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Monday, March 30, 2015

March 30, 2015 - Sleeping in meetings

I will start out with how church went yesterday since it is fresh on my mind. We had three investigators at church - Jason, Larry, and Charlotte.

Jason is a referral from a young woman in our ward that we taught for the first time this week. He is 6' 8", African American, and played football and basketball in high school (he graduated last year). He went to our church when he was 3-5ish with his mom who is now inactive I guess. He told us he prays all the time, but still feels like he is missing something. He wants to have the church in his life really bad. After sacrament meeting he told us that he felt really good and wanted to have that feeling in his life all the time. Sadly, we will be passing him off to the Elders in my previous ward this week because the singles ward would be much better for him.

Larry is an African American guy in his 60's with a super deep voice. Seriously this guy has the coolest voice. He came to church during my second week in the area about three months ago and then went on vacation and disappeared. This week he just showed up at church unexpectedly! Everyone in the ward loved him last time he was here and the people flocked to him after sacrament to welcome him back. He made a lot of comments in gospel principles class and his word is law. When he speaks everyone listens. All of his beliefs are already in line with what we teach and he has read some of the Book of Mormon and loved it. He is the man. Once again, he doesn't live in our area, so we need to pass him off... Why does this always happen!?

Charlotte is the fiance of an inactive member. I have mentioned her in past emails. They only stayed for sacrament meeting and then had to go somewhere.

Service for their fellow man
We have a crazy schedule for this week. We have 6 solid lessons with investigators in the next 4 days and we have members set to come to each lesson. We are very excited for the work in our area right now. It seems to have slowly improved each week this transfer.

We did service for a guy on Wednesday that we talked to several weeks ago while we were tracting. We offered to help with service and he actually accepted (which surprisingly never happens)! We are helping him dig out a huge portion of his back yard so he can put a patio and a fire pit back there. His backyard is really sloped, so we are digging out a lot of dirt. He can't get any machinery back there because of his fence, so instead we just heave all the dirt over the fence... (haha). That was only the second time I have done service in this area and it was a nice change. People always think we are crazy because we basically beg them to let us do manual labor for free.

"Tired, Elders?"
I went on exchanges on Friday after our mission leadership council. I got to spend the day back in the Braddock ward! I got to see a couple of people I knew. We had correlation at my old ward mission leader’s house. This is where the picture of me sleeping comes into play. The topic came up about how the assistants don't get very much sleep and how I look a million times better now that I get regular sleep. The Elder I was on exchange with pulled out that picture of me and Elder Raban sleeping in a meeting. We had a good laugh about it. I remembered back to a time when I fell asleep in a whole mission conference and I am not sure if I ever shared it. So I fell asleep with my head resting on my fist with my elbow on the arm rest. My elbow slipped off, my head started falling, and I jolted awake. I quickly looked up to see if anyone noticed (which is a regular procedure for falling asleep in meetings). Turns out the whole mission saw it and everyone was staring at me! It was really funny and we laughed about that for awhile. Let’s just say I really enjoy the amount of sleep that I get now days.
Homemade by Elder Miles!

Good bye!
Elder Braden Miles
Washington DC South Mission

Monday, March 23, 2015

March 23, 2015

We had a couple of really good lessons this week. On Monday we had a lesson with Jeff. This time his wife was home and one of his good friends was over. They both sat in on the lesson with us. Jeff has changed a lot since the first time we met him. He was really excited to tell us about how he fasted from alcohol for 24 hours. He told us ever since then he has had less desire to drink and has been praying more. We taught them about the Restoration and they were all really intrigued. Jeff's friend was more excited than anyone and he was nearly begging us to send his info to the missionaries in his area. We were supposed to have another lesson with them later in the week, but they had to cancel. That was one of 4-5 lessons that were cancelled this week...

