Monday, January 13, 2014

A Quote from Chicken Run

I am sorry that I have been cutting the work-side of the mission out of my emails. Reading Lizzie's emails, I can see how testimony building and fantastic it can really be. I have been finding more joy in emailing the individuals, however, having a conversation with family and friends. I'll try, however, to update you on many of the stories I have tried to tell in the past.

"The Zapata family is a friend of members in the ward. Alex, the son, has some sort of social autism in which he struggles talking to people in normal ways. His fall-to is to communicate with others through movie quotes. The whole family is completely centered around him, and if there is a decision made amongst the family, all variables depend on him.
 
We left them a book of Mormon the week before and taught their son. It went really well..."
Due to Alex's variable moods and the massive social barrier, we never know what to expect, neither do the parents. And because they have centered their whole life around taking care of this kid, we never know what to expect from them. Every conversation is about the son, even Gospel conversation. They talk about how he responds to it, how they taught him religious things in the past, how they taught Alex how to pray, how they were accepted into different churchs and rejected in others because of him. Questions about the mom's testimony results in a fifteen minute response about her son. It was something very interesting and new to me. It inspired me, to see so much devotion in another person. They are literally giving their life for someone else, that same love that the scriptures mention (John 15:13).

Something started to happen as we taught. It wasn't a spark that went off in our mind or anything, it just started happening. The more we listened to stories about the son, the more we ourselves started focusing on him. We began to teach him bit by bit, noticing how much he liked pictures and repeating key words and bullet points that we taught. It was cool to see how closely he mimicks my every actions, motion and word, so that he could understand. When we'd ask to repeat what we taught, he would. The words would be clips of movies he's watched, but they would be quotes appropriate to the topic and describing what we taught. For example, when we taught prayer, taught him simple steps of how to pray, and asked hime to repeat, he gave a response similar to this:
  • "One: Hello, How are you?" (1. Dear Heavenly Father)
  • "Two: Movies; Three: Chicken Run; Four: Massages..." (2. Things you are grateful for)
  • "Three: 'God Help Us;' 'God Help Us,' ... [a quote from Chicken Run]" (3. Things you ask God)
  • "Four: Christ. Christ is our Savior. Amen" (4. "In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen)
Not exactly what he said, but a good example. After we taught him prayer, he asked if he could pray, which was really cool! In the first prayer, he asked me if I could help him (note: he doesn't normally talk to people, but his social skills were high by this point) and so I did. The mother and father were very impressed with their son and what was happening.
At the end, we then knelt together. Alex wanted to say another prayer, so we let him. He did it all on his own this time, fluently and simply, like we taught it. When we looked up the father asked us if he could, as head of the house, say a prayer for his family. How could we deny that? He said an eloquent, heartfelt prayer. At the end, I looked up to see his tear-filled eyes.
This is one of the many miracles I have witnessed. Many more came from this family and families around. When one is willing and finds a need, the Gospel will sink into you and change you, as we later saw with the Zapata family.
For example, we went by and found out that the dad received revelation while we were gone to teach social traits and qualities that Alex was missing through topic-based studies from the index of the Book of Mormon...
But that's a story for another time. Pardon my details, again.
I love you all. I have seen Christ change my life especially, in the same way described above. It can for you too. I encourage you to "...try the virtue of the word of God." (Alma 31:5). I promise that you will see an change within yourselves as you use the scriptures correctly.
Elder Chelak

Christmas

Christmas is here, though it doesn't feel much like it. I cannot say that I got much into the Christmas spirit this year. We have no decorations in our apartment, except for a tiny table tree, we didn't share too many Christmas messages, and I've just been plugging along doing missionary work. It's alright, though. They say being a missionary is like Celebrating Christmas year around. We're going to head out and buy a few of our members Christmas gifts before Christmas day. Many insisted on giving us money this last week as a gift, and we felt guilty, so we're going to turn around and buy them a gift with their own money. We thought it would be nice.
 
