Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mount Lewis, Ogden

What's up?

So this past week has been such a HUGE change for me in every sense of the word. I'm actually NOT in Central Ogden! When the Zone Leaders called us to tell us where we were going, the only information they gave everyone was what ZONE they were going to. There was a miscommunication between them and the APs. So I'm in the Ogden Central zone, but I'm actually in North Ogden. It's a place/stake called Mount Lewis, and it's a walking area. It's also one of the highest baptizing areas in the mission. When I got here, they had just baptized 7 people last transfer and 5 before that one, and we're starting completely over with building a pool of people to teach. Which is nice - we have almost 40 people on our potentials list that have either agreed to be taught or go to church regularly. The only thing that holds this area back IS that it's a walking area; its nearly 2 miles long and about a mile wide. So it's tricky to get as much done as we'd like to get done in a day. In fact, it's impossible to visit people we plan for at every time slot of every day because the travel time between visits is 10-15 minutes. So we compensate by talking to every person we see. EVERYone on the way is a child of God placed in our path, and we turn each random contact as a finding/teaching opportunity. I've also tracted 3 times in the past week, which is kind of a huge change of pace.. There are a ton of apartments, trailer parks, and duplex's that are filled with "Ogdenites", and 90% of them aren't members of the church. There's also a large turnover rate in the rough parts of the neighborhood, so there are constantly new people to talk to and teach.
Honestly, I really like it here. I'm going to start carrying my iPod with me for the step counting feature to see how many we take in a given day. Fun fact: we walked four and a half miles to get to this family history center. So you'd BETTER appreciate this letter! I'd be hard pressed to say that I've walked that far during the first 6 months of my mission! A lot of times people will see us on the side of the road and pick us up, but today was NOT one of those days. So my calves have gotten used to it very quickly in the past week. It's also a lot warmer here than it is in Star Valley.. So I have to drink  lot of water and sweat it out. My companion is named Elder Daly and he's from Maryland.  We're getting along awesome and I really like him. He has 3 months left on his mission, and he's the hardest working companion that I've had so far. He doesn't want to get trunky and give up, so we're getting out and working as many hours of the day as we can. Hopefully we'll start teaching all the people we've contacted (school just got out on Thursday and Memorial weekend was rough..) and start preparing them for baptism. The people are much humbler here; a lot struggle with family issues and drugs, and ALL of them would benefit immensely from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

When I went to the trainers/trainee assignment meeting, it became very clear that the mission is undergoing a LOT of changes and will be in desperate need of new leadership. Over half the zone leaders will be going home within the next 3 months, and there are almost 50 missionaries coming in too. I saw that there were a few missionaries (including LaFond) who came out with me who are training this transfer, and some even newer than that! There is at least one I know who's training who has been out for 4 and a half months, and two more who have only been out 3 months. I know a lot of missionaries are jealous and mad about the changes, but I see it as a call to serve and prepare. They're LOOKING for missoinaries to train; missionaries to lead. If people who are from my MTC district are getting ready to train, they'll likely be looking out for me to do the same in the near future. This transfer there's no way I could say that I'd be ready to take on a brand new missionary, but my goal is to develop and enhance my skills and habits to the point that when that call comes, that I will be as ready as I possibly can be. Who knows what'll happen? :)

I guess I want to share with you guys something that's stuck with me this week. It's something that I've heard a few times since the MTC, but it's hanging right above my desk at our apartment, so it's been there every time I study. It's something that has been quoted from Henry B. Eyring, and it's called "The Fellowship of the Unashamed." Stirring poetry.. Check it out :

I am part of the fellowship of the unashamed. The dye has been cast!
I have stepped over the line.
The decision has been made; I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.
I won't look back, let up, slow down, or be still.
My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure.
I'm finished and done with low living, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tainted visions, worldly talking, cheap giving, and dwarfed goals.
I no longer need pre-eminence, positions, promotions, plaudits or popularity.
I now live by faith, lean on His presence, walk with patience, am uplifted by prayer, and labor with power. My face is set, my gait is fast, and my goal is Heaven. My road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions are few, my guide is reliable, my mission is clear! I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, divided or delayed.
I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the adversary, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity. I won't give up, shut up, or let up, until I have stayed up stored up, and paid up of the cause of Christ.
I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till I know, and work till He stops me.
And when He returns for His own, He will have no problem recognizing me.
My banner will be clear

I know that this is where Im supposed to be. I know that I'm not alone. The same Spirit that has guided me in Tremonton and Star Valley is still guiding me in Mount Lewis. I can feel it when I seek it. I can feel it when I pray and read the Book of Mormon. Heavenly Father wants to guide us. We just have to let him.

