Thursday, December 12, 2013

November 11th and 12th - the Final Days of My Mission

On Monday my release was approved. After several calls my flight was determined to be on the next day. I was going home. We had dinner that night with the Sherksnas family. We ended up going with the elders to a lesson because they had no ride. I said goodbye to the elders and Brother Todd that night.

 On Tuesday, to our surprise when we went outside, not only was it cold but had snowed and still was. After a long car ride to the Harrisburg airport I waited for my plane. Once we landed I went to my connecting flight. By 5 PM I was back in San Antonio, Texas. I was released as a full time missionary in a little under an hour. I was home and the name tag was off. THE END

One of the last days with a fellow missionary...Elder Justin Palmer whom is now home just as I am!

November 11, 2013

November 4, 2013 to November 10, 2013

 Monday began one of the longest emotionally charged weeks. That night we ate dinner at the Nadals. After dinner we had a lesson with Jose and Gabby. However the whole lesson both were very distracted.

 Tuesday we went to the food cupboard and bagged potatoes. In the afternoon we went to see Patrick and April but they were no shows. We met and talked with Alex. He and his roommate had had a discussion the day before wondering about why there was so many churches. He told us that mornings were best. When we were talking to someone on the street, a less active - Becca - that we had been trying to get in contact with walked up to us. We then went to Margot's. Her roommate Julie joined us for a lesson on the Plan of Salvation. Then we had dinner with the Dicks and the Elders at Applebees. It was Elder Yates 21st birthday. After dinner we had a lesson with Jose and Gabby with Kaity as our team up.

 Wednesday was insanity! We had district meeting and then went to help Brother Dave and Sister Cynthia with painting their home. From there we went to visit Corinne. She was dead tired but happy - she just got engaged. While we were talking about families (they have a little boy) her fiance, Phil, walked in. We continued to talk with them more about families and asked if they would be willing to have us come back. They were. We left them with a word of prayer. Sister Stovall had asked Phil if he would say the prayer but he informed us that he had never heard one let alone said one. He said "baby steps sisters". We then had inner with a less active part member family that we had talked to on the phone but had never met. Then it was time for the challenge lesson. We met Brother Todd at the home. George spent the whole time shooting anti-Mormon questions at us. His heart was hard. Amber was listening, asking questions about what were able to say. At the end of the lesson George said to give him time to read the Book of Mormon twice, come back in January. He closed with a prayer calling Joseph Smith a murdering liar and thanked God for the chance to teach us this truth.

 Thursday from 8 AM to 1 PM was dedicated to to my jaw appointment and headache inducing pain of trying to schedule an MRI at a place that accepted my insurance. We then headed back from Danville and ate lunch then did studies. We then went to the library and got on for time. My main question was "should I stay on my mission or leave?" Back and forth I went.

 Friday started out normal but before we could get really anywhere with weekly planning, let alone begin, Sister Stovall said I should talk to Sister Topham about the choice I was faced with. After multiple calls and conversations with Sister Topham and President Topham, the wheels were set in motion for me to go home. We finished weekly planning. During lunch I called the elders to let them know that I was going home. Elder Yates and Elder Walker are like my brothers so I wanted them to be of the first to know. I texted the Danville Elders (Elders Boekweg and Smith) the same information. That night we ate at the Allens home. Before we ate there we went to see Brother Dave and Sister Cynthia. We found out that Brother Dave was a member but he claimed to be "allergic" to the gospel. We showed Sister Cynthia the Daily Bread Mormon messages.

 Saturday we met with Brother Stanley and Martha. The rest of the day was spent tracting in Bloomsburg and Benton. We had dinner with Cedenos and talked about the Book of Mormon. We read Mosiah 18 at the request of one of the girls. We talked with Charity (a former) before we headed in for the night.

 On my last Sunday there was the primary program. Jose and Margot were both at church. I said my goodbyes to several people. I was pulled aside by a member who told me to not let others make me feel guilty for going home early. I had one last lesson with Martha. And a lesson with a man we met while he was on the porch (his wife had rejected us a couple days before).

