Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The work moves forward and we never quit!

This was an interesting week. We've spent all week walking! Hours and hours! Lots of fun. Even in the snow storm that hit! That doesn't stop us though.

The miracle this week happened on Tuesday. After district meeting (which went really well), we had an appointment with Susan. Susan is a Jehovah's Witness. Her 18 year old son, Kadeem, is a recent convert of about 2 years, and her 21 year old son, Jermain, has been coming to church with Kadeem the past few weeks. Susan is divorced and has a messy situation with her family, and she lives alone. Jermain and Kadeem live alone in an apartment, and they don't have the nicest things to say about their mother.

Susan met with missionaries years ago and wants to again. So we taught her a first discussion and invited her to be baptized. She accepted! We set a date for March 18. It was an interesting appointment. I'm not extremely thrilled either, because in that lesson I did not once feel the spirit and I didn't feel like she did either. Maybe it was just because I had a headache from some sort of weird reaction I got from drinking almond milk (I'm fine now J ) or maybe the spirit hasn't really taken root in her like it needs too and she wants to be baptized for the wrong reason. Only time will tell. But I will not baptize somebody unless I know for sure they have felt the spirit and have been converted at heart.

We also met again with our investigator, Melanie. when I was on splits with the Zone Leader. We don't know what to do with her! We had a spiritual appointment with her and the spirit was there FOR SURE, and we pointed it out, but she said she couldn't feel it. It seems like we can see the spirit working with her, but then as soon as it hits her she chases it away with her rationalizations and doubts. It's sad! She demands signs for answers and refuses to pray because it feels silly. She lives an adulterous life with her boyfriend and I thought that testifies of the scripture in Matthew 12:39, haha! But no honestly, Melanie is awesome, she just might not be prepared quite yet. There is a seed planted, but she nourishes the noxious weeds around it rather than the good seed itself.

The latest news with Monica is that she is still smoking and is extremely upset about her pending baptismal approval. I read the story in Alma about how the Anti-Nephi-Lehies were so converted at heart to the gospel that they were willing to do and give up anything for it. They buried their weapons of war and volunteered themselves for slaughter to the Lamanites. Monica is not willing to do anything for the gospel. She won't make the necessary restitution if the approval is denied, and she won't stop smoking. She is caught up in herself. She wants it done her way, right now, rather than accepting and conforming to Christ’s way and time. Missionary work is so hard because no matter how well you explain something to somebody, and no matter how strong the spirit is, sometimes people’s hearts are just so hard that it bounces right off. I pray so hard for Monica and we really love and want what’s best for her. I hope she will allow the spirit to teach her what she needs to do, because even if the baptism gets approved, with the attitude she has right now I don't know if she is ready. She needs to have more than a change of behavior, she needs a change of heart.

So as you can probably tell, there are stressful situations with our investigators. But the work moves forward and we never quit. We meet with Adam and Joanna tonight, the people from Nigeria, and I am SO excited! I love this work. I love the hard times and the awesome times. The awesome times are better, of course.

Thanks for your love, support, e-mails, and prayers! I love you all! Have a good week and don't forget to pray.

Elder Russell Williams

p.s. We always come home to a surprise living with Brother Lafond. The oddest one this week was walking in the house and it smelled like rotting nasty fish. Just as a side note, we hang a bunch of our stuff up on a pipe in this little room where his wood burning stove is because there isn't room in our bedroom for it............ Well, we walked into that little closet and saw a pot of boiling water with a deer head in it that he had killed and cut off early that morning. Yeah........................can't wait to get an apartment. Enjoy the picture! Most of the flesh is cooked off at that point.

Monday, January 23, 2012

To the family

Finally it's Monday! This week went by so slow. It wasn't that it was a bad week or anything, it just took forever! Bright and early Tuesday morning I drove over to St. Louis in a Corolla with 5 missionaries and all of our packs. It's about a 2 hour drive, not fun! And then Leadership Training began. The meetings lasted Tuesday and Wednesday from 10:00am - 5:00pm with lunch in between. It was a really spiritual meeting and there were some amazing trainings and everybody learned a lot. But it was so long. I think that's what slowed the week so much.

I had my first District Meeting too, and because of Leadership Meetings and procrastination, I only had about an hour to prepare for my training. By far the biggest struggle as a DL is going to be the trainings every week. It's not that they are hard to prepare, but it takes sweet and precious time out of my personal study. I'm sure I'll get better at it and learn to love it as time goes on, but as for now, not so much.

