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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

November 24, 2014 - Transfer week. Again.

Elder Smith and Elder Miles at the mission home
I feel like I write something about transfers every time I email home. I've already been involved in four transfers since I came to this area and they all seem so close together. Like usual, it was an extremely fun week. There were 26 brand new missionaries that arrived, which is the biggest group since I’ve been in the office. President Riggs, Sister Riggs, Elder Raban, and myself each had to drive a different vehicle (including a 12 passenger van) in order to bus them all around. We had to take the sister missionaries to a hotel for their first night because they couldn't all fit in the mission home. Seeing how much work it takes to bring in 26 missionaries makes me feel compassion for the Assistants who had to organize everything last summer. My incoming group had 37 and the transfer after mine was 42, so it must have been a ton of work for them. 

Elder Miles and missionaries from his previous district
I think we averaged around 4 hours of sleep each night from Monday through Thursday. On Wednesday night after we tuck all the new missionaries in bed and kiss them good night, we go to the office to finalize everything for transfer meeting the next day. We didn't get to bed until around 3 and then had to get up at 6. Though it was the first transfer cycle with me leading out the area, I feel it went very smoothly. This transfer will be seven weeks long, so it will end on January 8, 2015. There will be a lot of significant events including Thanksgiving, Christmas, my 18 month mark, New Years, and my birthday. I look forward to a great transfer!

Robert, our new investigator that I mentioned last week, is awesome! We had a lesson with him on Saturday morning at his house. We brought a member of our ward who got off his mission a couple of months ago. As I mentioned, Robert wants to finish the Book of Mormon and the New Testament before he gets baptized, so he reads for 2 hours every day! That is some dedication! His girlfriend is the one who introduced him to the church and many times that is the reason people join the church. His girl friend attends a family ward in Arlington that he has been going to for a couple months. He told us that even if things don't work out with his girlfriend, he still wants to join the church. Robert wants to come to our ward by himself, so that he can get integrated with the rest of the members. It is crazy how solid he is on joining the church and it is all for the right reasons.

Robert came to church with us after already attending a couple hours at his girlfriend’s ward. He participated more than most of the members. He would raise his hand in class and get really involved in the lesson. Many people came up and introduced themselves to him and he would also approach others and start talking to them. I almost don't feel like he is an investigator (haha). We are really lucky and excited to be teaching him.

We had to be President Riggs' "brute squad" this week. There had been a man who had been bothering some sister missionaries. One of their neighbors has been leaving them gifts and knocking on their door all the time. They have been feeling pretty uncomfortable about the whole situation for awhile. They asked him to stop, but he kept bothering them. President Riggs asked us to go talk with this guy and ask him to leave the sisters alone. We had a nice short talk and asked him to stop bothering them. He told us he would leave them alone and then we left. I love the random little chores we get asked to do (haha).

I really look forward to the coming week! We are having Thanksgiving dinner with a member of our ward and a non member friend of hers. It is a win-win. Dinner and a lesson! Happy Thanksgiving!

With love,
Elder Braden Miles
Washington DC South Mission

Monday, November 17, 2014

November 17, 2014

We had an amazing lesson this week with a member that is returning from inactivity. After he came back from his mission, things went downhill and he made a lot of mistakes. We have been working with him a lot and he has been turning things around. He has come to church five weeks in a row and been listening to the Book of Mormon while he drives to work. Prayer has been the most difficult task for him to face. He has been really worried about facing God because of all the mistakes he had made. We visited him on Friday and it was our goal to get him to pray daily on his own.

This transfer at zone conference, Elder Raban and I had 30 minutes to teach each zone about prayer, so we were very prepared to teach a powerful lesson on prayer. We taught using many scriptures as the spirit directed, we taught to his needs, asked inspired questions, and shared personal experiences about prayer. He explained that the problem he had was praying with real intent and sincerity because he had prayed with us before, but his heart wasn't in it. We tried committing him to pray with sincerity that night before he went to bed, but he told us honestly that he probably wouldn't keep that commitment. After several minutes of trying to commit him to pray, I had a prompting to ask him how he felt at that moment. His response was that he could feel the spirit really strong, so we immediately knelt and invited him to pray right then. We reminded him he needed to be sincere before he began.

He started praying and immediately began to weep. We continued to kneel for a couple minutes until he composed himself enough to go on. The prayer he gave was very sincere and powerful. You could tell that he was communicating with God. It wasn't your usual blessing on the food routine prayer. The spirit had a strong presence in the room. When he finished, we sat in silence for a moment. He told us that he felt much better and a weight had been taken off his back. He committed to pray every day with sincerity and then we left. The power of prayer, being led by the spirit, and preparation were several aspects of missionary work about which my testimony was strengthened.

We received an amazing referral from some missionaries in a local family ward. His girlfriend is a member and he had been attending church with her. He accepted to meet with missionaries. After they met with him once they realized he lived outside of their ward boundaries and he was a YSA so they passed him to us. His name is Robert and he grew up in the Episcopal Church. When we sat down at the pass off lesson we could tell he was pretty solid. He wants to join a church that lives the doctrine and can help him to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. He wants to read the entire Book of Mormon before he gets baptized, so he accepted a baptismal date for January 3. He is already through 1 Nephi and we will be encouraging him to read quickly (haha). Robert came to church yesterday with his girlfriend and had a great time. We had several members of our ward fellowship him and help him feel comfortable. Our next lesson is on Saturday. I love finding prepared people! It’s great!

