Monday, January 20, 2014

This week was a really busy one but it was a ton of fun. Lots of miracles. We had 4 exchanges this week so I pretty much wasn’t with Elder Wunderli at all. We started off in O’Fallon and I got to spend one last day in Fairview Heights. It was really cool to get to cruise around that area one last time. I was with Elder Sims and it was a good way to start off the week. We didn’t have much set for the day but we got to go around and talk to as many people as possible. We got to tract and bus and freeze in the cold and it ended up being a really good day. My favorite part of the day was when we got on the bus I saw a guy wearing a sweet Raiders coat and I got to sit by him and talk to him for a little bit on the bus ride home. He was way cool and interested so I got all of his info and hopefully they can start teaching him soon. I knew God wanted me to be a Raiders fan for a reason.
After O’Fallon we did our District Leader exchange with Webster Groves. I was in St Louis Hills with Elder Jones and we had another long day with no appointments but we worked as hard as we could and it ended up being great! We knocked on about 5 doors. One was a referral and the other 4 were tracting. The referral let us right in and we taught the first lesson and got a new investigator. The 4th door tracting was another guy who let us right in and we picked up a new investigator. We were really thankful that we didn’t get discouraged and were able to do what God wanted us to do that day.

We did our St Louis exchange the next day and I was with Elder Christensen in St Louis Hills again. We had 5 appointments set up for that day and only 1 of them ended up working out. But we got to do the same thing we had been doing all week and just go around and talk to people and met a lot of cool people again so it was a really good day.
We finished our exchanges with Oakville and I got to go to Oakville for the last time too. It was funny cause we had another day without any appointments (kinda the theme for the week) but we went around and saw a bunch of people from the area book. It was fun to get to go and drive around another one of my old areas. We tracted one apartment building and on about the 3rd door we met another guy who let us in right away and let us teach the first lesson. I loved this week. We had so many opportunities to give up, but being with awesome companions all week we worked really hard and saw so many miracles because of it.

We have transfer planning every day this week until about 4 but we should be able to have really good evenings hopefully full of lessons this week. I’m so thankful for the chance I have to get to do transfers one last time and get to do some good work for my last few days in the mission field. I’m thankful for a companion and people all around me who support and help me to be the best person I can be. I know I’m exactly where God wants me to be right now.

 -Elder Banks


Monday, January 13, 2014

We had a week full of surprises this week so that made things interesting. On Tuesday we had our exchange with Columbia. I was with Elder Perkins and brought him back into our area and it was such a fun day. We had all of our appointments cancel except for dinner. Dinner was pretty funny. We had fried catfish so that was a new one for me. And with the dads help we convinced one of their kids to drink salty Kool-Aid. So that was funny. Then we had a lesson after dinner that bailed on us as well. We punched in an address to go see one of our potential investigators which was about 10 minutes away. About 45 minutes later we gave up on trying to get there. We would drive for about 30 seconds and then we would see someone stuck in the snow and go and shove them out. We pretty much spent our whole night pushing people out. It was really fun and people appreciated it so much. Being stuck in the middle of the road is never anyone’s favorite thing.

We got back into our normal companionships on Wednesday and we were supposed to have our exchange with the North zone leaders but Elder Wunderli had gotten sick on exchanges and was throwing up all night so we didn’t do that. We rested for a little bit and then it was my turn to throw up all day so we spent that whole day inside. The next day our district leader was sick too so he came and joined us and we traveled around a little bit so we could at least get out of the apartment but didn’t really accomplish anything. We were super bummed cause we didn’t have any lessons all week except for the night we were too sick to get out we have 4. We had to cancel all of those and try to make up for that lost night the rest of the week.

Friday we had our exchange with the Cape Girardeau zone leaders. I wasn’t really looking forward to it cause we didn’t feel super good and I just had no desire to do work that day. But we drove down to Cape in the pouring rain and I met up with Elder Duke and went to work in Cape with him. I know that if I didn’t change something it was going to be an awful day, so I prayed really hard to have a good day and to have my attitude changed so I could enjoy my exchange. We went and tracted in the rain for the first 3 hours or so of our exchange and it was amazing! We had so much fun and we found so many people who were excited to talk to us. We set up a bunch of return appointments and it was just an awesome couple hours. After we ate dinner and attempted to get some of our clothes dry we had a lesson with a funny old guy to finish out the night. It ended up being a really good day and I was really thankful that I was blessed to have a good day.

Saturday was good because it was like the only day we taught all week. We had 3 lessons so we were glad we could finish out the week strong. None of our investigators came to church though, so that was a bummer. We have about 8 people that we are trying to get to church this coming week so that’s going to be our big focus this week. We have 4 exchanges this week and our interviews with President Morgan so it’s going to be a nice, full week. I’m excited to get to go out and work this week and hopefully we can see some more miracles happen!