We also did some apartment shopping this week. Wow! Apartments are expensive, even in the Midwest! We decided on one that is really nice and right in the middle of our area. The ZLs are going to call the office today and they will send it to Salt Lake to get it approved. So it's possible I'll be living in the apartment in two or three weeks. That is too long though.
So we have this investigator named Monica who has wanted to get baptized for so long, but because of some very serious crimes she has committed, it has taken a very long time. The APs informed us this week that we needed to get more details on what she did so it can be sent to the First Presidency to get approved. Monica flipped out because she didn't want to tell us anything. Luckily the ZL, Elder Ditto, who serves in the University Branch, knows Monica really well because he served in Bear Creek and taught her for a while. Monica doesn't know me at all, so we went on splits. Elder Lee and Elder Ditto went over to see her and had a really spiritual experience. She opened up and told them everything. She may have to make further restitution, which would mean spending about 3 months in jail, and she is not willing to do that. It's up to the prophet at this point. It's already been submitted, so we'll see what happens. I really have no idea what's going on because I don't know her at all and she hasn't told me anything, so I'm just kind of cruising along.

Last night was the greatest. I had the best appointment that I've had in a very long time. We visited this potential investigator named Adam, and his Mom Joanna. Adam is probably in his 30s and Joanna is probably about 50 or 60. They are from Nigeria. It was an awesome appointment because it was Elder Denson (the other ZL) and me, and we basically took everything we learned at Leadership and applied it to this lesson. We spent time getting to know them, but we didn't just hang out and make small talk. We made our purpose and expectations known up front, which is to invite them to come unto Christ. We spent about 30 minutes teaching and discussing how the Gospel blesses families. We taught them the 1st lesson, and when we were teaching about the Great Apostasy and how people were searching for the truth but couldn't find it, he mentioned how we all search in life. We asked him if he was searching. He said no, he has already found his Savior. But then we let him continue talking and he expressed that he IS searching. He is searching for his calling, for what Christ wants him to do in life. We were very bold with him and told him his search is over. We finished teaching the lesson and invited them both to be baptized. Adam explained he has already been baptized, so we talked about how that was a great thing for him to do, because it was him witnessing his willingness to follow Christ. But we explained the necessity of authority and how it has been restored. We then invited them again by saying, "If you come to know that the Book of Mormon is true and all that we have taught you is true, then will you follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized by somebody holding the Priesthood authority of God?" Without hesitation, Adam said “Yes”, and Johanna nodded her head and said, "Yes! I want to follow the truth." We pointed out the Spirit and the fact that it was present in the lesson. We committed them to read 3 Nephi 11 and to pray. Our return appointment is next Monday night, which is a long time, but that's okay! Joanna goes back to Nigeria fairly soon, so our goal is to get them both baptized before she goes back! That would be awesome. We only had one copy of the Book of Mormon, so that will give us an excuse to visit them this week; we can run by and give them another.  J

I recently read my Patriarchal Blessing and it talks about how I will share the gospel with people of other races and value systems. Honestly the majority of the people I have taught on my mission are African Americans. But I just felt like I am really supposed to find teach and baptize someone under that category. Maybe I'm wrong, I don't really know. But Adam and Joanna could totally be some of those people mentioned. I guess we will find out.

Teaching lessons like that is truly the greatest part of missionary work! It's so easy to forget too, because those spiritual lessons are so rare. But I'm glad I was blessed with that one last night to refuel my tank and remind me that this is the Lords work and the best two years.

I'm so glad everything at home is going good. I hope you have another great week. I love you so much! Bye!

Elder Williams

Monday, January 16, 2012

The first few days in Columbia!

So transfer meeting went great. I love seeing all my missionary friends, it's a blast. Elder Lee is from Brigham City, UT. He graduated High School in 2011 and he has been out for about three months.

It has been SO nice to have a new companion! Elder Lee is awesome and I think we will have a lot of fun together this transfer. The only thing is...he is a Cowboys fan! Haha, I found that out when I pulled out my Redskins blanket. Pretty funny.

We live with a member, this single guy named Brother Lafond. He is interesting. He is obsessed with hunting and he goes pretty much every day. We live in this small cement cube, about 10ft x 10ft in his basement. It's the only room we get. We eat, sleep, study, and live in there. It's awful. It's smaller than the room that just had the beds in it in my last apartment, haha! So it's a big transition. I forgot to take some pictures to show you, so I'll do that next week. The good news is that we are looking for an apartment. Hopefully we will be moved out of this dump in the next couple weeks, but we'll see. It takes a while to get approved.

