North Carolina Charlotte Mission

Behold, O Lord, their souls are precious, and many of them are your brethren; therefore, give unto us, O Lord, power and wisdom that we may bring these, our brethren, again unto thee. -Alma 31:35

Thursday, February 21, 2013

2/18/13 "It'sh Shnowing!!!!"

I'd say "diligence" would describe this last week. We've made sure to work very hard every single day, even if we haven't had success. I take comfort from Preach My Gospel, which assures me that No Effort Is Wasted.

Attitude is just so important. Some missionaries are not fond of knocking on doors. I can't say that I love it, since I know that there are more effective ways of finding people to teach, but I can have fun out of it, and it is very fulfilling for me. It's a win-win situation: if nobody answers the door, you move on to the next one. If they are not interested, you move on to the next one. If they are interested, then you get to teach them. Where's the con here?
It's even more fun if your companion and yourself make little games every now and then, like having to work a certain word into a door contact. Elder Christensen, my District Leader, suggested "apostolic interregnum."

Monday night a member of our ward, Brother Ritter, called us up to ask our help in moving a washing machine. The game plan was that we needed to take his old washing machine -- one of those old, big, heavy ones -- located on the second floor, move it downstairs and out the front door to the garage, and then take his new one from the shed in his backyard through the front door and put it upstairs. Brother Ritter is 67 and Elder Shumway is a pencil, so I knew who was going to have to do the bulk of the work here. Thankfully, I was strengthened by the Lord and somehow managed to haul both laundry machines down and up the stairs. It was a wonderful experience, and I had a great time.

Saturday night found us in a snowstorm five miles from our bikes, late in the evening with no appointments and very low probability of teaching a lesson, due to the weather. It was a situation where we'd probably have been very justified in just staying home and working about the apartment. But, of course, I'm a trainer, and I felt that I needed to set a good example for Elder Shumway. I want him to be a diligent missionary -- to be better than I am at everything, in fact -- so while I probably would have sat indoors under other circumstances, that night I decided to get up and keep working, braving the snow and the weather. We didn't get in any doors that night, and the going was slow since we didn't have our bikes, but the Lord knew that we were trying to be diligent, and I know that He will remember us.

Sadly, the snow scared the members here, and Church was canceled. I was very put-out. It's crazy how much you look forward to Church when you spend your entire week talking to people about the Gospel.

This was an important week for me. I remembered a lot of important things that I'd sort of forgotten:

1) We are here to invite people to come unto Christ. We are not here to prove that the Book of Mormon is true, or that Joseph Smith was a prophet, or that President Monson is a prophet. We are the Lord's representatives and we are here to teach people about Him. Everything else will naturally follow if they gain a testimony of Him.

2) As missionaries, we must respect people's agency. We will constantly invite, we will constantly teach and exhort, but we must respect people's agency. Too often we are in such a hurry -- since we might be transferred at any moment -- that we end up pushing people. This is not the Lord's way. He does not force the Atonement upon us any more than He forced us to follow Heavenly Father's plan and come to earth.

3) Lightning bolts during a snow-storm look really cool.
Well, I love you all so very much. I am safe, I am sound, I love getting letters. I know that the Savior lives, and that the Book of Mormon is true. I love my companion, I love my area, I love my Mission President, I love my mission!

Hurrah for Israel!

Elder Fisher  

2/11/13 "Ask the missionaries!"

Hamlet: "To be, or not to be?"
Elder Nelson: "Ask the missionaries!"

* * *

The last few days have been an incredible experience. Elder Nelson came to our mission, which was amazing, but he also visited my stake, so I got to hear from him not once, but three times, which was even more amazing.

Let me share my testimony with you that there are prophets on the earth today. There were no miracles or manifestations while Elder Nelson was there. His face didn't shine like Moses' did when he descended from the mountain. However, I cannot doubt that that man is an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. There was such an incredible difference from when he was in the room and when he was not. The Spirit he brought with him was so powerful. It was the most wonderful and comforting feeling, and I loved every second that he talked.

Honestly, I didn't do all that much exciting this week. I went on exchange with Elder Brown and his pants ripped open, so that was pretty fun. We also ran out of pass-along cards this week. In slight frustration, I asked Heavenly Father to find us some way to leave an invitation with someone instead. Literally seconds later, we found a $5 bill on the ground. I wrote "" on it and gave it to the next person we talked to on the condition that she visit the site before she spent the money. Prayer answered. 

But I won't dwell too much on the rest of the week, since I feel that what Elder Nelson said is more important for you to hear. So, I'll sum up:

1. I asked Elder Nelson "When did you first know the Book of Mormon was true? Was there a verse or experience that made you realize you knew?" In response, Elder Nelson told me his testimony of the Book of Mormon. He said that the Lord has two great promises that He has yet to fulfill; the first is that the Savior will come back, and the second is that Israel will be gathered. As I see it, this means that all nations of the world will receive the Gospel.Elder Nelson said that the Book of Mormon is the great instrument that the Lord will use to fulfill His great promise.