This week was good for missionary work. The big miracle of the week was with a man named Gilbert. We were referred to him by a member of an English ward. She was the owner of the house that he rents. When we first went to his house he lied about his name, for obvious reasons. "Hey! Are you Gilbert?" That would cause anyone to question. Anyways, we talked to him a bit, talked about who referred us to him and he opened up, saying that he's been looking for something to help him make a change. We got his number, offered a bible and set a return appointment.
 
This was about 5 weeks ago. It wasn't until this last week that we got in touch with him. I was on an exchange with Elder Fernando, and I wanted to ride my bike over in that area. Before we left, I felt like I needed to give him a call to see if we could come by. When I pulled out my phone to do so, it buzzed with a message from Gilbert! I took that as a sign.
 
I asked when we could come by, he asked if 3pm would work. I said that would be perfect! That was the time we had planned to visit.
 
We went by, he was there waiting for us outside. He welcomed us in, got his family together, and since he had a Bible and some questions about commitment, we taught the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He's afraid "to... become... Mormon, you know? Like, I'm Catholic and..." It is hard to make a change into the vast unknown world of Mormonism. I truly felt like I understood completely at that moment the normal fear that many people express. We promised him we weren't going to pressure him or try to force anything on him, and as a matter of fact we'll take him just where his family wants to go. But we promised that if he prayed about it, studied it, that this would be something that he wanted. I testified that when I first ran into the church, I found it was the missing link I had been unknowingly searching for.
 
We did all of this in twenty minutes, they all felt the Spirit strongly, and we left like that, with a commitment from him that he'd read and pray with his family that night. He said he'd let us know what he wanted to do. Gilbert prayed to close and we then left.
 
It felt good to have a missionary experience like that, again.

On Fire

We finally concluded the long battle of planning week. I came out of it barely alive. No jokes, I think if things went on any further, I would have had a stroke.
Our zone meeting was kind of a flop. After all the training and preparing we had, there was something to mess it up. We had some good things within there though.
 
One of the things that occurred was us inviting a member to come give a training. We fell a bit behind schedule before his training and I accidentally said, "Don't worry. You can take a bit more time." His twenty minute training turned into an hour training. The rest of us were rushed to get our little trainings in. We even cut out one training all together.
 
Stake Coordination came out exactly as we expected--the old guys fell asleep during it. Our training was very well prepared. We did many role plays, hours of research, got super pumped about how to conduct a REAL coordination meeting, found out exactly how to prepare it, made it interesting and interactive, and... then we presented it to the group, and only the Spanish speaking ward tried to listen. There are fruits that came from this effort though. Our La Mesa Ward Mission Leader is ON FIRE after the training and is doing everything in his power to help us!
 
I came out of our coordination meeting on Friday floating on clouds. The work is hastening! Hermanon Reyes, our Ward Mission Leader, applied all that we trained on, reviewed our planners, set goals and plans and assignments and called the bishop to get him involved, set up another training (this time in Spanish) for the ward missionaries, and got things GOING. It may not sound like much to those who have a full-functioning ward, but it was the greatest Christmas gift I could have ever had.
 
I forgot to tell you last week, we had a baptism of Brian Calles last week, a 10 year old boy. I don't know how I forgot that important detail either. He was so pumped for baptism. His sister was supposed to get baptized with him, but last minute, as I was walking into the water, she freaked out and we had to postpone it. I felt bad for her, but I feel she needed more time anyways.

DESTROYED

Hello Everyone!
 
