Monday, August 25, 2014

August 25, 2014

Mom, Dad, and Family,

I didn't realize that Saho was leaving so soon.  That's crazy.  I guess she has been there longer than I thought.  A month or so right?  Wow, that's nuts.  This transfer has flown by so fast it is ridiculous.  I got Robyn's email; sounds like she had a lot of fun with Saho.  Keep in touch with her.  This week was transfers.  Which is crazy because I feel like last transfer just started.  But nonetheless, I got here six weeks ago and it has been awesome.  Elder Depew and I are staying in the Upland 5th ward for another transfer together.  Poor guy, it's his fifth transfer here.  But he's got a really positive attitude towards it.  He's a great guy and he loves being a missionary.  The work is going great too!  He hasn't had the success in this area that he's deserved and I think that's why he's still here.  Because we have a lot of things going well this transfer and things are looking up.

A couple of weeks ago we tracted into this lady named Marie.  Marie is a Catholic and didn't seem very interested but she was nice to us (we keep track of those people....we know a lot of people).  Well when the conference with Elder Nelson came a little closer we decided to invite her because we kind of just wanted to invite everyone and she fell under that category.  So we went over to her house and invited her.  She said maybe and we talked for a little bit and because not a lot of people are familiar with the idea of a modern prophet, we taught her a little bit about prophets and then said a prayer and left.  Well we came by again the next Friday (last Friday) just to see if she was still okay to go.  But we decided we were going to stay a little longer and see if she was interesting in learning more about our church.  We knock on her door and we start talking and she says "You know, you guys come over and are so nice and I never invite you in.  Come on in and we'll sit down and talk."  Well...that made everything easy.  So she invited us in and showed us around her house and her family and her dogs (she has like 37 of them), and then we sat down and started teaching the first lesson.  Well, sometimes it's really hard to keep the focus in the first lesson and so it's hard to feel the Spirit in the first visit.  Even though there were still distractions, the Spirit was for sure there.  She started crying during the account of the first vision and we again invited her to see the Apostle.  She definitely said yes and said the closing prayer of the lesson.  She said in the prayer "God, I know I was brought up catholic.  And I know I've been catholic for a long time--but it's okay to change religions, right?  I mean, why not?  I believe there is a prophet again, and Lord, please help me know what you would have me do."  It was pretty cool.  She was there at church and we have two lessons set up with her this week to follow up and we plan on committing her to baptism.  Pray for her this week.  Pray that she'll read the Book of Mormon and pray about it.  Pray that she'll understand what we're teaching and desire to be baptized.  Pray for her to receive a testimony.  She is great.

Hugo and Grace are still doing well.  We weren't able to meet with them last week but we plan to with Bro Pedroche this week.  Hopefully even teach them in the Pedroche home.  That would be awesome.  Hugo is the leader of the family and if he doesn't go to church probably no one will.  Pray for them.  He has a hard time prioritizing and we're trying to help them both see the importance of going to church.  Pray that he'll be helped to know that he needs to come to church for his family.  We're going to try and commit them to baptism this week.  Pray that the lesson will go well and that they'll understand.  Pray that Elder Depew and I will know what to say to help them.  We're excited for this week.

We also had a lesson with a guy named Richard.  He used to be the Sisters' investigator (the other missionaries in the ward), but because he's a male and they have a hard time meeting with him, they gave him to us.  He lives rather far from us and we biked to his house on Tuesday.  He tried to tell us not to come back while we were  on his porch.  We gave him CDs of scripture to listen to, but he hadn't listened to them.  Haha, he said "I haven't had the chance to listen to the CDs, and my schedule wont permit me to go to church.  I don't want to waste your guys' time, you know.  I just think it would probably be better if you guys didn't come back."  My thought process was immediately "I just biked across Upland, into Alta Loma, in 95 degrees, for 30 minutes.  There's no way we're getting dropped right now."  I don't know what happened, but we ended up having a lesson with him and teaching him about prayer and church attendance.  So we'll see what happens.