Thursday evening we had a lesson with Jeremy and Brittany (the family that came to church last Sunday). We took our Bishop over with us to the appointment. Jeremy very quickly made it known that he doesn't like organized religion and that he is just supporting his wife. Brittany on the other hand is very interested. She talked about how she was feeling that she needed to find a church and then we knocked on her door. She felt it was a "sign" which is why they came to church. The moment she realized they need a church was when she asked her sons why we celebrate Easter and they told her it is so they can get candy. We briefly taught her about the Restoration and then she asked us a bunch of questions. Most of her questions had to do with polygamy, the sacrament, tithing, church services, etc. I could tell she was very sincere about her questions. She is seriously considering being baptized and joining the church! They were planning on coming to church for all three hours, but never showed up. We need to get in contact with them to see what happened.

Rachael was in town this week from Massachusetts, so she and Nefy took us out for lunch on Friday. It was good to see them again. Rachael is doing really good and is planning a trip to do baptisms at the temple. They will probably get married at some point, but they don't know when.

Here are a few other random things to mention. We had dinner every night this week which was the first time that has happened on my mission! We threw a football on Monday at a park and it felt great. Our district leader came on exchange with us this week. He is in a trio, so he came with both of us for the night. I am glad I have never been in a trio because it was strange. We had to give a brief (2-3 minute) report to the stake presidency and all the bishoprics of the stake at a stake mission correlation meeting. District meetings were nice this week because we didn't have to prepare anything. Now all of the districts meet at different buildings and there is no "zone portion" to start the meetings.

A young woman in the ward had a random guy from school message her on twitter and start asking about the church. He ended up telling her he wants to meet with missionaries. She gave us his phone number, we called him, and set up an appointment for this week at the member’s house. We are excited for that lesson. Sadly he might live outside of our ward boundaries...

In honor of Elder Miles
We had a specialized training meeting this week with President Riggs. It was our zone and one other zone combined for the meeting. The focus was on the Book of Mormon and using it to "flood our mission". I have always loved reading the Book or Mormon, but on my mission I have come to appreciate it so much more. Sometimes we take it for granted. It took so many miracles for it to be in our hands today. I know it’s true and I want to share it with everybody! It is disappointing when people won't take a step of faith and read it. I absolutely know that anybody who sincerely reads it will receive an answer of its truth through the Holy Ghost. I am grateful that I have it in my life.

Manassas decided to name a road in honor of me :) (See the attached picture for evidence.)

Until next week,
Elder Braden Miles
Washington DC South Mission

Monday, March 16, 2015

March 16, 2015

Every week seems to blend together. When I sit down to email I have to ask myself and Elder McInerny "What happened this week?" I also check my planner so I can recall what we did. Don't get me wrong, each week is awesome and we have great experiences, but it is always a blur.

The first highlight of the week that I can think of was yesterday. We had an entire family come to church with us! This was a family that we tracted into several weeks ago and they were decently interested. We haven't really taught them yet, but on Saturday we decided to drop by and invite them to church. The father (Jeremy) answered the door and when we invited him to bring his family to church without hesitation he responded "sure, I don't see why not." That took us back a little bit because it was not the response we are used to... (haha) Then they actually kept their word and came to church! It was amazing!

It wasn't the best sacrament meeting in the world, but they really enjoyed it. After it ended I went and asked several members to go introduce themselves to our investigators while Elder McInerny kept them busy. The mother (Britney) especially loved the meeting. Afterwards when we talked with them she told us how much she enjoyed being at church. She said "it was so much different than any other church we have been to. The people were so nice and they just kept coming and introducing themselves to us." They had a great experience and want to come back. When we first met them they didn't really want to sit down and have lessons with us, but I guess church changed their minds. We set up a lesson for this Thursday. We are stoked because they are "church shopping" because they feel they need it for their three boys (one turns 8 in two weeks!).