November 4, 2013

October 28, 2013 to November 3, 2013

 Monday we had an amazing dinner with the Boiks. We found out from the Boiks that someone had passed away. We went to the Shelhammer viewing. Although I didn't personally know the man we learned a lot about him. He was an amazing man. We headed back from Berwick and dropped off a triple combination for Stephanie. Then we talked with several people - one being Stan. He ran off before we could give him anything because people were following him and harassing him. He literally ran into a light pole to get away from them. Those few minutes were probably the most thrilling and frightening part of my mission.

 Tuesday we went to the food cupboard and bagged potatoes. On the way back we ran into Stephanie. We let her know about the ward trunk or treat. Not much later we worked on the area book. Afterwards we went to visit a few people and ran into Patrick once again but this time he was joined by April. At first the conversation was light chatter about nothing in particular but soon ventured into deeper subjects - we gave them Books of Mormon, a couple of pamphlets each, and an Articles of Faith card. It was the Articles of Faith card that caught Patrick's attention and we sent up a return appointment for the following Tuesday - when they would be available next. That night we met with Don and talked with him about the commandment of health - the Word of Wisdom. We then went to the Dicks home and had an amazingly spiritual lesson on the Holy Ghost with Margot.

 Wednesday started out with District Meeting. The first part of the meeting was focused on getting to know each other. Something that stuck out to met from the meeting was this statement "Don't just sit and stew, go and do!" Each of us created a little paragraph for a lesson for someone we were teaching. After district meeting we went to visit some people we had met previously and ran into a member from another ward. Imagine our surprised when he told us that he was a member and was preparing for a mission. We then met with Brother Stanley and talked with him about two commandment - the law of health and following the prophet. Gabby's lesson was probably the lesson every missionary dreamed of. The spirit was thick as we read the story of the Prodigal son in Luke 15: 11-32. Then we went on to read about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. She accepted the invitation to be baptized. Before we saw Gabby a whole sting of events led to the lesson even happening. Through the string of events we met Andre who had been to church a couple times before either Sister Stovall or I were there. Amazingly spiritual guy. That night we went to Trunk or Treat. Sister Stovall got in the back of Sister Meaders car and had fun scaring kids when they went to get candy from the bowl. Stephanie and her kids came to the Trunk or Treat. It was an amazing day.

 Thursday was Halloween. We ate lunch after studies and headed to the public library. We ran into Brother Johnston on the way into the library and talked with him for several minutes. We then went to see Martha and Jessica. We found out in the morning that Jessica had recently lost her friend. We watched the Mormon message "Hope Ya know, I Had a Hard time Today". During the lesson my locked and I couldn't get it open. I called the mission doctor after the lesson and he had me contact an oral surgeon in the ward. He said he would look at my jaw on Sunday. We then had dinner with the Howies. After dinner we headed in for the night. We had to be in early for the holiday. I worked on the area map and finished it. Sister Stovall worked on the to do list we had and on calling people in the directory that we didn't know. Overall it was a good day, however I ended up losing my CTR ring (the one my older sister gave me).

 Friday after weekly planning we talked to Andre for some time. We headed further out and ate at Playa Cancun. From there we went to a street and spent several hours tracting. With the exception of one each house was a rejection. The exception was a teenager named adam who was interested in learning more. On our way to meet a less active member we stopped at a house. Both Sister Stovall and I looked at the house but continued on. However when we continued on several deer crossed the road and were forced to stop. We took that as a sign and turned around and pulled to the side of the road. At first we talked to Amber who said she'd talk to her husband and that she'd let us know. We were walking back to the car when her husband came out and lit a cigarette. Sister Stovall turned around. I asked what she was doing and she said that was going to talk to him. At one point in talking to us he said that he wasn't going to be convinced of Joseph Smith. Sister Stovall said held up a finger and told him (and challenged him) to have just one lesson with us. He agreed and we set up a return appointment for the following Wednesday. We then went to go meet Brother Stuart. When the door opened we met his wife, Jeanette. His wife isn't a member. Brother Stuart told us why he hadn't been to church for some time. He told us that he had been wanting a Book of Mormon because he had lost his. We set up a time for us to return the next day.