Thanks so much for the update about home.  Yeah, Bro Robbins sang in a choir for Elder Nelson.  It was really good and I enjoyed it.  His technique is fabulous and the choir was great.  I love that family.  They're all super good people and awesome missionaries.  The conference was great.  I got a side hug from Elder Nelson.  I haven't showered since.  But who would?  Marie met Elder Nelson too.  Haha, he reached out his hand to shake hers and she just hugged him.  I don't know who told her that Mormons just hug each other, but I think she hugged two General Authorities and 30 other people that day.  It was awesome!  She connected with some members really really well.

So I was reading in Alma this week and I thought about the change in government.  There were some crazy things that went on in the end of the book of Mosiah.  It was bazaar.  First, Alma, gets converted, and then, in the next few years, his dad dies, his friends' dad dies and he becomes high priest and chief judge.  Talk about change and repentance.  But then I think about what happens next.  In the next five chapters (about 7 years) he gets the first Anti-Christ, fights a few battle, members of the church fall into apostasy, and thousands of his people die.  I think what a burden that must have been for him.  Just about ten years earlier, he was converted and then everything falls apart.  I imagine the kind of faith it must have taken to hang in there and not forsake his testimony.

I think likewise with us, when we make some good decisions, adversity will probably come.  Satan is going to try his worst to dissuade us from doing the right thing.  He might send some people that persecute our faith.  He might fight against us.  He might kill our brethren, or worse yet (as was also the case with Alma) have our friends leave the faith.  But I think if we can just remember that God will help us pull through, then we'll be alright.  And He always does.  He did with Alma, and he will with you.

I love you all and pray for you.  Thank you so much for your support.  Tell Corynne and Bryce I love them and hope they recover fast.  I miss you all and hope this week goes well for you.  Continue to read your scriptures, pray, go to church and keep the commandments--and don't forget to look up!

Elder Russell

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Hi All,
     Sorry.  I fell behind in publishing Jantzen's last 2 emails.  I just posted Aug. 10 and Aug. 17.  Enjoy them!

August 17, 2014

Mom, Dad, and Family,

This week was a blast!  Elder Depew and I had a ton of success.  We were able to get a lesson in with Hugo and his wife, Grace sat in and participated as well.  It was an awesome lesson.  We brought a member with us and they got along really well.  The Bro Pedroche is Filipino and so is Grace, so some times they were talking in Tagalog.  But Bro Pedroche also served a Spanish speaking mission so sometimes he was talking to Hugo in Spanish (Hugo is Mexican).  So Elder Depew and I just kind of listened...not understanding.

The Spirit was there though, and I think they felt it.  They both said they wanted to come to church (they didn't make it though) and we have a return appointment with them and Brot Pedroche again this week.  So pray it happens.  They're a great family.  Eli was just kind of running around outside.  Which is understandable...he's five.  It was a blessing to be there.

We also had a great week for teaching members (less-active and active).  We taught a quite a few less actives and they seem to be doing better and a little more motivated and receptive (maybe just more receptive...we'll get motivated later) than before.  So that was good too.  Something we're trying to do with our less-actives is get them to come to see Elder Nelson for stake conference since they don't really want to come to regular church.  An Apostle is cooler than we are.

Speaking of church.  I sang the Lord's Prayer yesterday and it was a good time.  Bro Pedroche accompanied me (we're pretty much best friends.  That...and he's just the best piano player in the ward).

Sounds like things with Saho are going well.  I loved the picture of you all driving in the car.  It looks like Saho is comfortable with the family.  Haha, she and Rylie were passed out.  It made me laugh.  I also got the pictures of Rylie and the Cougarettes.  I didn't know Rylie could do a split that well. Pretty impressive and painful looking.  But maybe it gets easier.

We also had a lesson with a new investigator this Sunday who is a member of a friend who comes to church and activities every now and again.  Get this.  He's Jewish, he has studied different religions, and he lives in Fullerton Orange County.  And his undergraduate degree was audio engineering.  Go figure huh?  He's pretty awesome and super open to anything.  He has very little understanding of Christ though and of the need of a Savior in general.  Which makes sense.  We taught Gospel Principles and the lesson was on the Atonement.  He asked the best questions.  And we spent most of class answering them.  Luckily we had a few return missionaries in the class, because I wasn't sure on some of the answers.  But he seemed to understand after a while.