Mom - Best of luck in the nursery.. I pray that you will have the patience of Job! Haha. I forgot that you were a Young Women's leader too. It's been a while. That will be a LOT less stressful in terms of preparing lessons! All you have to prepare is animal crackers and Nyquil... *shifty eyes*. Jacob's parents actually aren't members. Neither of his parents showed up for his baptism, but he was 100% set that it was something he was going to do so he went through with it. I think I'm ready for ketchup chips again! At a guess, we probably walk between 5 and 8 miles a day, and a LOT of it is hills! In shirts and ties! So I don't think I'll get fat too easily.. Send them soon! :) I need to send home a bunch of stuff.. I didn't wear that huge coat or boots one time. Sending stuff is so expensive! Maybe if you reimburse me.. Hahaha. I think i'm fine for meds? If you send an extra batch to be safe that'd probably be good. I just don't wanna run out. Mount Lewis is probably.. 40 minutes from Tremonton? Maybe 30 minutes? Oh - we cover 8 wards right now, and only spoke in one of them on Sunday. One of the wards has almost 700 people on the rolls, but only 49 people showed up on Sunday. It's kind of sad to see..

Dad - I was actually kind of not surprised to be transferred. I don't know if I was ready to leave yet, but I respect that Billmire will be a good trainer and I love it here too. I will definitely have to show you around Star Valley sometime. But definitely in the summer! Because snow in June is no vacation.. :P There was an airshow last weekend and I didn't see the Millenium Falcon flying around there either. I was disappointed. Who knew he could actually fly? Does he have a ridiculously tall and hairy man as his copilot? Hospital rounds are gross. End of story. 51 in golf!? That's atrocious! Kind of. There's still a whole summer ahead of you to get back into the game. Where are the Radford's moving to?

I love all of you guys. I pray that I can continue to learn and grow during my time here, and Lord willing, see some success :).
- Elder Tyler Grant

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Transferred!!! Central Ogden

Hey everyone!

I'm sorry I missed writing to you last week... It was actually really strange not to tell you all that we did and now I feel like I have a LOT of ground to make up for.. So let me start with the week that I missed:

On Saturday, May 12th, we DID have three baptisms! It was just an amazing day. First and foremost we had the baptisms of Alex and Destiny. They're 15 and 10 years old, and come from a very mixed family. I've been involved with teaching them since my second day in Star Valley (March 1st..) and I've seen them learn and change so much. We've worked with their parents and entire family a lot to try and get them active again. But at the baptism I got to baptize Alex, and Elder Billmire got to baptize Destiny. It was a WAY spiritual baptismal service, and they had quite a bit of family show up to support them. 3 hours after that, we had another baptism, for a 9 year old boy named Avery. His grandma called us like my 4th day in Star Valley and invited us to a Family Home Evening with a few of her kids and grand kids, and Avery was there. His parents have also been less active most of their lives, but they've been going to church pretty steadily since about September 2011. It was so crazy - at the baptismal service there were so many family members that came up to us and thanked us saying they didn't think that this day would ever come. He was confirmed in church the next day by his grandfather, and everyone was just crying. Alex and Destiny didn't get to make it to church the following Sunday, so they were both confirmed 2 days ago. I got to confirm Alex and give him the gift of the Holy Ghost.

After those three, we had ANOTHER baptism; and it was honestly probably the most special baptism I've ever witnessed. It was for Jacob , the 18 year old graduating senior that we've been working with for a while. He finally finished reading the Book of Mormon, and texted us right after Avery's baptism and said "Hey.. Can I get baptized on a Sunday?" So on May 20th, we set everything up and he was ready to go. There were about 90 people at the baptism, and a lot of them were high school kids there to support him. I'll include several pictures for you guys. He was baptized by his friend in the family he has been living with. After he was baptized, there was a musical number. And then, Jacob got up and bore his testimony to everyone. It was just incredibly powerful. He's been meeting with missionaries for about 6 months now, and he said "Well.. It hasn't been an easy 6 months, but my journey is finally over. I can now proudly say that I KNOW that this church is true." He then went on to talk about reading the Book of Mormon and how it changed his outlook on everything.