 Saturday Danny joined us and because of that we were able to help Brother Todd for about 6 hours clean out his house in preparation for him moving out and other moving in. We picked up the elders after we cleaned up and changed back into proselyting clothes. After dinner with the Forsbergs we dropped the elders off back at their car and then dropped off food that Brother Todd was taking with him to someone who needed it. We dropped by a less active couple that we hadn't been able to see in awhile. We were able to talk with him for a few minutes before we headed back in. We had received a call earlier in the day from Brother Stuart cancelling our lesson with them because his wife wasn't doing to good. We were sad but wished them well.

 Sunday morning we had a meeting with out ward mission leader. Sacrament meeting we a fast and testimony meeting. Both Sister Stovall and I bore our testimonies. Eash testimony, no matter how short or tear filled, brought a special spirit to the meeting. Afterwards Brother Johnson looked at my jaw. It was determined that I most likely had TMJ. Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (sometimes abbreviated to TMJ or TMJD) is an umbrella term covering pain dysfunction of the muscles of mastication (the muscles that move the law) and the temporomandibular joints (the joints which connect the mandible to the skull). The most important feature is pain, followed by restricted mandibular movement, and the noises from the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) during jaw movement. Although it is not life threatening, it can detriment quality of life, because the symptoms can become chronic and difficult to manage. That night we ate dinner with the Chartrands. We then had a lesson with Martha before we went in for the night.

October 28, 2013

October 21, 2013 to October 27, 2013

 Monday morning Sister Stovall woke up sick - she was throwing up. We did emailing and groceries. The she slept. I died dishes, laundry, and cleaned the bathroom. We had dinner with Sister Meaders and Sister Evans. We then went to talk with a part member family (I had a prompting to visit them - we hadn't been able to catch them before). He said to call his wife sometime during the week. We then went back and worked on the area map.

 Tuesday morning I put in an order for a food cupboard tshirt during the time we were there bagging potatoes. After we had lunch we worked on the area book. We then tracted for some time and met a woman named Hershey who told us to come back the next day between 10 AM and 1 PM. From there we went to meet with Jose and Gabby. While with Jose and Gabby we talked with them about the Plan of Salvation. The lesson was amazing and part way through the lesson a friend of Gabby, Sammy, joined us. It wasn't to much later that we got a text from Margot saying that she was sick. We had dinner with the Dicks and went to meet with Don. Th lesson went well and was focused.

 Wednesday was slow. Hershey wasn't home so we picked up where we left off and continued to tract the neighborhood. While tracting we met a woman named Rhianna whom asked us to come back at another time. They went by fast after then and soon we were heading back in.

 Thursday I hit my six month mark. During out time spent on, Amy called and cancelled our lesson with her. We had lunch and then went to visit Hershey. We weren't able to talk with Hershey but instead we spoke with her husband, Nick. He told us to not come back, they weren't interested. We went further on in the area and continued to tract. Mainly no one was home or was rather forceful in their rejection of learning more. We then went to meet with Brother Stanley about the commandment keeping the Sabbath day holy. After out meeting with him we went to go see Rhianna but there was no answer. We then dropped by a less active member's home - Corrine - and talked with her to get to know her. From there we went to eat with the Empie family. After dinner we followed up with a few people that we met while tracting. We continued tracting until we needed to be inside.

 Friday I woke up a with a sinus infection - I was not happy. We went out anyway later in the day but all our planned lessons fell through. When we arrived at the Forsbergs home the Elders were still getting their hair cut. Soon the night was over and were soon in for the night.