Today was pretty great as well.  Every P-Day, Elder Depew and I go over to some other Elders' house (they have a washing machine) early and have breakfast parties, and then we study together before we go out and do P-Day kind of stuff.  It's a blast.  We think we'll keep the tradition.  We make pancakes...I like pancakes.

Today, we also went up Mt Baldy (this time not to clean up) to a member's house.  It was soo good to be up at a mountain.  We had a ton of fun and there was...air...fresh air.  It was a beautiful experience.  I think I'll keep it (the experience).  We took a lot of pictures.  It's'd think missionaries had never seen trees before.  I took a picture next to a random plant.  I thought it looked cool.

We had Zone Conference this week too.  It was awesome.  And this week, we get to see Elder Nelson.  We're excited.

I miss you all and love y'all to death.  Remember not to touch hot stoves.  You've all taught me so much.  I've learned this week that prayer is so important.  Like, sincere prayer.  And then acting in faith.  Sometimes it can be hard.  But it's always worth it.  I pray for you all and hope all continues to go well. 

Elder Russell
Don't forget to look up!

August 10, 2014

Mom, Dad, and Family,

So...I was not aware how much jam I use when I have it...and in this past week...I've eaten an entire jar.  It was glorious.  And I finished the cookies...which were also glorious.  I think I'll keep eating.

Ooo, sorry to hear about Corynne and Bryce.  That does not sound like a good situation and I will definitely keep them in my prayers.  That is pretty terrifying to have happen.  I'm counting it conspiracy--because let's face it, how many engines just explode and spew hot oil everywhere?  Not many outside of movies with Tom Cruise.  You might want to call the IMF and see what's going on.

This week was good,  I was sore from Mt. Baldy for about four days and still have a pretty nifty bruise (I'm almost hoping it doesn't go away because it looks so crazy).  Needless to say, it was not easy getting up in the morning (it's needless because it's never easy getting up in the morning).  However, my companion and I have been able to do it all week long--and we're still alive, so you gotta count that as a bonus.

We didn't find any new investigators this week, which was kind of a bummer, but the week was still great.  It's pretty much true that as long as you're just committed to serve, you're successful.  We worked pretty hard this week and I would say it's been a stellar week.  We had an awesome weekly planning session--best I've had since I've been out (and I have been out a considerable amount of weeks).  We taught a couple of our investigators and they're reading the Book of Mormon, how cool is that?  The sad part is they won't be our investigators for long because we have to pass them off to the YSA ward, but that's okay because we are still seeing them progress, and that's what matters.

We found this lost sheep last week who hasn't been to church in a decade.  Apparently he joined the church and shortly thereafter was offended by the guy who baptized him and fell away.  So he told us (we were on splits, so a member of my ward and myself) some crazy stories from his life and a little bit about his conversion story and we invited him to come to church.  We told him that as part of our baptismal covenant, we've promised to take care of people like him and to be there when he needs us (huh, I didn't think about it then, but that was what my farewell talk was on).  He told us he'd try and get to church.  It was kind of a "meh" commitment, so we gave him our number and told him to call us if he needed anything.  Typically, they don't call.  No one calls missionaries.  The only time missionaries get called is by their families on Christmas and Mothers Day when the initial call from the missionary gets dropped.  So we didn't really expect him to be at church...and he wasn't.  But then today (like...just a few hours ago) he called us and said "Sorry I couldn't make it to the services man, I got all tied up on Sunday."  Only, it sounded cooler when he said it than it sounded just now because he has a Jamaican accent.  My jaw just about dropped.  That never happens.  So we set up an appointment and we're going to go see him this week.  It was pretty awesome.  He's a good guy.

So this week in Sacrament meeting, I'm singing either The Lord's Prayer or O Divine Redeemer (thought Dad my like to hear about that).  The Pianist actually reminds me a lot of Dad in terms of how he likes things performed.  I handed him Savior Redeemer of My Soul and said that we could play that because one of the Sister Missionaries in the ward plays the violin.  We get half way through the first verse and this guy says "This is boring, Elder.  You don't want to sing this."  And pulls out O Divine Redeemer.  I almost died from laughter.  And  then, on the 31st, we're singing my arrangement of Abide With Me; Tis Eventide.  And get this, the tenor of the quartet knows my friend's mom.  Yeah, he's my friend's mother's bridesmaid's husband.  Go figure, right?  It'll be fun.  But then, also, on the 23rd of this month, I'm going to be in a choir that sings for Elder Nelson  who's coming to the mission and for the Stake Conference here in Upland.  Pretty crazy stuff.  I'm singing every weekend for the next three weeks.  It's like paradise.