Forget those introductory paragraphs! I'm just hopping right into this one:
  • This last Monday, I set a goal to write 10 really short letters to those I have neglected for a long time. I made the plans on how I would do it, too. I got a commitment from my companion to help me out with my newly set goal and plans, to encourage me and to get me focused on it. The final result: 0/10 letters. All plans were wrecked and I was too, people requesting activities, birthdays, last minute errand running, doing laundry in between lessons, missionaries arriving late to things and killing all of our time eventually DESTROYED my P-day and stressed the heck out of me. I am never making such a plan again. Maybe one letter, yes. But that is it! I got halfway through a half-page to Jared. Haha! I don't know what lesson I am to learn from this. Stop focusing on home? Plan better? Change the culture of the mission?
  • I went on exchanges with the Assistants, and at a prime time, too. I have been slowly falling apart these past two weeks. They came in, dusted me off, said I am doing good work and not to worry to much, and got me going again. The funny thing was that our exchange went just like every other day goes as a leader, no proselyting. We talked to a lot of people on the street, but every one of our set appointments canceled and we just ran around doing administrative work and errand-running. Our dinner even canceled. Elder Savage, the assistant, got to take a peek at how our district meetings go which stressed me out, too. I think it stressed him out as well. It was another confirmation that our young leaders need better training. We made some rough plans on setting up a training meeting for that.
  • Wednesday was taken from us, as well. We've been asked to put our heads together with Elders Snyder and Fullmer, the other Zone leaders, and with Brother Casady, the High Counselor over missionary work, to create a training for all the Ward Mission Leaders in the Stake. We are only just now seeing the work hasten, as the prophets said, and our leaders are needing some further training on the Stake level. We created a game plan then spent the rest of that day basically implementing our plans to get our stake involved with missionary work. No proselyting that day either.
  • Thursday was shut down as we went down to Rancho Cucamonga the whole day for a leadership training council. Guess what is tomorrow? Zone Meeting! We've been taking the trainings we have received and planning them out the past two days so we can relay all the information to the Zone and train on their needs. The fun never stops. Basically the "Heck" week turned into double heck week. This whole week will be quite the same. Not much teaching, a bunch of training. Wish me luck and pray that I can endure.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Soggy Suit

Thank you, Mom, for the Pie Night pictures! 

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PIE NIGHT PICTURE

Technology makes me feel so close by. I cannot wait for the day that I can just walk into the computer screen into a cyber portal to your house. Do you think that will come out before we die? Every generation has something to dream about.
I just want to fill this page with testimony and the 60,000 things that I learn in my personal studies! Let me tell you, folks, there is a fountain of revelation that is going on over here, and it is getting my suit soggy! I cannot slow my mind down, but to get a glimpse of what I am doing, just repeatedly ask, "How can I catch the vision of..." and read Preach my Gospel as if it is a Hunger Games and 7 Habits book combined! It is, if you're reading it in conjunction with the Book of Mormon! There are deaths everywhere in this thing! AND it's entertaining!
Some things that happened this Thanksgiving week:
  • I ran my first 5k ever in the morning! 25:23, not bad, I must say. We ran it on Thursday morning. Don't worry, we got permission from President to do so, and we ran with our tags on. I ran with my companion, Elder Eppich and Elder Snyder's companion, Elder Fullmer. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I think if I ran it more competitively, then I would have hurt more.
  • We had a regular Thanksgiving dinner! Ends up, it doesn't matter the culture, you eat turkey, mashed potatoes, ham and stuffing for Thanksgiving dinner!
  • We didn't have very much luck contacting people this week, due to the Holidays, but hopefully there will be people to teach this week.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Awkward Crawl to Bless the Sick

November 25, 2013

Thanks everyone for writing me lovely letters! I haven't yet read them, seeing that I just printed them out, but thanks so much!
Thank you Aaron! I'm excited to hear your testimony.
Hey Mckenzie! I've missed you so much!
Hey Dad! I look forward to all the news.
 
I've been praying for you all back at home. I'm feeling close to you during the Holidays.
 
