Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Long awaited update... to come

It's just not been easy, my friends in family, to bring everyone to date. Had it been so, you know I would've had much to say far earlier. We've been working very hard, riding about ten miles a day on bike (everyday #legday) in the heat of the day that indexes to one-hundred-and-nine-degrees because we have lost the privilege of a vehicle due to a miscommunication. I, in my naïveté, had not been
informed neither considered a factor which should have caused me to budget our allotted miles much more carefully (pulling a #keaton). Before I knew it, we had driven an additional four-hundred miles more than our limit. Almost twice as much as we are allowed. Thus, using the car has not been even sort up for consideration. The bike I have been using, I learned recently, has a plethora of issues and is hardly considered functional. Thanks be to God for placing Brother Michael Chavez, a member of the ward, in my path. Brother Chavez possesses bikes left behind by missionaries, fixes and enhances them, and gives them to missionaries with bike problems. It's his hobby, and my huge blessing. My Piece Of Scrap, bucket-of-nuts bicycle was traded for a much better, red, shiny bicycle. In lieu of the absence of previous updates, I have the demonic bicycle to thank, the hellacious exhaustion, and the following excuse:

The most recent Monday began as a normal preparation day. Elder Andrasko and I scheduled to help the sister missionaries move from one apartment to the next for a few hours. I've learned "moving a few boxes" is code for organize, clean, and move every square inch of the habitation to another; I should not have been surprised the effort took us four hours even with the help of another elder companionship and the mission housing coordinators. Of course we made it fun, and the housing
coordinators insisted upon buying seven missionaries burgers and shakes at the local fast-food 'Spangles' joint. Of course, we could not refuse. After the meal, however, our preparation day was spent. Many emails were not written among each of us. Directly after our late lunch, we had a dinner. So, I ate (and drank) one burger, a plate of fries, lemonade, the bun of a burger belonging to a gluten deathly intolerant Sister Anderson, a shake, the forsaken remainder of a Sister Tim's shake, a prime-rib steak, cranberry juice, and key-lime pie in the space of two hours. Never before had I experience pain from overeating like this before, but I enjoyed every minute before the pain fell upon me.

I would like to talk about our first-place investigators, Crystal Cain and Javier.

Crystal Cain -

Crystal is in her late thirties, early forties. Crystal divorced Brother Seth Horn (a recovering alcoholic returning from inactivity) many years ago. Crystal has three children: Elijah 12, Rebecca 8, and Richard about 5. Elder Madson, myself, and Elder Andrasko were all very intimidated by Seth's arnings of his ex-wife. However, it was clear we must contact her.

In our very first meeting, we brought a freshly returned missionary: formerly Elder Kendall Winterhalter serving in a Spanish-speaking California mission for backup. The lesson was wonderful! All of us discussed baptism by reviewing the Baptismal Interview Questions. Crystal wants to support Elijah and Rebecca by being baptized with them. Crystal is so kind. Unfortunately, we fell prey to another's unrighteous judgement. But as Pahoran states in The Book of Mormon after being falsely "censured" by Captain Moroni, "it mattereth not."

Our second visit was an excellent lesson. Elder Andrasko, Kendall and I committed Crystal to read 3 Nephi 11, the crowning moment of The Book of Mormon, when Jesus Christ first appears to the Nephites. We answered Crystal's myriad of questions from the chapter. The conversation was moved by the Spirit concerning a "a small voice [that] did pierce them to the very soul" (verse 3). It's so refreshing to converse rather than lecture! The Spirit definitely present, we discussed all doctrines of the restoration subsequently.

Our third and most recent visit too was a great lesson in which we discussed Enos and the questions
she procured while reading the chapter we left to her following visit number two. The doctrine of Christ (faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, enduring to the end) was taught and happily received By Crystal. The Doctrine and Covenants was introduced in response to a misapprehension of the practice of polygamy within the church. As we did so, Crystal's desire for a testimony of the restoration deepened.

Javier -

Javier prefers 'Javi'. He hates Javier, but I'm using it for the sake of the preserving as many memories as possible. He's about thirty years old, employed, looks after his niece and living with his mom. Javi is from Mexico. He came to America for a visit, but found himself without a way to return to Mexico. Sixteen years, Javi has lived in the United States and speaks impeccable English. Javi enjoys theatre and often auditions for local theatrical productions.