Besides our living situation, Columbia so far seems like an amazing place. The work and the members are really great here. We have about 9 investigators right now in our teaching pool, including one with a baptismal date. Her name is Monica King. Apparently she has been in the process of being taught for the past 3 years or so. She has had multiple baptismal dates set, but they never worked out. Her current date is set for February 11th and President Clark is going to have to come up and interview her for some special reasons, and then he will have to take it to the brethren in Salt Lake to get it approved. She is really excited and we are hoping it works out.

We already got two new investigators this week. A couple that is in their late 40s named Denise and Patrick. The inside of their house is basically a Cabala’s Store. He is also obsessed with hunting. He has this massive wall in the living room that is covered with mounted deer, elk, and other animals. They are funny people. Patrick is extremely fat, and apparently he isn't ashamed of it at all because he wasn't wearing a shirt, haha! But they’re extremely nice people.

I can't really tell you too much about our investigators because I don't know them all that well yet. One of them is named John Taylor (we call him President Taylor). It's a cool story how he was found. When Elder Lee was called to Missouri, one of his friends told him he had family that lived in Columbia and if he ever went there that he should visit them. Elder Lee said he would, but he never thought he would actually serve here. But it was his first area! So he went to visit them and they were not interested, but they told him that their neighbor is really into religion and stuff. So they went next door and found John! He happened to be deeply studying Mormonism... coincidence? He is reading the Book of Mormon plus a few other books and study guides that are written by members and General Authorities. SOLID! It doesn't get any more inspired than that. We asked him that IF he came to know that these things were true at some point in the future, if he would follow that answer by being baptized. He said he wasn't sure. So that is John's only hold-up. He is missing the "real intent" mentioned in Moroni 10:5. We will work on him!

Columbia is so much different than Florissant or Springfield. All of the homes and neighborhoods I've seen are really nice. It's definitely not wealthy people by any means (at least in my corner of the city), but it's well-kept and taken care of.  They are pretty much all duplex's and apartments, but they are nice ones. There aren’t any ‘projects’ or ‘hood, and the people actually seem happy to live here! Wow! What a change! The people I'm used to teaching absolutely hate where they live and would do anything to leave! So Columbia just has a lot more of a happy feel to it. The only bad part is it's a College town, so there are girls EVERYWHERE. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Get thee hence!

Another cool thing is that there are tons of hospital residents and Med Students here. So during our dinner appointments I can talk to those people and help me get a feel if being a doctor is really something I should pursue! Another coincidence is I left a ward full of residents and I come to a ward full of residents AND students. I really think that coincidence is merely just the way that God stays anonymous! Of course I'm not going to stress it or worry about it, but it's still good to have people to talk to about it.

I met Sister Bailey at church! She seems really nice and she looks familiar. Apparently they own a Golden Corral here or something and they let us eat for free sometimes. We have dinner with them next week! It will be fun if Merilyn & Doug can come here. I hope Doug gets feeling better. I'll put him in my prayers.

So that's Columbia! It's doing great! I really do miss Springfield though because my time there was amazing. I think that is my favorite area. But as time goes on I will grow to love the people here just as much, I'm sure of it.

I also attached a picture of Brother Mendenhall, I took that with him Tuesday night after we had a lesson at his house with Dean West. Bro. Mendenhall is the man. He told me he almost came to Columbia for his residency, and said it's awesome. People only have good things to say about this place!

Well I love you Mom, Dad, Jesse, Megan, Alison, and all other family and friends. Thanks for everything! Talk to you soon.

Elder Russell Williams

Monday, January 9, 2012

Columbia, MO!

WHAT UP?!?

Of course I will start off by giving you the transfer news. I will be leaving Springfield, and I'm going to be follow-up training Elder Lee, and I will be the District Leader. I will be serving in the Bear Creek Ward, which is in Columbia, Missouri! Woot Woot! I'm really excited. I hear Columbia is a great place. It's a college town for the University of Missouri, and I hear it's about the same size as Springfield, but it has three wards and one branch! So the church is apparently really strong over there. I don't know much about the area, but I do know that I’ll live with a member. My address is 2907 Brownstation Rd. Columbia, MO 65202. I'm so excited!