So there's the spiritual highlights for the last two weeks.. On another note (that I'm sure you're waiting to hear about..) I'm being transferred out of Star Valley! Surprise! And where am I going? Well what happened was that President Olson told Elder Billmire he was going to be a Zone Leader.. But Elder Billmire requested to train so he didn't have to leave Star Valley. And since the mission is splitting, there are 25 missionaries that need to be trained this transfer.. so his request was accepted. So I'm getting kicked out! And I'm going to none other than CENTRAL OGDEN!! Yeah. I'm a little shocked right now. It's going to be a COMPLETE change of pace in the way the missionary work is run. Tremonton was rural. Star Valley is even more rural. And now I'm going to the ghetto/drug districts of the city. So keep me in your prayers! I know that we'll be protected as long as we're obedient. And maybe it won't even be that bad!

So the reason I didn't write you guys last Tuesday is largely because we spent the day in Montpelier with the missionaries serving there. We spent the entire afternoon exploring the Wyoming/Idaho countryside.. And we weren't driving recklessly! So don't freak out! One of the missionaries is going home on Thursday, so we spent the day with him to celebrate. By the way - sorry this letter seems so scatterbrained... I'm just frantically trying to remember two weeks of stuff.

Last night we had transfer calls (as I mentioned) and we found out Elder LaFond is training! Yay! We had a bonfire at their place in their driveway, and me and LaFond burned our ties for our 6-month marks! Have I told you about that before? It's a mission tradition that at 6 months you burn a tie, at a year you burn a shirt, at 18 months you burn a pair of slacks, and at the 2 year mark you burn a suit! So we hit our first landmark. Can you believe it's been that long? It's truly unbelievable to me.. This last transfer has just FLOWN the heck by. I can't believe I've already been away from Tremonton for 3 months, and now I'm moving again! Time just races by when you're working hard, and it's even more gratifying when you finally get to see the fruits of your labors. In the past week, we committed two more people to baptism and have them interviewed and ready to go. So Billmire's greenie will get to enjoy some success right when he gets here :).

Fun fact I'll slip in here: I hate packing. I think that's my least favorite part about being a missionary. I'm WAY excited to be going to a new area, but the thought of packing up everything again is just looming in the back of my mind.. I'm incredibly unmotivated. But I shall fight on. The missionary I'm going to be serving with in Ogden is named Elder Daly, and I've heard.. Interesting things about him, mostly because he served in Star Valley about a year ago. But I've promised myself that I won't let preconceived notions get in the way of getting to know someone. Actually, this next transfer is going to be 7 weeks long instead of 6, so we had better get along pretty well.. :)

By the way Mom you asked for my favorite scripture this week, and it's gotta be Alma 13:24. I discovered it in my personal studies a few days ago and it's resonated with me ever since: "For behold, angels are declaring it unto many at this time in our land; and this is for the purpose of preparing the hearts of the children of men to receive the word at the time of his coming in his glory." The Lord IS preparing people for us to teach. I've seen it numerous times - people will not accept the Gospel until they are ready, and there is no way that we can go around and try and convince people on our own. We have been given the Holy Ghost to deliver the message to people, and the lessons and scriptures as a conduit for their own personal revelation. In fact, another scripture to go along with that.. 2 Nephi 33:1 says "for when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost, the POWER of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men." Scriptures are just words. Lessons are just words. When we talk to people, they will hear only words. But the Holy Ghost is the messenger that bypasses their ears and carries the message to their HEARTS. This is when conversion takes place. Not by salesmanship. Not by public speaking skills. But by a pure, heartfelt testimony and their willingness to be open to the promptings and power of the Holy Ghost.

Okay.. Questions/response time..

Mom - I remember seeing President Monson at some conference in Ottawa oh-so-long ago. But I didn't know that you've met him. He probably remembers you! I definitely don't even remember going to Nauvoo with Affie and Papa.. Well maybe vaguely. Where does Star Valley come in in church history? Remember the story of the saints crossing Bitter Creek and lots of them died? Yeah. Bitter Creek is in our area. Haha. Small taste. No I never did get my scriptures engraved! I haven't gotten around to it. Is it that big a deal? I look forward to going to Peggy's Cove in a while. And also the Slot Canyons with dad. And Disney world. Right? And I did get to have a pretty good talk with Ryan. He says he's never read a single letter I've sent home! That jerk - haven't you told him I've been sending them!? Probably not. And Jacob is NOT the cat killer.. That's someone else who's getting baptized in July. It's crazy to think that the school year is already over and so is seminary! I wish you the best of luck as you delve into New Testament in the fall. My plan for mission pictures is to keep taking them and worry about it when I get home. Haha - how am I doing in taking pictures? I Figured I've been doing pretty well..