We were talking to this former investigator (who is the wife of a less-active) and we were talking about her involvement with the church.  She said "Yeah, we're not church people.  Just not part of our lives at this point in time."  So we got talking about her listening to the missionaries.  "Yeah, at one point in time we were way into it and I was going to get baptized and everything.  But then, for some reason, it just didn't happen."  I thought that was interesting, and so we started asking her "So at one point in time you felt it was right and decided it would be a good decision, right?"  She's said "Yeah I did."  And we asked, "So at some point to felt that it was the true church and that the Book of Mormon was true."  And she said "Yeah."  So something just must have happened and she fell out of the swing of things and never got back into it.  So we set up an appointment and she seemed really happy about us coming over.  We're pretty excited.

But other than that, the work has just been great!  Sounds like you all had fun in SoUtah!  It's a pretty place.  I miss Utah a lot.  How long were you all there?  What're the plans for the fall?  Any other crazy places you are all going to travel?  I recommend a trip to Southern California.  Just kidding.  That would be weird.  I already feel at home here though, it's kind of bazaar.  It wouldn't surprise me if I accidently went tracting when I got home, just because it feels so much like home here with all the people that know people that I know (that sentence didn't make a whole lot of sense, huh?

How's school going to go down this fall?  Are Taylor and Rylie going to do the Harmony School in Happy Valley?

So is my Book of Mormon reading I read Jacob this week.  I'm studying humility this time through and I think it's interesting to see how humility plays out in different people.  For example, we know that  Nephi was humble, and I think Nephi is probably one of the more calm, humble people in the scriptures.  He only did some crazy things every now and again.  Jacob, on the other hand, was a little more harsh than Nephi.  Take Jacob 2, 4, and 7 for example.  However, anytime he does something, Jacob always gives credit to God first.  I thought that was interesting.  Good stuff though.  I love the Book of Mormon.  I think if I were ever stuck to read just one book in my life, it would be Harry Potter One.  Just kidding.  Probably the Book of Mormon.  It's awesome.  I really do just like reading it.  It's  So when people are like "I don't really feel the drive to read."  I just kind of look at them like o.O

I love and miss you all, you're all the best!  Keep reading, praying, going to church and the whole nine yards.  Life is awesome and I love being a missionary.  You're all a great example and I miss being around you and the love you all show to others.  I look up to all of you.

Elder Russell
Don't forget to look up.
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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

August 5, 2014

Mom, Dad, and Family,

I woke up this morning...and had toast.  With jam.  It was great.  Thank you.  Yes!  I did get the package and the cookies with it.  I'm doing my absolute best to eat them in moderation and not glut myself.  But it is not the easiest thing.  Thanks so much for the package.

