Wednesday, July 16, 2014

July 13, 2014

Mom, Dad, and Family,

This week has been a blast.  Quite frankly, the transfer has flown by way too fast.  But if it were going slow, that means it probably wasn't good.  So the fact it went fast is positive.  I don't know if that made any sense.

The Lord blessed us so much (probably too much) this week.  We fulfilled almost all of our goals (which is a rarity...Elder King likes to set high goals--and I like his optimism, it helps me), and we superseded some of them as well.  We found some investigators that really kind of came out of nowhere.

The first one is Randy.  Randy's name isn't really Randy.  It's like Shoiniati (all I really know is it's Thai).  He moved here from Taiwan just about a year ago if I remember correctly, and instantly joined Jehovah Witnesses.  Well, I don't know if he got the memo about not looking at religious propaganda, but he made his way over to and ordered a bible.  So we delivered it and that was how we met.  I'm not sure how exactly it happened because neither one of us could understand each other (my Mandarin is a little rusty) but somehow we set up a return appointment.  Well we got there this week and we helped him order a Mandarin Book of Mormon (which again, I'm not sure how we did it because we changed the website to Mandarin).  Clearly God's hand was in all this.  We taught him the last half of the Restoration and set up another return appointment.  He's really cool and has a lot of faith and knowledge.  He was asking us about the Book of Mormon and was taking notes as we answered his questions.  He probably has the Book of Mormon already and knows more about it than I do.  So that was cool.

The next one we found was also part of a referral.  We got a referral for a less active member in the Spanish ward (which I thought was a little weird, but maybe they thought we had the gift of tongues or something).  She was less active but the rest of the family were non members.  So we took a little bike ride over there and popped in.  Well, Sister Razo was very happy to see us and spoke English (which made it easier for me to translate).  She was expecting us.  Apparently she was the one who sent the referral (which I think is pretty cool, because not a lot of people refer themselves).  Turns out she has a 6yo grandson living with her who has a severe bone disease that could take his life.  It is on the up and up, but they still wanted a blessing.  He has a little sister, an older sister, and his parents with him.  After the blessing, his mom went to work, grandma watched the baby, older sister was on the tablet, and he zoned out.  So we taught his father.  It. Was. Awesome.  This experience has changed his life, humbled him, and made him look to God for help.  He was so invested in the lesson, it was amazing.  All of his questions were honest, all of his answers to ours were sincere and true.  He is just ready.  We're teaching his family when we go over this week.

The last investigator that we found we tracted into (I actually like tracting more than any other missionary I know.  Because it works when my faith is in the right place).  Anyway, this guy opens the door and his name is RoShawn.  It sounds like the last name for a football player who plays for an Eastern college team.  He's tall too.  So he opens the door and we didn't say much but we set up an appointment for Sunday.  Went over, taught him a lesson and he says he wants to read the Book of Mormon.  Pretty sweet stuff.  He's a good guy.  He said things like "Well the church has been corrupted since the renaissance," or "Everybody understands the bible differently, so I don't like the controversy between the churches," or "God would teach in a way we could understand," or "We should go to God for truth."  We're got it pretty right.  It was way good.  We're seeing him this week too.  We have a lot of lessons set up with people this week.  More than we ever have before.

But I got moved today.  I'm now serving in the Upland 5th ward with Elder Depew (It's pronounced duh-pew--which also sounds like a college football player's last name).  He's a way happy guy and loves serving here.  It should be a great transfer.  I'm glad you got the text from Brother Mejia.  He's the bomb diggaty.  One time his wife (a recent convert) took a month to go to Texas.  So he had like nothing to do.  So he'd go for 4 hour splits with us every night.  It was pretty great.  I'm gonna miss that family.

Andrew, one of our less active members, since we started working with him, has been coming to church.  We've taught him just about every lesson there is in Preach My Gospel and he's eaten it up.  He now reads his scriptures, prays, attends church, and is one of the best guys I know.  The Bishop pulled him in a couple of weeks ago and talked to him about going on a mission.  Andrew said he'd pray about it.  Well yesterday he told me he got an answer and he'll turn in his papers as soon as he can.  It blew me away.  I'm gonna miss him too.

The Cortez family is doing pretty well.  John (oldest son) is struggling doing what's right.  Pray for him.  Pray for the whole family, but especially him.  He's a good kid, he just needs help.  That help is with God, but I don't know if he realizes that.

But the new ward I'm serving in is in the Robbins' stake.  I wanted to go to Upland 3rd, but there are Sisters there right now.  One of the Sisters was in my district for the past two transfers.  She's super cool.  Her name is Sister Riley.  Tell the Robbins to treat her well.  We had a lot of fun in Ontario.  Maybe I'll see the Robbins some time, because I think we have Stake Conference coming up here in Upland.  That will be cool.

So there's this missionary I was room mates with last transfer.  His name is Elder Fenn.  He has a lot of talks from General Authorities, and motivational speakers like John Bytheway and Hank Smith (the guy who does the Dos and Don'ts of Dating and Running Down Your Dreams).  Well he was playing this talk by Hank Smith about temptation killers and he was speaking about scriptures.  One of the thoughts he had concerning the scriptures came from Matthew 4--the commencement of the Savior's ministry by way of fasting.

Well in the chapter, as we know, Satan comes to tempt Jesus.  Now the first temptation makes sense; Jesus has been fasting for forty days and is probably hungry (I get hungry after four hours).  So Satan tempts him by saying "If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread."  Christ, in his strength of Spirit answers back with scripture and resists.

In the next temptation, Satan and Jesus go up to the top of the temple and Satan says "cast thyself down..."  Now, I've never really been on top of a temple, but to me it would never be tempting to jump off the top of one.  Of course the temptation has to do with misuse of Christ's power and authority and charge over angels to keep him safe.  Nevertheless, Jesus doesn't cave.

Now the last temptation has never really made sense to me.  The Devil takes Jesus to a mountain and shows him all the kingdoms of the world and says "All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me."  To me, that has never made sense.  Christ knows that the kingdoms don't belong to Satan anyway.  They aren't Satan's to give.  So why would it be even remotely close to tempting for the Devil to say that.

But Hank Smith made sense of it for me.  He said "Here's what I think he's really saying.  He saying 'I'll give this all to you.  I won't even try.  I'll stop tempting and creating sin in the world and turn it over to you, if you just give up.  You won't have to perform the atonement.  You won't have to feel pain.  I will give you the world without sin, if you give up and worship me.'"  I thought that was powerful.  I had never thought that that was the true temptation for the Lord.  Not of material possessions or power on earth or position in the world.  But the offer for your adversary to quit, if you give up.  That must have been a struggle.

I think there are a lot of things in our lives that Satan does that with.  "Sin here.  If you sin here, life will be easy for you.  I'll make it easy."  That's probably one of the only reasons sin is enticing after all.  "Keeping commandments is unnecessary.  You don't need that burden.  I'll make it easier for you.  Just give up."  But giving up is a surrendering of agency.  We cannot be happy if we give up.

I love you all and thank you for all of your support and prayers.  They really do work.  I miss you, and pray for you everyday.  Keep living righteously.  Keep the commandments.  I'm excited about my new assignment, but I'll miss my old ward. ;)

Elder Russell

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