Some other big news is that we are working with a couple of part member families. One technically isn't a part member because it is a less active member and his (as of this week) fiancĂ©. We have had a couple of lessons with them. They are really nice, but we haven't made too much progress with them yet. Last lesson we focused on the Book of Mormon, so that they will (hopefully) read it on their own. We read the introduction and testified about the Book of Mormon. That was probably the best spiritual experience of the week.  I have gained such a testimony of the power of the Book or Mormon. The most spiritual experiences of my mission have come while reading with investigators. I know if people will just read it with an open heart and mind they will feel the spirit!

The other part member family is awesome. They are a younger couple with three kids. We haven't started teaching them, but we have talked to them several times and they feel the need to bring religion into their family. The non member dad told us he doesn't have much of a religious background, but really wants to learn more. Without us even asking the less active mother asked us what time church starts. I have a really good feeling about them. Part member families are always the most ideal situations!

We have lessons set up with Jeff and Matilda for tonight. There hasn't been much progress with them this week. We really need to get Matilda to church. We feel if we can get her to church it will "seal the deal".

THE Silver Bullet
As usual we spent a decent amount of time trying to find new investigators. Yesterday afternoon we knocked for an hour and only two people even answered the door. The good news is I found a "Silver Bullet". (insert picture here!) That took me back... (haha) Our plan of attack for this week is trying to visit a lot of less active and part member families. We also have some potentials to revisit, but for the most part those are the main people we are working with right now.

Elder McInerny and I are working really hard and having fun while we are at it. Missionary work is always extra fun when you have good companions. I love so many things about my mission! I love feeling the spirit every day, learning more about the gospel, and seeing the change it can bring into the lives of other people! Speaking of which, we had dinner with Alejandra (recent convert) and her fiancé that was in the Braddock YSA ward. It was great to talk with them again. She is visiting from Guatemala for awhile. They are going to get married sometime this fall.

It has been in the mid 60's this week, which has felt amazing! Life is great!

Yours truly,
Elder Braden Miles
Washington DC South Mission

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

March 9, 2015 - Zone Interviews

The highlight of the week was our zone interviews on Tuesday. We had to arrive by 7:40 to set up and unlock the building. We didn't end up leaving until about 6pm. You could say it was a long day. Our interviews with President Riggs were first. In my interview, we mostly talked about my plans for after the mission. That was a bit strange... He asked if I am still planning on playing football and when I am going to start school. He really wants me to start school as quickly as possible when I get home, so I am not just sitting around. I can tell he really wants the best for me.

Each interview was scheduled to be 15 minutes. While one companion was being interviewed by President Riggs, it was our responsibility to interview their companion. We took that time to get to know each member of our zone better. I was very grateful for that opportunity. Sometimes it is hard to find time to get to know each of the missionaries individually because we are so busy and there are so many missionaries in our zone. Knowing everyone better helps us to be better leaders and allows us to minister to their individual needs. The one topic question that we focused on was this: What motivates you to do missionary work? We wanted to see what it was that motivates everyone to get out and work hard. There were a wide range of responses from "it is my duty" to "because I love to help other people".

I have been thinking about this subject a lot recently. I believe that a missionary’s motivations change over the course of their missions. When I came out I worked hard and was obedient. Looking back my motivations for doing that were mostly selfish. I wanted to be seen as a good missionary by others and I felt it was my obligation. I also had a desire to share the gospel with others because of the happiness it would bring them, but it wasn't my #1 motivation. I feel like over time my motivations have shifted more to a desire to help other people and fulfill the commitment that I made to God when I came on my mission. I am definitely still working on it and always will be. The highest form of obedience comes from a pure love for God and for others. That is what I am constantly striving for.