This week was nuts.  I guess I should start off by telling you why I didn't email you yesterday.  I slept in.  No just kidding.  I would never do that.  The real reason was because President Hobbs cancelled P-Day for most of the valley.  Yeah, weird right?  But just like with everything else President Hobbs does, there was totally a reason for it.  All of the Upland Zone, and some of the Rancho and Ontario Zones were asked to cancel P-Day and go help victims of a mud slide on Mt Baldy (Upland).  On Sunday, there was a terrible mud slide and it destroyed a lot of homes, completely buried some cars, covered roads, and even took the lives of some hikers and drivers.  So we were pulled out at around 9am and were up digging until about 5pm.  The house that I mainly worked on was filled with mud in the kitchen and had water and mud damage throughout the rest of the house.  There was so much mud that in the part next to the door, mud had piled up all except for maybe the top two feet of the door.  We started near the front door and slowly made our way through the house toward the back.  We shoveled the mud into wheelbarrows and then had to carry the wheelbarrows down a flight of stairs outside to wheel them to a dumping point.  There were about 56 missionaries up working there in total and it was a truly humbling experience.  The residents there bought us lunch and asked us who we where.  They managed to keep smiles on their faces while we were there and were very kind.  I guess you really can feel the Spirit digging in the dirt.  It was an incredible experience and I wouldn't trade it for any P-Day.
As for the rest of the week, it was a blast!  I got the stomach flu!  It was great!  Well, other than the fact that we couldn't go out and work it was great.  It was intense, because I vomited so much that I would dry heave because there was nothing left in my stomach.  It was the bomb.
We've also been finding some more.  This week we found three investigators.  It was pretty rad.  One of them came out of nowhere.  It was weird because Elder Depew and I are doing a sweep of the area with tracting.  But one day it looked like we weren't going to have all of our time filled up.  Well, we wanted a small street to fill up that time so we could tract the whole street in the half hour extra we had.  So we decided to tract a little area--but we didn't actually get to it.  I had had some thoughts about it during the week and anytime I would think about something to do in a small time frame I would think about tracting that street.  Well Friday came and we had two service projects AND weekly planning.  It was about an hour and a half into weekly planning and we were just about fried.  We hadn't done any contacting, teaching, or anything but service all day.  The Spirit wasn't there and we couldn't focus.  So we decided to go out an work.  We tried to see everyone we had planned to see that day in about a 5 minute time frame.  Then we came back and ate a quick dinner and I still was feeling out of it, so I begged Elder Depew to come out again and he said "What do you want to do"  instantly I got the impression (though it seemed like just a thought at the time) to tracted this small street.  So we went and started that street.  In 10 minutes, we found an investigator and sat down and had a lesson.  We asked her if we could share a message "Sure," she replied.  "Well is there a good time we could come back and share it?" we asked.  "Now works."  So we went out back and taught her for about an hour.  It was pretty awesome because I know missionaries who are going home who have never had that happen.  She may not be the most solid, but she's willing to learn.  It was a blast, and we were actually late for exchanges because of it.
Saho sounds like a blast.  Tell her I say hi.  Ask her all about running for me and what kind of shoes she wears and everything.  I kind of miss lot actually.  I know a few runners that are probably still around over there in Grantsville that she could probably go with.  And if I don't I know people who do.  So we can get her running again.  Haha!  Wanna know what else she probably hasn't had too much of?  Mexican food.  And I know dad can make some killer Mexican food.  Which is saying something, because there was a lot of really good Mexican food in Ontario.  I would know.
And Rylie's at a Cougarette Camp huh?  Sounds like a ton of fun!  I bet she'll love it and I'll have to follow up with her on that.  I bet her dancing skills are pretty awesome considering how much time and effort I've hear her put into it.  And oh my gosh, she's getting so pretty.  When you sent me pictures last we I thought it was Cambria in the pictures, no joke.  It was nuts.
All in all, the week was just great.  Lots of success and lots of fun.  We have our first progressing investigator, as of yesterday, in months.  It's not a fast progression, but it's progression.  Haha, whatever fast means.  When compared to Maggie and Erik, there aren't a lot of people that are 'fast' progression.  But it's totally the bomb here.
Some facts:  I've seen the Robbins family 3 times in the past two days.  And then also on Saturday.  They're all over the place.  That and I tracted into the guy that Brother Robbins bought his practice from a decade ago.  I sang in Zone Meeting today.  The Zone I'm in is one of the finest on the planet.  Life is good.  I get to see Elder Russell M. Nelson three times in a week from Saturday.  Reading the scriptures and praying are super super important.
In fact, I was thinking about the simple stuff (like reading scriptures and praying) we read in Jacob about looking beyond the mark and I was reminded of a talk Bednar gave.  He was talking about being led by the Spirit and how sometimes it's way over thought.  Pretty sure he's right.  He said that to be led by the Spirit, all we need to do is to keep the commandments, honor our covenants, go to church, read our scriptures, pray, and just try and be the best person we can be and if we do that--we will be led by the Spirit naturally.  I have a testimony that that is true.
I love and miss you all.  I pray for you guys.  Thanks so much for all you do.  For the ties, jerky, jam, and the cookies.  You're all the best!
Elder Russell
Don't Forget to Look Up