It is transfer week again, which means little sleep and lots of fun! It is definitely the most stressful week of the transfer, but also the most fun. Elder Raban, Elder Smith, and Elder Timmons are all staying for the next transfer, so I will have all the same roommates again. We have had a lot of fun this transfer together. If I leave next transfer, I will have been roommates with Elder Timmons for 6 months and Elder Raban and Elder Smith each for 4 1/2 months (including when we were in the Burke town home together). We already know where everyone is getting transferred which is definitely a perk of this assignment. Missionaries ask us all the time to tell them where they are going or to give them clues. That makes it fun to joke around with them a little (haha).

I'm extremely blessed to be serving a mission right now. I don't have anything to worry about besides missionary work. Missionary work brings a ton of serving, teaching, learning, growth, fun, joy, etc. Basically all I have to focus on right now is serving, teaching, learning, growth, fun, joy, etc. It’s the best! Love you all!

Elder Braden Miles
Washington DC South Mission

Monday, November 10, 2014

November 10, 2014 - Zohra's Baptism

Zohra, Elder Miles & Elder Oyler
The time finally came! Zohra got baptized on Saturday and confirmed yesterday! Elder Oyler and I originally knocked on her door nearly 10 months ago (Jan 16). She asked us if she could get baptized about a week after we met her and it finally came. She was really excited and happy to see everyone. There were so many people there that we had to move the program into the chapel. Tons of people from the Mount Vernon ward were there, so it was good to see some familiar faces. All of the missionaries that have taught her were there too.

The first family that she lived with was from Ethiopia. The husband was a non-member and Zohra asked him to say the opening prayer. He got up and decided to say a few words before praying. He talked about how great it has been to see how Zohra has changed. Then I spoke on Baptism and a sister missionary spoke on the Holy Ghost. Then everyone filed back into the baptismal font room. There was standing room only. Elder Oyler performed the ordinance and we went back to the chapel.

After she got ready, Zohra got up to speak and share her testimony. When she got up and started speaking Elder Raban leaned over to me and said "She looks like a Mormon" (haha). It's true though. She looked so happy and confident. As she was speaking I was thinking about how far she has come to get to this point and all the miracles that have happened to allow her to be here. She grew up half way around the world in a Muslim country and now she is here. As she bore her testimony of Jesus Christ and the restoration, the spirit again witnessed to me the power of the gospel in changing lives.

When we first met her, she was so emotionally distressed to the point where she would have severe panic attacks. She has turned things around and now she is so bright and happy! I'm sure she has challenges ahead, but at the same time she has a very bright future. She is going to nursing school in January. When she was at the pulpit she told everyone about how excited she is to share the gospel with her family when the time is right. Her family is all in Afghanistan and Muslim, so it could take some time.

After the baptismal service we went to a member’s house for some dinner. Zohra is going to speak this Sunday at a new member fireside that we hold every transfer. All of the missionaries bring investigators to listen to the recent converts speak. It is going to be awesome!

Another fun experience from the week is that I got to spend time with one of Utah's (former) Most Wanted! This guy was out here for several months building a gun range for a police station. He needed some help moving some stuff before he left. Being the only people he knew with a truck he asked us. He took us out to IHOP afterwards. As we ate he told us about his life. He never touched a cigarette or alcohol until he was 34. Before long, he was on the top of Utah's Most Wanted list because he was the biggest meth dealer in Utah county. He has been cleaned up for over five years now. Even though he was at the bottom, the gospel and the Atonement could still change his life.

It was a great week! Thanks for everything! Love you!

Elder Braden Miles

Washington DC South Mission

Monday, November 3, 2014

November 3, 2014 - Halloween

Aerial view
 It never really felt like Halloween on Friday. Our entire zone, a senior couple, and the Spanish missionaries in the area (38 missionaries) all spent the evening at a member family’s house in one of the wards. We had dinner first at around 5 and then watched Frozen and Despicable Me 2. We went home at 10. We never saw any trick or treaters because we were in their basement the whole night. The movies were pretty good but not as good as I had anticipated. It was a lot of fun.

On Sunday, we had about half of the Mormonism class from GMU come to all three hours of church. Being Fast and Testimony Meeting we were a bit worried about how it might go. It actually went really well. One of the recent converts in the ward told the story about how, after he got baptized, he had to pull the plug, but he pulled so hard it came up and smacked him in the face (haha). It was pretty good. There was also a member who brought a friend that we are going to start teaching this week.

National Catheral

Carving of Joseph Smith receiving the 
Priesthood in National Cathedral

We just got done visiting the National Cathedral in DC and I am writing this email on the metro ride back to our area. It was really big and detailed. They are still in the process of fixing it from the earthquake from three years ago. It is pretty interesting to see how different religions and denominations approach religious worship. I still haven't attended a different churches service, but I would like to at some point. It always seems to fall through whenever we try to set that up with someone.

There isn't too much to report on because I sent my last email like three days ago... We have the last three zone conferences this week. On Thursday we hit the half way point of the transfer.

Zohra's baptism is finally here! She is getting baptized this Saturday (Nov 8) at 4. She asked me to speak on baptism. It has been a really long process but the day has come. Elder Oyler and I tracted into her back on January 16. So almost 10 months ago. It will be a really great day! I'll tell you all about it next week.

Love you!
Inside the National Cathedral

Elder Braden Miles