2. Elder Nelson asked us to imagine the Savior; a portrayal of Him, like perhaps the Christus statue or the Del Parson picture that we all know. Any picture of the Savior; what we see when we think of Him. He asked us to put a one-word caption on that image. What would you put?

3. There were two parts to the Savior's life: His mission, or the Atonement, and His ministry, the things He did. Only the Savior could complete the Atonement; it was what allowed Moses 1:39 to come to pass. We can't emulate the Savior's mission, but we can emulate His ministry. The Savior's love was always manifested by service.

4. Perfection is an immortal result. Even the sinless, error-less Lord did not claim perfection in this life.

During the morning session of Stake Conference, Elder Nelson asked all the children in the congregation to stand up and sing "I Am a Child of God." Afterward, he gave the members of list of things that we must do:

1. Teach the children what it means to be a Child of God.
2. Teach the children to love the Lord Jesus Christ. Teach them to love the sacrament. Help them understand that this is Christ's Church.
3. Teach the children the importance of the prophets, especially the modern-day prophets.
4. Teach the children that the Book of Mormon is a gift of God.
5. Teach the children of the importance of the scriptures.
6. Teach the children about the restoration of the Priesthood.
7. Teach the children about the temple. Have pictures of it in your house.
8. Love your children. Let them know you trust them. Correct them with love, quietly, privately, and compassionately. Raise your sons to be missionaries.
9. Teach the children about tithing.

To conclude his remarks, Elder Nelson told all of us about the work of the Lord. In very calm, comforting tones, he told us that "things are speeding up, time is running out." I know this to be true. What a privilege I have to be a part of this great work, at this time of the world!

Eventually, Elder Nelson had to leave. I got to shake his hand after all three meetings with him, and every time all I could say was "I love you." What a wonderful man. I was so sad to see him go. The very feeling of the chapel changed when he left.

It made me think: if I was so sad to see an Apostle leave, I could only imagine what it would have been like for the Nephites, watching the Savior leave. To this day, one of my favorites stories of all time was when the Savior saw the Nephites in tears, wanting him to stay just a little longer with them. They had waited all their lives for this moment, and they didn't want Him to leave just yet. Please, just a little longer, they said. Well, faced with that, the Lord of the Universe simply had to stay, just a little longer. He stayed and blessed their children, one by one. What I would give to have been one of those children.
I know that the Savior lived. I know that the Book of Mormon is true. I know that we are led by prophets today. I love you all, and I love my mission. Hurrah for Israel!

Elder Fisher

2/4/13 "Don't touch it! It's evil!!"

"Mom! Dad! It's EVIL! Don't touch it!"

"And again I would exhort you to come unto Christ, and lay hold upon every good gift, and touch not the evil gift, nor the unclean thing." -- Moroni 10:30.

Yet another example of the eternal Gospel truths contained in the last 5 minutes of Time Bandits.

* * *
Wow, what a week. I think that "Persistence" would be a good way of describing it. Not so much diligence, but persistence. We got kicked out of a lot of apartment complexes this week, and at times like those you've just got to go someplace else. The Work must go on. 

Turns out there are a lot of Hindus in Charlotte. I know this because Elder Shumway and I knocked into most of them during the last few days. Along with the weather doing a Merry-Go-Round this past week, it has been quite the adventure. I've had big black guys I've never met before give me hugs, I've had old white guys I've never met before panic and tell me to "Don't get any closer!" and I even had some atheist with a bee in her bonnet attempt to start an argument.

On fun highlight from this week was when we knocked on the door of a young man who was Skyping with his girlfriend in Italy. We went in and left a blessing with them. That girl was able to have a quality spiritual experience several thousand miles away. It was pretty awesome, I'm not gonna lie. What a world we live in!
I have also learned a new word. We taught a man named Reginald last Wednesday. (The quotes "Reg! Reginald Fairfield!" and "Sir Reginald! Of Chutney!" flashed through my brain many a time during this lesson.)  He was a rather heavy smoker, and as we were talking with him I could tell that he was very antsy, twitching and jerking like he had something on his mind. After we'd finished the lesson, I asked him if he was alright.
"Yeah, I'm good," he said. "I'm just Jonesing."
"You're what?"
"Jonesing. I have a Jones right now."
"What's a Jones?"
Apparently a "Jones" is a craving. Truly I have neglected my education if I have never heard of this term before.

Brother Green, our Community of Christ investigator, brought up an interesting point with us in one of our lessons with him. He said, "In your church you have this very all-or-nothing approach to everything. You'll never see someone stand up in Fast and Testimony meeting and say, 'I believe the Book of Mormon is a very good book with many elements of truth in it.' They say, 'I know the Book of Mormon is true.'"
And that statement is completely true. Our Church is a very bold one. We aren't happy with saying that Joseph Smith was a man with good ideas, or that the Book of Mormon is a fun read, or that our Church is a rather good one. We aren't happy with saying that Jesus Christ was just a good moral teacher. To echo my man C.S. Lewis, that option has not be left to us. The Savior did not intend it that way. Either the Book of Mormon is true, or it's not. To echo my man Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, you cannot leave or deny this Church without crawling around, over, or under the Book of Mormon. You can't just say it's inspired, because Joseph Smith claimed to have talked with Moroni.You either have to take it or leave it.