Also, this last Saturday was just as amazing as I thought. We drove down to St. Louis in the morning with B-Robb, Elder White, and Elder Belnap, and we had lunch at Five Guys. Then we went to the temple and it was awesome. President tells us that whenever we go to the temple we should have a specific question in mind that we are looking for an answer to, because it's a great place for personal revelation. For the first time ever, I felt like I received a very clear answer in the Celestial Room, which was incredible.

After that, we were driving to the flea market so I could buy Jesse & Megan their Christmas gifts. There was so much traffic and we missed the exit and got stuck in downtown St. Louis. We ended up running out of time because we had to get back to Springfield to fill up the baptismal font. So I guess they will have to wait a while longer, but I am still determined to get them their presents! Don't give up on me Jess and Meg!

We got to the church at 6:00pm to start filling the font for Dean's baptism! There was no hot water...bummer! So we boiled a few pots of water and threw it in. It didn't help. The baptism had a great turnout, and it was absolutely incredible. I think he was shocked that so many people came and that the service was dedicated to HIM. The water was freezing cold and I was glad that I didn't have to go all the way under! I was a bit nervous because I have never baptized anybody, but it went well and it only took one try! As Dean and I were in the changing room getting ready to go back out to the service, he told me that he thought I was going to dunk him under the water and hold him under while saying the prayer, so he was very relieved when he came out of the water immediately! Haha, I guess that is good to know so I can explain that to people in the future! He was really happy and he said, "I appreciate you baptizing me into the faith, Elder Williams." I think he even teared up a little near the end. Yesterday in church he was confirmed and given the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and in Elders Quorum he was given the Aaronic Priesthood, both by Elder Lance.

So that was the climax of my week, and one of the best weeks of my mission. It's sad I am leaving Springfield, because I have spent almost 7 months here and have grown to love so many people—members and investigators both. A lot of people talk about how when they are called to a certain mission and a specific area, they meet people whom they knew they promised they'd find in the pre-earth life. For me, it's almost the opposite. I feel like there were people in the pre-earth life who told me that they would find me and help me in my life. I know I've now met a couple of those people in Florissant and especially in Springfield who have changed my life. I've learned and grown so much here, and I will always have a love for this city. I am so thankful for my mission so far. Now that I have been out for 13 months, it seems like the end is almost here already. But that can't be, because I just got here! No time to waste. People don't joke when they say it goes by fast.

I am so thankful to you Mom and Dad, and you Jesse and Megan and Alison, and all the rest of my wonderful family members who love me and support me as a missionary of Jesus Christ. I feel so loved and secure in this family and I know that my mission will change the outcome of my entire life and eternity. So thank you to everyone who loves me enough to make this possible for me. I hope you are blessed! I feel your prayers and I send them back! I never would have thought before my mission that all this hard work away from home could actually be so fun and fulfilling. I am a different person already, but I have the same personality. It's weird.

There's plenty more to say and talk about because this has been an eventful week. I don't know how to cram all the miracles and lessons I've learned into a short e-mail. Just know that I'm loving my mission and I'm witnessing many great things! I love you Mom and Dad. I love you Jesse Megan and Alison. You’re all doing great things, so keep it up and keep it real.

Peace & Love!

Elder Williams

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

My Amazing Week!

Hello Mom, Dad, Jesse, Megan, Alison, and all other family and friends who are reading! J

Yesterday was our zone P-day and the library was closed, so that's why I am e-mailing you a day late. But I've had a good week that I'm excited to tell you about.

So I want to start off my e-mail with good news! Last Tuesday we went on splits with the Zone Leaders. Elder Turnblom and I went to our appointment with Dean. We sat down and talked for a little bit, and then had a prayer. We immediately started teaching him about baptism, and we read Mosiah 18 about when Alma baptizes at the Waters of Mormon. I told Dean we had been thinking and praying about a baptism date for him, and we felt like January 7th would be a good day. HE AGREED! The rest of our lesson with him was explaining how a baptismal service runs, what he would need to do to prepare, etc. He is so excited and so ready to be baptized. I will be performing the baptism and Elder Lance will confirm him the next day in Sacrament meeting! I am really excited to baptize him! We are meeting with him today to teach him about the Priesthood, and then on Thursday I will be on exchanges with Elder White and he is going to do Dean's baptismal interview. It's deja vu for me because I trained Elder Crowley for 3 months, and on the last Saturday of the transfer we had Josh Rohdeman's baptism, and the same thing is happening with Elder Lance and I with Dean.