Dad - Do you remember the canoeing trip we took for my birthday one year? I'm pretty sure it was down the Little Sioux River.. Or whatever it is. I remember there were several Olsons there and maybe a few Richies. And Kelly's. Elder M. Russell Ballard is coming to Brigham City to talk to the missionaries, but only the ones serving near the area can go.. I don't know how close Ogden is to that. Harrison Ford lives in Jackson? That's strange. If we ever see the Millenium Falcon flying through downtown Afton I'll let ya know. Ryan seems excited about the High Adventure trip, and I told him about the Slot Canyons too.. So he's on board. I remembered your 44th birthday! It was the day after my 6-month mark as a missionary. Crazy, right? As I think about schooling after the mission, I'm pretty sure I will be able to focus a LOT better on homework when I get back. I've developed some *gasp* actual study habits that have been long overdue, and they will prove useful no doubt. Feel free to leave out the details of further hospital rounds. You worked on the bathroom on your birthday? Wow. As long as there's not a hole in my wall when I get home, I guess I won't complain..

Anyhow. I hope this letter makes up for the lack-of-letter last week. I'm really excited for the chance to serve in Central Ogden - it's going to change everything I know as a missionary. I have a feeling that I'll have to develop a lot of new skills that I haven't had the chance to learn so far, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to learn from and serve my Heavenly Father.

Love you guys!

- Elder Tyler Grant :)

Monday, May 14, 2012

May 8th, 2012

Hello everyone! :)

Fun fact for the week: The Utah Ogden Mission has been the highest baptizing mission in the United States for the past four months, which is HUGE!

Other fun fact: They just finished a brand new church building in Star Valley (the first building they've gotten in over 30 years) and it's pretty neat. Reminds me a lot of the Storm Lake building.

Another mini-story I'm sure dad will love: We went to one of our investigator's houses this week to just pay them a visit, and they have this cat... Which has the longest, thickest, matted-est, knotted-est hair I've ever seen. They've been trying to shave the cat for a long time, but have never been able to because it starts scratching, biting, AND (the best part) whenever this cat gets mad at people it shows it's discontent by pooping outside the litter box. Creative, right? It's way too smart for its own good.. They told us that one day someone was making repeated hissing noises at the cat, and it responded by going and pooping on that persons bed. Hahahaha. So they have located some "kitty tranquilizers/Valium" and are going to knock out the cat and shave it bald. Wow.. That story is completely unrelated to missionary work. I'm over it.

Okay! So on to the good stuff! We have three baptisms this Saturday! Finally! We've been working with SO many people at once and it's gotten to the point where just about all of them are ready for baptism, and we've struggled to get them to stick to a date. But we have programs made, the building is scheduled, and they've all been interviewed, so (hopefully) they will all go through. It'll be nice - the last baptism I was involved with was back on February 18th - so it's been a long time coming. I'm just truly excited to finally see some of the fruits of our labors. Numbers aren't what's important, so I'm not thrilled about that.. I'm thrilled because we've gotten to see these investigators progress, make changes, learn, and finally come into the fold of Christ. I'll send pictures next week. :)

One cool experience we had last week was on a simple door contact. We'd gone by this home a few times before, and whenever the lady answered the door, she said "We're busy. Come back later." The lady is a member but she has a 17 year old daughter who has taken lessons in the past, gone to church, and still goes to mutual activities. Over and over she'd peek her head out, tell us not now, and close the door. But we went by once last week and asked if her daughter was home. She then said "I wouldn't waste your time with her.. She's going through the 17 year old phase and I'm sure she isn't interested." But we didn't drop it. We talked to her about her family and how she's benefited from the gospel in the past. She told us that her husband had died a few months before and she was still bitter and hurt. So instead of going at it with the intent of "We want to come teach you guys" we really just connected with her as a person and showed her we weren't just robotic soulless automatons. One by one, we could see her barriers dropping and her guard got lower and lower. At the end, we left her with our phone number and she said "I'll ask her if she wants to meet with you guys. In fact, I think I need to start going back to church myself. I know I'm happier when I do.. I've just been trying to convince myself otherwise. I know it's true." It was awesome just to see the huge impact that it had with just a simple change of approach; we witnessed an entire transformation in that short conversation, and I know the Spirit touched her heart.