It's difficult to have spiritual lessons with Javi. I've not discovered what is going on in his home quite yet, but he will not let us inside. After the first three visits, we have never knocked on the door to this very day. Of course we visit with him often, but before we reach the end of the stretch of driveway, Javi clambers through the front door to meet as on the porch. I don't know how he does it. He must feel a disturbance in the force or something. When we try to have a stand up lesson on the porch, Javi's adorably overbearing three-year-old niece, Anasophia (on • a • so • fee • uh), starts pounding on the translucent screen door. "Javi! Javi! Javi!" I can't help myself from being distracted. We play the 'I'll hand it to you, and you will give it back or I'll cry' game. A classic!

Something happened to Javi when he finally agreed to church. Again, Kendall Winterhalter saves our
bacon by providing a mode of transportation. Javi was really skeptic at first, but after some spiritual classes and fellowship, enjoyed church so much, he came again! My jaw hit the floor when I saw Javi at church for the second time. Not because of his attendance, but because of his appearance. In Javi's first time to church he was wearing a casual outfit so insouciant I cannot recall what it was. But this time, Javi cut his hair, donned himself in a sleek button-up shirt, dress slacks, shiny shoes, and
a tie impressive enough a draw the gaze of even an elder missionary. He carried himself nobly, and had a great big smile on his face behind his
gold-rimmed aviators. Just before the end of the third hour, Javier shares with the class an experience that stupors us all. He began to describe a dream he had in which he was baptized a member of a church. When he awoke he spoke to his mother who divinely said, "I just want you to choose a church, and stick with it. I'll support you all the way." Javi's mother is not a member, but I believe her words were inspired of the Holy Ghost.

Javier and Crystal are looking to be baptized in August.

Heaven knows it's not been an easy time. God is helping me to not be such a pansy, I suppose. But without a doubt I see His hand day-to-day, the blessings are immense! Oh how the foolish hearts of men see not the grace of God until they
have been humbled even to the very depths of humility, which humility brings us to our knees and opens our spiritual eyes. Endure, team, because Heavenly Father has sent us His son, our Savior Jesus Christ, and concourses of angels to bear us up through the best as well as the worst of times. Thank you all for prayers, thoughts and concerns. I love you all. God bless you!

Monday, July 11, 2016 hair cut

Anyone remember how I wanted to buzz all my hair for the mission? Well I got what I wanted! It wasn't a bad haircut, it was a choice. Feels great to not have a vat of hair on the top of my head that boils my brain in this heat and humidity. Sorry to all those that enjoyed my hair as much as I did in any reflective surface (;

While I had a little extra time, I started making a list of a few things I've learned on my mission. Thought I would share!

Things I've Learned:

    Iron a white shirt
    Don't soak anything in bleach overnight
    Pizza = BAD
    Don't eat anything that is made at a gas station
    Gas station pizza = DOUBLE BAD
    Don't be over eager while drinking anything not water. Especially red Powerade. (Don't pull "a LaMont").
    Make French Toast
    Cook edible pancakes

You can easily see how just about every one of these things can be learned the hard way. Those of you that know me, know I usually learn in that manner. I'm stubborn like that. I am so grateful for the Savior's atonement, which allows us to become more than what we ever could be on our own. With the power of God, our growth is exponentially greater! Don't do it alone!

Elder Andrasko and I walking along to meet with a former investigator when suddenly:

A soccer grill! Cool! Too bad it's a pub... 

Wait a second... 

A bar and a rival soccer team?! This is a DOUBLE abomination! I have eyes on the enemy! Hold me back! Go RSL!!

It's been a bit of a slow week, but we are still Harvesting in the Heartland at the time of the Hastening! The field is white already to harvest, especially among all of these plains! I love Kansas!

Thank you to my amazing family for the package! Full of some of my favorite things. I find it funny I am so excited to receive socks and underwear when I was sorely disappointed to receive such things as a young child. So many things change with time! I'm definitely learning how better to change, as we should be changing every day. Change was something not very enjoyable for me, but now I love it. It's hard, but it's worth it. So much good comes from change!

Opening a package...

Monday, July 4, 2016

New companion, friends, and adventures...

Well Elder Andrasko (an • draw • sko) is pretty cool. The name Andrasko comes from Russia. His first name is Charles. Elder Andrasko a really big baseball Padres fan. We are both really intense missionaries so we have been working very hard. I enjoy that a lot.