 Saturday we headed out a little earlier then usual to help out with the Priest/Laurel conference. The conference was focused on being a missionary - the theme being a mini MTC. As part of the Priest/Laurel Conference the missionaries taught the Priests and Laurels about the things they would need to know as a missionary - sewing a button on, ironing shirts, fixing bikes, reading maps, and so on. We then had district meeting while one by one we were pulled out by the mission president for interviews. Not much later we were asked (Sister Stovall and I) to join the panel for the sisters. The Laurels were introduced to each of the sister sisters and soon Question and Answer started. There was a wide variety of questions asked. Once time was up we went to do studies. A little bit into companionship studies we were joined by the Elders. Not to much later we were headed back. We had dinner with Brother Todd and the Elders at a diner that Brother Todd liked. With that we headed back in to work on weekly planning.

 Sunday began with church. After church we went to see Janice. She told us that kids were coming by for trick or treating. Sister Dick volunteered to come and dress Janie up as a witch. She was so cute! After we saw Janice we went to do studies. I spent my studies focused on the definition of friends, what do you do for friends, how to be a better friend/companion, and then creating my promise to put in effect what I leaned. We then met with Martha, Brother Todd came along with us. We watched the Mormon message "None were with Him". From there we ate with the Dicks. Then we headed back in to finish weekly planning.

October 21,2013

October 14, 2013 - October 20, 2013

 Monday was thankfully a pday so we were able to get a lot done in preparation for the week. Once pday was over though we changed back into proselyting clothes. We headed to dinner with the Sanfords (he is the bishop of the ward). When we arrived at their house we discovered that the Elders were already there and they were playing football with the bishop while the burgers cooked. After dinner we were set to visit John and Wendy (an older less active couple), however we had received a call that Wendy was still sick so they were unable to meet with us. So following a prompting that Sister Stovall had we headed to drop off cookies for a woman in the ward. We lended an ear and set up a time to come back and help her what had been stressing her.

 Tuesday began like any other Tuesday at the Food Cupboard. When we arrived Martha asked us to sweep up glass in the street (on one of the sides of the food cupboard there was a lot of broken glass). The rest of out time there was spent bagging potatoes - we found a few nasties (that we tossed as usual) but it was a great time. We left earlier than usual to head back and have lunch. After lunch we spent several hours working on the area book. Once we found a stopping point with the area book we went to visit Gary and Jennifer (a couple we had run into the Sunday previous) only to discover them not home. We went to meet with Zach only to discover him not home. We met Shawn and Shawn (confusing anyone?). We spoke with them for several minutes and left them a couple pamphlets each with Books of Mormon. Then we met Amy. We had spoken with her husband a couple days before (on Sunday) and while he was not interested in what we had to say he believed it would greatly benefit her. She had been through a lot, medically and emotionally, but was still going strong. As we had run out of Books of Mormon (none were with us), Sister Stovall left her quad with her so that she could read from the Book of Mormon. We then went to meet with Jose and Gabby (father and daughter). At one point during the lesson we asked Gabby what she felt about what we were teaching. Her response "it feels good". We then rushed to the Strine's home fro a lesson with Margot. I don't remember much from the lesson but I remember that when Margot was praying that she told God that she hoped He had a good day. From there we went to meet with Don and had an amazingly focused lesson with Brother Todd.

 Wednesday morning was amazingly spiritual as we had out last District Meeting as a district. Our topic of discussion was "ways we've done good in the past and ways we want to leave the world better". A common line of thought was what we were doing in the future - job, family, and so on. A random comment had the rest of the missionaries agreeing with my trainer that I'd make a great children's book writer. Because of it my major is being taken into consideration for change. After the meeting was over we talked, ate, played games, took photos (the last of our district). Then it was time to say goodbye to Elder Justin Palmer. It was his last week on the mission. Once goodbyes were over we headed to Brother Stanley's home. We let him know we were there and he followed us to a members home. The lesson was spent helping him makes connections. Then we went to meet with Amy. The spirit was thick as Sister Stovall issued the baptismal invitation for November 30. Before Sister Stovall could finish asking her, Amy was nodding her head in agreement. Later that night we went to visit Genea (she scared me the first time I met her) and dropped off some cookies. We spoke with her for several minutes about her life and how she was doing.

