Wednesday, July 23, 2014

July 21, 2014

Mom, Dad, and Family,

It was so weird to see Sister Robbins and Brooke and Julia last week.  I knew I was going to see them soon, but I didn't know how soon.  And that was way soon.  I was with Elder Depew at our church building to go meet some German exchange students that are here for a month.  There were two outside of the church and so Elder Depew and I started talking to them about the church and the Book of Mormon.  They seemed interested enough and were asking us about missionary work when the Robbins came out.  Julia was hilarious!  She was like "I wanna hug you but I can't.  Can I touch you?  Let's get a picture!"  We talked for a little bit and then they left and I turned back to the exchange students.  One of them said "You guys are famous."  Elder Depew and I started laughing.  But she honestly thought we were celebrities.  So, because of the Robbins, I achieved celebrity status in less than five hours in Upland.  It was pretty sweet.

But then we got to the apartment.  Man...that was a disaster.  Poor Elder Depew, he had lived there for a transfer already and his last companion didn't want to clean the entire time they were there.  So we spent a lot of time cleaning and fixing things.  We even had to fix the AC.  We rearranged everything and threw a whole bunch of junk away and organized and redid the area book.  The area book still needs a lot of work, but it'll get there.  It was nuts.  We've probably spent a solid 10 hours cleaning this week.  But now the apartment looks pretty good.  I'm proud of it.

But the rest of the work is going well, too!  Elder Depew is the bomb.  He's super humble and kind to everyone (we're like total opposites).  I don't think he's ever not picked something good out of everything.  He's like Polyanna...except...he's male.  But it's so awesome being with him.  He's also so willing to work.  He doesn't complain (like I said, we're opposites), and just works.

So we decided to tract our entire area.  It's not very big and we thing we can do it all in this transfer.  And we're instituting the Gandalf principle.  The Gandalf principle was made up by a couple of my Zone Leaders when they were companions.  They were talking about investigators and potential investigators.  But then Elder Simpson was like "But what about the people that are nice to you but tell you they're not interested?  Where do they go in the area book?"  Because you have records for potential investigators and investigators, but not just nice people.  So Elder Ercanbrack and Elder Simpson came up with this idea for the area book.  They never did it, but they decided it would be cool to have a section in the area book for people you tract into that are nice but not interested.  Because there are people all the time that tell us they're not interested but will ask us if we need water.  So they go into this record of people that are nice.  Elder Ercanbrack said "It's kind of like you're Gandalf.  You just kind of wander around, and you know everyone, and everyone knows you, but you aren't really close or anything and you don't really associate with one another except for brief periods of time."  And so Elder Depew and I (since we're tracting our entire area this transfer) are instituting the Gandalf principle so we can keep tract of nice people in Upland.  And if we ever need water or anything, we just stop by one of their houses and ask for a drink--so we can build friendships and what not.  It's super nerdy and crazy hard to update, but it's fun.

Other than that, the missionaries in the past haven't been doing a whole lot of teaching and their teaching has been more like visiting (which is kind of a problem in missionary work) and so we're working on fixing that.  And they were visiting the wrong kinds of people as well.  But that's all changing, and this week we found the first investigator this ward has had in a month.  It was cool.

We went to visit this less active last night.  Elder Depew went off pure inspiration.  And this less active hasn't been home all week long.  Well,  he was last night and everyone was home.  Now the only non-member in the home is his wife.  For the past couple of years, he's been trying to get her to listen to the missionaries.  But she won't because she drinks, drinks coffee, and smokes and she doesn't want to give them up.  But we walked in and sat down and asked if she wanted to join us.  She said not really, but she sat down for a little bit.  We said a prayer, and started talking with her.  We taught her a few points and she left the room.  Later she came back a listened for a few minutes and then left.  Finally she came back and looked at me and said "Here's the deal, friend--because I like you--you come up with something really good and really convincing and I'll sit down and listen to you.  If I like it, I'll keep listening.  If I don't I won't listen to you."  I thought fair enough, you weren't really listening to us in the first place so we don't really have anything to lose.  "But I'm not setting up an appointment."  She said...don't know why that was important, but she said it. "It'll be the challenge of your mission."  "What?  You'll be the challenge of my mission?"  I asked.  "Yes."  She replied.  I looked her square in the eye and with a smile said "Challenge accepted."  We all had a pretty good laugh.  It was fun.

We have lessons set up with four potential investigators this week.  Which is pretty crazy.  We're going to teach some of the German students as well and give them German Books of Mormon.  I'm excited.  It'll be great.  The work is going well.

So there was a promise that was given by Elder Bednar to Missionaries one Christmas in the MTC.  He said that if we read the Book of Mormon with a specific question in mind concerning an attribute of Christ we would like to develop, and we highlight and mark our Book of Mormon with passages that stick out to us and the Spirit prompts us to concerning that attribute; at the end of that read through, if we write a page about what we've learned we'll develop that attribute a lot in our lives.  So I started doing that and it's awesome.  You all should give it a try.

I love and miss you all so much.  Upland is pretty cool.  I'm happy to be here and to work hard.  I pray for you all.

Elder Russell

P.S.  I heard the Robbins family is coming to visit you all.  Tell me all about it.

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