Behold! An amazing photo of Elder Andrasko, holding a lamb. I am quite amused. 

Elder Andrasko's birthday was Saturday the 2nd, and we celebrated by going to Buffalo Wild Wings.
The missionary that trained Elder Andrasko, Elder Colemere (cole • meer), shares the same birthday so he came along with his companion Elder Stock. There was a bacon cheeseburger on the menu so you all know what I had to eat for lunch. I sampled a few sauces with fries though! That same morning, we played soccer as Elders in the zone. I scored two goals! Brace! One of them was down the center outside of the box, and the other was the final and winning goal of the game: a header to the upper-ninety! I could have had a hat-trick if my diving header was on-target. So close!

When Sunday came, there was a really hysterical testimony given about a missionary in Texas who was talking to a man about the multitude of churches in the world. The man says, "What's your
favorite part of the chicken?" The missionary answers, "The wings." The man guffaws and says, "You see? Churches are like different meats to a chicken. There is something for everyone even though not all agree. There is truth in every religion!" The missionary humbly, but boldly, responds, "Sir. I'm sorry, but we have the whole chicken." Everyone cracked up in the congregation.

I can't keep myself away from the pulpit at this point. It is my third time in the month I have been in
this ward. I'm notorious. All the people whisper to their visiting family as I climb the steps, "Watch this. This missionary..." (I didn't catch the rest of it). When it came time for me to begin speaking, I had to reference it when telling a story of meeting a middle-aged couple in their front yard. We approach them, and immediately the man yells, "We're not interested!" At this point, it is so easy to walk away. But the Spirit knows better. "We can still offer some assistance!" I call to him. It was clear they were trying to center a new window in their garage. Sometimes you just have to force service on other people. If you leave it up to them, you'll end up with nothing. I steadied the window while the man and the woman gazed at the placement of the window. It wasn't long before we began to talk about faith, repentance, baptism, and the Book of Mormon. When we had finished helping and concluded our conversation with them, the man says, "I'm really sorry. I thought you guys were the J-Dubs [referring to Jehovah's Witnesses]. You're the good guys! Thanks for spreading the word. Come back any time!" When I told this story over the pulpit, I said while adjusting my tie, "Well dang! It's about time we get some respect around here!"

There's an awesome less-active member in the ward named Mike Gonzales. We call him 'Gonzo'
(gone • zo). Gonzo sells tacos and the like in a taco truck all across town. We came across him one day and he gave us free enchiladas and a coke! While we were eating, we hear this massive explosion. We start moving toward the sound, curious. A couple of red-necked shirtless hillbillies come around the corner whooping and throwing their hands in the air. One hand full of fireworks, the other with a can of beer and a cigarette between two fingers. It marked the beginning of all the fireworks that were yet to come. They are going off almost all night. I've learned Kansas is really patriotic. For the first short while, I began to duck and cover at the sound of some of the really loud ones. I think they're gunshots. Sometimes I get to a full sprint to hide around a porch. It provides some good laughs for Elder Andrasko.

Check this out... Wait for it.... Wait for it.... 

I know I'm such a child, but this is the funniest thing ever! Caution: Blind Person Driving! Haha! I'm here to admit my first thought was, "Blind person driving? That seems really dangerous. That driver must be really skilled." Guys! How in the world am I not dead in a ditch somewhere, yet be so gullible? There is a God! That's how!

Sister Pedersen and Elder LaMont

This is Sister Pedersen, formerly known as Shelby. Reunited! Isn't this cool? Mission selfie with my kindergarten crush! Oh yeah! We had a good laugh about that!

Ben and Elder LaMont

This awesome kid's name is Ben. Ben is the grandson of Sister Pinkerton, and he is the coolest cat in all of Kansas. This mad-genius played piano for me, beat me at chess, and speaks German! He wanted his hair done, but his mother did not have the time. I offered to spike his hair up with my gel. Dad, François has been reincarnated and I told Ben the story #legacy. He wanted "all of it spiked up, so it looks like my head is on fire." His mother gave the okay, and that's exactly what I did.

This is a picture of my arm with my wristwatch removed. This is only done in the shower and playing soccer. To preserve my dignity, it is my claim that this hellacious farmer tan is a method of checking the progress of bronzing my skin to a desired pigmentation.

Oh the joy of missionary work is real! I am loving every second of my days in Kansas! Thank you, all of you for your undying support and prayers. I am so grateful for you.