So last Tuesday for P-Day we decided to go up to the Intermittent spring again. But we decided that hiking wasn't an option. Luckily, some members loaned us their all-terrain vehicles (a RZR and a Ranger) and we just drove up. It was so much fun - even though the spring was completely covered in snow and we couldn't see it coming out of the mountain.. I took a LOT of pictures of the hike up after the drive. Afterwards, we had a few hours to kill.. And decided to take advantage of the vehicles we had, and took them on some back trails in the mountains. It was SO cool! Like, we were on top of mountain peaks looking over the whole valley. It was just awesome. I'm not describing it very well dang it.. I hope the pictures do it justice.

Yesterday, Elder Billmire had another training meeting down in Ogden that I couldn't go to.. So we woke up super early again and headed south.. Since I'm not leadership in any way, he left me in Montpelier with one of the missionaries there, and it was just an eye-opening day. I told you about this missionary a few weeks ago from zone conference. He's had kind of a bad reputation for things he did earlier in his mission, and as a result served with his past mistakes and choices looming over him. No one took the time to get to know him. They just judged him for what they had heard. He's been out 22 months now... And it was really sad. The day I spent with him, we mostly just talked. He's completely worn out, burnt out, and just through. He's had a lot of success, but he's been the focus of so much negative attention that he doesn't even want to work anymore. He's an awesome guy - he's really smart, his teaching skills are almost unparalleled, and he's hilarious. But he's just done. He's lost all motivation; all drive to go out and work. Spending the day with him really opened my eyes to let me see that I can't judge people like that. Gossip and rumors only drive people into the ground, and none of them that I'd heard were reflected in him as even a LITTLE bit true. If God forgave him, why couldn't everyone else?

Mom - I hope you're feeling better! New Testament study will be awesome. The Book of Mormon is awesome - but it doesn't have nearly the history of Christ's life that the New Testament has. Most people we run into have at least SOME familiarity with the New Testament, but when they say they believe in the Bible it's pretty blind faith. Did you just compare me to Zach from the Single's Ward? That's legit! I'd never get a tattoo though.. machine gun needle = no thank you. I will be anxiously awaiting the iPod to return. Oh shoot! I forgot to add - at one of the baptisms this Saturday, a girl asked me to baptize her, and I have no white pants! So if you could like, express mail those to me or something.. That'd be neat-o. Just throw it all together in one fun-filled bundle. Did you get the picture descriptions too? I sent those a day later because I forgot to put them in the envelope. Not sure when I'm gonna call on Sunday to be perfectly honest.. I hope you're not expecting a 6 hour ordeal. :) Happy anniversary, by the way! Glad to hear you enjoyed watching Heath Ledger at his finest and got over that silly paranoia that your opinion of him might change. It'll be weird to talk to you guys on Sunday!

Dad - Check this out... <http://www.zionnational-park.com/slots.htm> Perhaps a vacation we'll have to take when I get back? Some guy took a trip there and showed us pictures.. It's definitely something we have to do someday. It's good to hear Papa is in good spirits with fishing season again. Was the Avengers that great? I haven't heard anything from people.. All I heard about was the Hunger Games haha. Tell Evan way to go on bearing his testimony! That's so sweet! Was he wearing that bright orange tie with your green suit? That'd be a sight to see.. I'm so glad I don't have to tract/street contact for our primary method of finding. There are so many people here willing to help with missionary work that it's (most of the time) a pretty streamlined process. I haven't gotten to listen to the talks/stuff yet. We get a limited time on the computer and I'm thinking I'm just gonna rip them off the drive and burn them onto a CD-R for future listening. That way I can keep them on hand as well. Another question - did you have the same problem that we're having that people who have been taught all the lessons, go to church every week, and have a testimony of the Book of Mormon, but won't commit to a baptismal date? There's a few people here that have gone to church for 30 years, love it, feel the Spirit, give talks, but will not take the step of faith and get baptized.

I love you guys. If I think of anything else I need, I'll tell you on Sunday. :)

- Elder Tyler Grant