Also, Josh came to church and is doing great. We are meeting with him tonight to teach him. And he's giving a talk in Sacrament meeting in February.

We have been in daily contact with Dean since that day, which has been great. We had a really cool experience with him on Thursday. We went over to his house and went over all of the commandments and committed him to live them, just to make sure we didn't miss anything. Across the street from Dean is this motel called The BelAire. Imagine that stereotypical motel that you see on TV, you know, really ghetto, rundown, full of drugs, prostitutes, and trouble? Well yeah, that's the Belaire. There are always crazy people around Dean's house because of this place and it's really sketchy. Well for a while we've been joking with Dean about how we were going to tract the BelAire, though we weren't really going to. Well, during this lesson with him it came up again, and he mentioned how he would love to watch us do it. So we invited him right there to go with us! So he put on a shirt and tie and we walked across the street and tracted for 2 hours with Dean! And we only knocked on about 10 doors. These people have really humbling living circumstances. It's just one small little room, smaller than my bedroom at home, and a tiny little bathroom. We got invited into two people’s rooms and taught little lessons to Debra, Antwan, and Adaline, and got return appointments. I was really tired afterwards because there was never any place for us to sit down, so we just stood there and taught. It was a great experience for Dean though, and he really enjoyed it. We asked this one lady to pray and she needed help, so Dean did the Lord’s prayer with her. Works for me.

The day after that we went and did service for Dean! I'm pretty sure I've explained before how Dean owns the house next to him, and how a hoarder used to live there. Well yeah, we spent a couple hours cleaning up with him. It was disgusting! We were wearing face masks while working in the basement. We found all sorts of old things. This guy was 80 years old (and he died) and he had lived in that house his entire life. We were throwing away women's clothes and shoes that belonged to his Mother! There were hundreds of magazines and TV guides from the 1960's. It was pretty funny. There were old TV's from when they were first invented, and couches/mattresses that were so old they have decayed and broken apart. There was a rug on the floor in the basement (the floor is concrete) that has been there for so long, it actually made a permanent mark on the cement! I cleaned out a crack house full of drugs and needles when I was in Florissant, and now I've cleaned out a hoarder’s house in Springfield! Yay!
We have many investigators that are about to be dropped, and we dropped about 3 of them this week. Jessi, the 80 year old black lady, was one of them. We visited her Saturday afternoon, and at first she told us she wanted to give us the Book of Mormon back (she has a giant $10 one) and not meet with us anymore. We asked her if we could just read from it with her, so we read 3 Nephi 11. By the end of the lesson she decided to keep it, and said she will read the Book of Mormon every day just to try it out. She is going to read the Bible for half the time and the Book of Mormon for the other half. We had a baptism date set with her a while ago, so hopefully she will feel the spirit and we can set one again! J

I am so excited for Saturday this week. We are going to St. Louis with B-Robb to the Temple in the morning, and we will probably eat at either Hard Rock Cafe or Five Guys for lunch. Then we are going to go to this Flea Market so I can get Jesse and Megan some late Christmas gifts that I've been wanting to get. Then we are going to come back to Springfield and have Dean's baptism. And wait, it gets better......then we will have transfer calls and we will find out if I'm getting transferred. How could it possibly get better than that? I would love to go back to St. Louis and the area I kind of wanted to serve in is Pagedale, which borders Florissant & Hazelwood to the south. But just this week Elders Hunter & Harris who are in Pagedale were jumped...they had a gun pulled on them and they were robbed. The guy took their backpacks and everything. Poor guys! The area is closed now and I don't really want to go there anymore anyway. So we'll see what happens! I think they are both doing okay, but still in shock I'm sure.

I don't know yet if we reached our mission goal for 345 baptisms. We should find out soon. Our goal for 2012 is going to be 365, so one baptism a day! That will be pretty cool if we can get it. I'll let you know how we did when I find out.

I think that's about it! Please tell Ed & Heidi and their family THANK YOU for the awesome tie and all the things they sent me. And also to Alan & Mane for the awesome scarf and things that they sent me. And also to Mongo & Grandpa, and Grandma Williams, and everyone else who I left out.

Well I love you so much! I'm so grateful to be on a mission. I cannot believe it's 2012 already. I come home this year, that's not cool! Time is flying, the work is moving, and the church is true. Talk to you soon!

Elder Williams