 Thursday we worked on the area book in the morning at the Forsberg home. Then we headed out to help a woman in the ward we had talked with on Monday. The elders helped out with cleaning as well. We headed back and then cleaned up before heading to meet with Jose and Gabby. He processed during the lesson while she asked questions. We then went to meet with Amy. While we were there the lesson went to pieces when the children flooded the bathroom. We were able to watch a Mormon message with Amy and her kids before we left. That night Stephanie was a no show. Sister Stovall felt off. She wasn't sure why. We went to visit Jane, a former before we went in for the night.

 Friday was painful. I had been having constant stomach pains with no explanation. That morning the pain was at its worst. I called the mission doctor and he had me take my temperature - I had a low grade fever. He had me go to a clinic. The clinic then had us go the ER due to the need for tests needing to be done right away. While we were waiting for my blood to be taken a code came over the intercom. While laying there I could hear doctors and nurses talking/shouting. Then I heard them use the paddles. I wasn't sure how long this all took. As a missionary we are asked to share the gospel at all times and in all places in anyway possible. However at the moment I felt helpless to do anything so I prayed. When I opened my eyes once again I saw Sister Stovall bowing her head in prayer. A nurse walked in and Sister Stovall asked how the man next door was doing. All the nurse could tell us was that he was in critical condition.

 Saturday I slept off the side effects of the medication.

 Sunday there was a much and mingle. I don't remember much of that day except having Dory from Finding Nemo saying "Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming". It was also official Sister Stovall and I were to remain companions for the next transfer.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

October 14, 2013

So can I first off say that last week was a crazy, busy spiritual week? Because it WAS!
Monday we went to Goodwill with the elders (they had to get their oil changed so we were their ride for the day) and prepared for the upcoming winter. After dinner with Sister Meaders we went to go visit a less active family - the Karchers. It turns out that the week before we had come to visit that Sister Karcher had been praying about going back to church because she wants to work on family history. Her son asked her "Mom, why don't we just go back to church?"

Tuesday morning began an exchange. I went to Wellsboro with Sister Kerby. I DROVE! It was a long drive though. We visited with a couple less actives and a recent convert. After our lesson with Dymond, the recent convert, Sister Kerby told me that had been the most interested she had ever seen him. He had been pulling out scriptures about service and missionary work and asking us questions about several things. It was an amazing lesson.

Wednesday we once again made the long trip back to Bloom. We did an exchange review and then headed out to work on the area book. We spent several hours on that but got much farther with it. Afterwards we went to see if we could be on campus at Bloom University and we are still working on that. From there we went to Brother Saffron. We didn't talk about what we had planned but instead about temples. That night we had an amazing lesson with a woman, Stephanie, who had met with missionaries before. We found out later that after she met with us, her whole world blew up. Satan is a PAIN!

Thursday we went to State College at the early hours of the morning to listen to and be trained my Elder Mervyn B. Arnold. The whole training was just WOW! I can't put all I learned into words. That night though was so said. It was heartbreaking. Our recent convert, Martha basically told us that she doesn't believe that Jesus died for her personally and that she can rely on him. It was a hard, sad lesson to be a part of. Probably the hardest I have ever been in so far.

Friday was stir crazy day because we were weekly planning up until we went to dinner at 5! With our area book still in the works it took longer than if it had been all together. That night, we took some of Elder Arnolds advice and headed to Weis to get ingrediants to make cookies. In the parking lot we talked to a woman named Pam and she wanted us to go visit her Mom. However, she is in the elder's area so they were happy for a referral. When we were in the store we ended up talking to an older couple, Kavin and Linda and inviting them out to church. We talked with them for several minutes about a variety of things. That night we found out from Martha that one of her friends is moving away and she wants to give her a Book of Mormon!

