, devoted to holy purposes. True success in this life comes in consecrating our lives—that is, our time and choices—to God’s purposes. In so doing, we permit him to raise us to our highest destiny."

We talked about truly consecrating ourselves to the work in order to be successful as missionaries and to become what God wants us to become. We used the story about the Title of Liberty and made it into "The Pledge of Consecration". We made a sweet video of President rending his suit coat and making a flag. One of the Office Elders is pro at video editing, so it looked awesome. I wish I could let you see it somehow. Here is what the pledge said "To show gratitude for the Atonement, for our families, and for our happiness: we pledge to remember our covenants, fulfill our purpose and perform our duty." The conference went really well and from what I’ve heard the missionaries loved it.

I have been working a lot lately on always seeking to do Gods will and not my own. I know from experience that God knows more than us and when we listen to him we will be successful and happy.

Elder Miles