The Book of Mormon is indeed true, and Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet. The Savior was not just a great moral teacher, He was the Son of God, and our Advocate with the Father. If you are not reading the Book of Mormon every day and praying about it, you need to start doing so now. It is a crucial part of having a strong testimony.
I love my mission, I love my companion, and I love you all. Hurrah for Israel!

Elder Fisher

1/28/13 "Marsupials in Madagascar"

Well, Jacob, I guess you didn't make your first flight from the premortal life.  It's mind-boggling to me that you're headed off on your mission already. Seems like just a few months ago we were wishing Samuel farewell. Time flies, eh?

And speaking of time flying, as of last Friday I am 1/4 of my way through my mission.


Disclaimer: I am not counting down the days here. Running 7 miles (63 laps) three days a week made me the sort of person who keeps track of fractions. End disclaimer.

But it's been a pretty good first six months. This last week has been particularly great. Elder Shumway and I have had to learn a lot of things. First, we had to learn to talk to everyone. Once we got that down, we had to learn how to plan effectively. After that, we had to learn how to find people effectively, and now we're working on teaching effectively. Thankfully, the Spirit helps and guides, all the time.

There is a finding technique that President Craven has been teaching, called the Savior's Peace and Blessing. You see, when a missionary knocks on the door, there may be some preliminary chit-chat, but eventually you get to this: "Can we share this message with you?" And they either say yes or no. (Generally no.)

But the Savior's Peace and Blessing is slightly different. You instead offer to bless their home, praying with them and their family. Hopefully they invite you in, you call the family into the room, you ask for who you can pray for, and you leave a blessing with them. It is not a prayer, it is a blessing. You do not begin "Dear Heavenly Father," but "In the name of Jesus Christ," just like you would with any Melchizedek Priesthood blessing.
There are a few advantages to this. First, "May we leave this blessing with you?" sounds a lot less threatening than "May we give this message to you?" It also sounds like it goes more quickly, so the pressed on time are more willing to go with it. Secondly, people are most likely to listen when they feel the Spirit testify to them, and leaving a blessing can be a very powerful witness from the Spirit. After you finish leaving the blessing, you can usually segway into teaching a lesson.

However, there's a catch. In order to for this to work, you have to be a good missionary. You have to be diligent, you have to be obedient, you have to have a testimony, and you have to be clean. In short, you have to have the Spirit with you if you're going to be able to leave a blessing with any sort of power. If you are slacking off in any way, your blessing will just be words, and these people won't feel anything. Any bum with a name tag can ask "Can we share a message with you?" but only a devoted witness of the Lord Jesus Christ can leave a blessing.

This week, Elder Shumway and I used the Savior's Peace and Blessing in our finding activities. Every time we left a blessing with someone who it was possible for us to teach, we taught a lesson afterward. (Can't go in the home if it's a single lady, but you can bless the home anyway.) So, to put this in simpler terms: people felt the Spirit, and wanted more. It's incredible -- both Elder Shumway and I have been prompted to say things in these blessings which could only have been given to us by the Spirit.

Using this blessing, for example, we were able to teach the Wickware family: a mom of four kids and her sister. We've since taught them twice, and they came with us on a church tour, attended church, and went to lunch with the Vailahi family (more on the Vailahi's in a second.) We're teaching them again on Tuesday. The oldest boy's going to play basketball with the priests on Wednesday, too. So hopefully we'll be seeing some real growth before too long!
Again, feeling extremely blessed.

Two quick stories:

1. I was on exchange with my District Leader Elder Merrell this week. As we were biking out of an apartment complex, we hear a man shout, "My Mormon brothers!"
"What'd you say?" I ask.
The following conversation went something like this:
"Hey guys! I'm one of you! I joined the Church in the 90's! Elder Orchard and Elder Kilpatrick!"
"That's awesome! What's your name?"
"Can we talk with you?"
"Ah, no. Not right now."
"'Cuz I'm high."
"On what?"
"Now now, Maurice, you know you're not supposed to do that."
"Now we're going to come back tomorrow at 3. You're going to be sober when we come back, right?"
I love being a missionary.

2. The Vailahis are a family from Tonga. (To the Lynn McMurray family: did you ever know a Patriarch Vailahi Tonga? They asked me to ask you.) Brother Vailahi is a professional wrestler. You know, the fake wrestling. He is HUGE. His wrestling name is The Barbarian, and he and his partner Warlord make up the Powers of Pain. One of the times he had us over to his house for dinner, he told us about what he did. In his own words, he is a "bad guy," or "heel," and it is his job to beat up the "good guy," or "baby face," and then lose. He's still doing it, about thirty years or so. He's even in some video games, where his special move is a boot to the head. Awesome? You'd better believe it!
Well, I've gone and run out of time again. I'll tell you more next week. I love my companion, I love my mission, and I love you all!
Hurrah for Israel!

Elder Fisher