Saturday, I feel like we made thousands of bite sized cookies - four different kinds. It took us awhile. That night we had an amazing lesson in the Forsberg's home with Stephanie. We read the 2nd to last paragraph of the intro and then read Moroni's promise. She let us know that she knows its true but she is in the part where she is fighting with knowing and doing what is right.

Sunday, Stephanie didn't show up to church with her kids because she stayed up till 6 in the morning writing a paper (we have church at 9:30 am). We then went to go visit Janice, she is doing well. Afterwards we went down the hall and talked with Don. If we can jimmy rig it, he will come to church this week. Hopefully we will see if baptism is on the horizon for him when he speaks to the Bishop soon. After church we went to go visit someone the bishop had asked to only to discover they no longer live there. However while we were down there we met several more people that we are going to visit tomorrow (Tuesday). Then we picked up the elders to head to the Steenburgs for dinner. It was crazy but it was amazing. The whole message was shared was that Jesus Christ was always there for them.

October 7, 2013

Last Monday, right after studies we went to the chiropractor for Sister Stovall. While talking to him we found out that he had at one point worked for a Mormon. Not much later we went to a Mexican restaurant - Playa Cancun - if this place had to go food, it would be my favorite place.
On Tuesday we spent longer than normal at the food cupboard. Not only did we bag potatoes this time but we also bagged chicken. Of course, at one point we had to run to the car to put in quarters so that the meter would not run out of time. We barely caught it in time. We went to Genea, she is a less active and doesn't want missionaries visiting her anymore because she is tired of explaining herself. We then went over to Janice and showed her how she could watch General Conference on her TV. That night in Margot's lesson, Brother Dick spoke to her needs. When asked what she would do if she knew that the Book of Mormon was true she said "Be baptized, next." She started crying during the prayer when she asked if the Book of Mormon was true. It is slowly starting to hit her.
Wednesday morning brought district meeting. The zone leaders were there. For a part of the meeting we talked about how the work is exploding in each of our areas. After the meeting we went to visit a less active on our records only to discover that she does not live there anymore, she is in jail. However, the person that lives there was very much interested in talking to us. Carla, was asking how she could get her daughters baptized, if they could eventually do what we are - a mission, and she told us about her own life. While we were talking with her, her daughters came home from school. One of the them asked if she could come with us. We set up a return appointment for Friday. We then headed over to meet with Brother Saffron. According to Sister Stovall, it was the most focused lesson she has had ever with him.
Thursday we visited the Hart's. From there we visited with Martha and ended up talking with her about temples and family history. After the lesson, we went to track down someone that the Danville elders had found in their records but was in our area. Dave and Cynthia were sick but kind. We helped them figure out where the church was located, talked with them about General Conference, and then as we were leaving they gave us homemade bread and organic eggs. The first loaf is almost gone already. We had dinner and a lesson at the Oast home. Margot is a student at Bloom and had been taught by Sister Oast. When they first met, they were excited to see each other again. The whole lesson focused on showing Margot that she had already been doing a lot of what she is asked to do.
Friday started out with sickness. I am convinced that our apartment is cursed. Sister Stovall got sick and is still sick with a cough and a couple of other issues. She just feels yucky. We went to Bloom Care to visit with Janice, only to find them beginning music hour. We helped out and then had a lesson with Don, Janice helping out. Don grew up RLDS. He questioned why there wasn't a prophet on earth today, he has read the Book of Mormon, and wants to know what to do so he can be ready to go home. Don is in a wheelchair but not the typical age for assisted care. He has a surface understanding but not a "knowing". Before the lesson with Don, Carla called and cancelled - her grandma was in the hospital.
Saturday was in all reality spent at the church because of General Conference. We had a mini potluck with one of the women in the ward. It was an amazing experience.
Sunday we had breakfast with the Jordans, they live out in the middle of nowhere. Then we spent the rest of the day at church watching General Conference.