For lunch during interviews President Riggs took us to Firehouse Subs and then for dinner we went to a local Hispanic place called Guapos. They were both very good. We had several appointments set up for the night and we were really excited to have President Riggs come with us to teach some of our investigators. Like any other classic missionary night, both appointments fell through... We then went to our back up plans to stop by some potential investigators. I love watching the way President Riggs does missionary work. He is just so natural, confident, passionate, and loving when he shares the gospel. I want to be like that! Everyone he talked to was engaged and listening to what he had to say. They all wanted to learn more! He also has tons of fun and jokes around with people while doing missionary work. It is my goal to be like that by the time I go home. It was a great experience.

We had Mission Leadership Council this week and got our new iPads. I also went on my 8th exchange to a Spanish area. Which means I have spent just over 1% of my mission in the Spanish program! (haha) While I was on exchange, Elder McInerny had a great lesson with Matilda (our African investigator). We have had several spiritual experiences with her while reading the Book of Mormon. She has told us she knows it is the word of God and is now praying about baptism. We feel she is a little nervous to make changes. We have a lesson with her tonight. Jeff is one of our lessons that cancelled when we were with President. He has been working and we didn't have a lesson this week with him. We have also started teaching a less active member and his non-member girlfriend.

The work is going well. We are praying for miracles! Love you lots!

Elder Braden Miles
Washington DC South Mission

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

March 2, 2015 - I get a brand new iPad!

Up to this point our mission has been a "pilot" mission for
Elder Miles at the train station
the use of iPads and Facebook. We are now moving from a "pilot" mission to a "test" mission. I am not sure what the difference is. This last week we had a member of the seventy, Elder Schwitzer, come to do a "reset" on our mission. About a year ago they just threw us into all of this and wanted to see what would happen. They have been having us take surveys to get a lot of information about how we were doing. They have now come out with new handbooks, rules, and technology for us to test out. The two handbooks we were given are not even finalized documents. They both say "draft" on them. We are handing in our old iPads on Thursday and they are giving us brand new ones with different software on it. This reset is meant to help everyone refocus on the new approach and get rid of bad habits. We will be reintroduced to everything slowly. We will not be using Facebook for 1-2 months. Any missionaries who will be here after August have to buy the new iPads and then take them home, but since I come home before then I get to borrow one for the time being. Elder Schwitzer talked a lot about how we are vital to this phase of the hastening of the work. It has been really fun to be a guinea pig!

This was our best week for a long time. We taught more lessons and found some new investigators! We had two membes present lessons with our investigator Jeff. Both of the members that we took with us connected with him very well. They are both converts and used to have the same struggles that he is facing. Each time we go over there he changes a little bit and becomes more interested. It is really exciting to see. For Fast Sunday (yesterday) he committed to not drink any alcohol for 24 hours which he hasn't done in a long time. One of the members we took with us has been messaging Jeff since the lesson. The member just called to tell us Jeff did it!  We were really excited. Knowing that President Riggs is coming on exchanges with us this Tuesday, we scheduled our next appointment with him for that night. Miracles always happen with President Riggs around, so we are excited for that lesson.

Prior to our exchange with President on Tuesday, we have zone interviews with him. As zone leaders we have to be there all day and "interview" the companion of the missionary that is with President at the time. We have to be at the church at 7:45am to set up and we won't finish until around 5:30. President Riggs will be taking us out for lunch and dinner. I am excited to be around President for the day. We have several questions for him about our area that hopefully he can help us with. One of those is how to respond to people that "aren't interested in religion." We have received that response a million times recently...

Since we have been spending so much time tracting recently we wanted to switch things up a bit. There is a train station (VRE) right next to our apartment complex that tons of people in the area ride to DC for work. We decided that would be a fun place to street contact as everyone got home from work in the evening. We went there right after dinner and talked to a bunch of people. It was a little difficult because everyone just wanted to get home, but we had a good time. We had some 5x7 pictures of Jesus that we were handing out to people with our names on them hoping to catch people’s attention.

I am having a great time. I am learning a lot and becoming better each day. I am grateful for these two years I have to serve! I know that Christ is our Savior and that Heavenly Father loves us!

Elder Braden Miles
Washington DC South Mission