It was a long week, and not because it was a terrible one. It was busy, incredibly successful and exhausting. We worked hard and pushed ourselves even when we didn't see the full reason as to why, and for that we experienced much. Here are a few of the events:
  • Elder Eppich and I practiced talking to people a lot this week. We seem to pass everyone up when we are together, which is very frustrating to me. It just must be our companionship chemistry, but when it comes to doing that most-important phase of the missionary work, we freeze and just say hi to passerby's.
  • We role-played street contacts, and after doing so, I got really pumped. I grabbed the trash and said and zoomed out. While throwing out the trash, there were kids outside playing basketball. I approached them. Instead of applying any of what we just practiced, I just said, "Hey, can we come play basketball with you on Monday." He replied, "Uhh, sure. I'll be here." So last P-day, we spent thirty minutes playing basketball around strangers. I say around because we never started a game. It kind of threw off our schedule on P-day by doing that, but it was fun.
  • I went on an exchange with an Elder named Elder Zacharias. What a crazy cool guy! He's got the craziest taste of everything in life. I don't know what to say about it other than it a crazy adventure the whole day. I hope to explain more when I get home.
  • Brother Littlefield and Brother Wilson (director of Mormon.org) of the Salt Lake Mission office came and trained all the leaders in the mission. His trainings blew my mind and turned my mission world upside-down! It was the coolest thing ever and gave me so much faith for the future of the work! There are thousands of people out there in MY AREA who will actually listen. We also learned more about Mormon.org to prepare us for the future of the technology-focused mission-field. You can make your own pass-along cards--with your face on it! Check it out on Mormon.org.
  • The boosted faith helped us view everyone optimistically and truly see the meaning of the work hastening. After I fasted on Wednesday and then after the training, everyone--EVERYONE--we had the courage to talk to accepted our message. We got 5 new investigators from it, several other return appointments, and some crazy miracles of us being at the right place at the right time. Elder Eppich and I have gotten the ward involved with helping us give blessings. For some reason, that has been our service of the week.
  • One of the blessings the woman was having seizures and wouldn't get up for us to give her a blessing. We had to awkwardly crawl onto her big bed and give her a blessing, half-kneeling. She calmed down and I had huge promptings come to me.
  • Another man had his house broken into soon before we came, earlier that week, he approached us as we were praying on the street and asked to have something to read. We gave him a DVD and a Book of Mormon. After hearing the story about how his nephew broke in and stole all that he had, we asked if we could read the Book of Mormon with him. We read 3 Nephi 11. The countenance on his face changed so drastically as we read. By the end his was glowing, almost literally, and his eyes were twinkling and he was pumped on life. He thanked us, shook our hands, and we left.
Many more miracles that came from this week. Stay tuned to hopefully hear on the Zapata Family next week. What an amazing story!
But for now that is all I have time for.

Random Moments of Service

November 18, 2013

This week was incredibly difficult for me. I hit a brief moment of discouragement last night and this morning. Every Sunday, we total up our numbers and review how the week went. I looked in shame. Our zone has been struggling a bit this week, and ends up, so have we. We had a total of 2 contacts this week, and I know the reason why. The two of us for some reason are just too afraid to talk to people. We didn't do much work other than that either. A lot of time was spent in us trying to find a place to live, typing up documents for the Stake and Mission President, and preparing and working on zone meeting. Still, there was no excuse for how little we spoke to people.
 
A missionary never feels like a missionary until he speaks to those around him about the gospel.
 
We offered random moments of service, gave friendly hellos and gave small talk to many people, but we did not share the gospel.
 
Our zone struggles with the same problem, and others have it a lot worse than us. For example, Oak Hill Elders are literally out in the middle of the desert. They could talk to Joshua trees all day, but as for running into a person from going on a walk would be very rare.
 
We need to set the example and share the gospel.
 
Elder Eppich is a funny guy. Often times he'll just begin to laugh randomly. There are always jokes running through his head. He also has this contagious silly voice that he picked up from an Elder in the MTC and it makes all things funny, regardless of the circumstance.
 
My Spanish is back. The Lord has been blessing me so much. When I pray and truly desire the Lord's help, it comes. I have been speaking very fluently and quickly which has been rare for me.
 
Well, there is the news for now.