-Elder Banks


Monday, January 6, 2014

I’m going to go a little backwards this week and start with yesterday and today. Nothing cool has happened with missionary work but the weather has been insane!! It snowed all day yesterday. It came to about a foot of snow which really isn’t that much but out here that’s a ton! They don’t really plow the roads so pretty much everyone just slides around and almost dies all day. The whole mission parked their cars and only 3 wards had church. They were the very southern wards in the mission so it was more just rain down there.

This morning we got outside to try to dig out our car and it was under about 3 feet of snow because the wind decided to wreck our car with snow. It took us about 30 minutes to dig our car out. Oh ya and its -8 degrees. Elder Wunderli had a water bottle in his coat pocket and by time we finished digging out car out the water bottle had frozen in his pocket. In Champaign, the more northern part of our mission, the high today is -12. It’s going to be a pretty cold day. We finally got out and headed over to the sisters apartment to dig their car out and the roads were frozen. We have just been running and sliding around on the roads all day cause it’s so frozen. It’s been fun.

The rest of this week has been pretty fun too. We went on a couple exchanges. I was up in Springfield with Elder Boren and in Champaign with Elder Francis. It was a good couple days. We had a lot of success and I always love exchanges cause miracles always happen. It was kinda hard to say goodbye to those elders cause I knew it was the last time I was going to see them. All 4 of them, especially Elder Norton who I lived with for 4 1/2 months, are some of my closest friends. But it was great to get to spend a little bit of time with them for the last time.

Once I got back to St Louis Hills, me and Elder Wunderli had some good success. Saturday we found 3 new investigators and 2 of them planned on coming to sacrament meetings (before it got canceled).  We found a 21 year old girl with the cutest 5 month year old baby I have ever seen. She has had a super rough past but has pulled it together and has a job and is going to school now. I can’t believe that she is the same age as me and has gone through so much in her life. I don’t even know how she is holding herself together. She is great though and has been to church in different places in the past. She seems ready to get baptized. Hopefully we will be setting a date with her this week on Wednesday and she will probably get baptized the week after I leave. That would be great to see her make that change.

It has been so amazing to see the changes that have been taking place in the people that we are teaching. I love talking to them and seeing how much the gospel changes them. It makes them so much happier! I am so thankful for the knowledge of this gospel and the blessing it is to have it in my life and to get to share it with other. I’m looking forward to these next couple weeks and getting to share this message.
-Elder Banks



Monday, December 30, 2013

Well it was a good week for the mission but as for the work in our area it was pretty awful. We had a really busy week just getting everything done that we needed to. Monday and Tuesday we played Santa and just drove everyone packages around to their zone leaders so people could have their presents for Christmas. It made a lot of missionaries happy so that was fun. Christmas Eve we went to the Morgan’s and hung out there. Their son Danny was there and of course Anna was there so me and Elder Wunderli had a fun day with them. Elder Jones and Elder Rausch were there with us too so it was a fun night. Christmas day we spent the whole day at the Morgan’s again and pretty much just watched basketball. It was a great day until the Heat won but even after that it was still fun. 
Thursday we had a 5 hour meeting with President Morgan just planning out MLC which was the next day. Then Friday we had a 6 hour meeting turn into a 7 1/2 hour meeting so we sat around a lot this week. We accomplished a ton and got a lot of really important things decided so it was a good couple days. Saturday we had a few lessons planned out and all of them bailed so we pretty much just drove around and tried to see a million people. Unfortunately none of them were home and when we tracted around their houses no one was home either so pretty much we spent endless hours just knocking on empty doors. It should have been an awful day but we just kept working and every time an appointment canceled we just kept going and thankfully Elder Wunderli stayed happy the whole time and by time it was 9:00 we felt like we had had a really good day. It was a lot of hard work but we felt really good for doing it. 
Sunday went a lot better than the rest of the week thankfully. One really cool thing happened when we went to go see a lady in the ward named Sister Huston. She is the funniest African lady and she is amazing. We talked a little bit about her neighbors that she has been working with and she told us we should just go over and try talking to them. We walked up to their front door and they all pulled up and asked who we were and about 5 seconds later let us in. They were so nice and it took us a little by surprise. We weren’t sure exactly what to say so we just asked them if they would take the lessons and the mom said they would love to. She called her husband and set up a time for us to come over with her and her husband and their 3 kids so hopefully we can have a good meeting with them on Saturday
This weekend we had 21 baptisms with 2 more coming up on Tuesday so it was a really, really good weekend. With all the baptisms that happened this weekend it puts our year-end total at 443. So we fell a little bit short of our goal. But we still know that it was the perfect goal cause if we had set it at anything else we probably wouldn’t have pushed as hard as we did and there would have been a few people that didn’t get baptized. And we had 7 extra baptisms last year so it all totals out to perfect haha. It was a great week and a great year. We have our goal set up for next year and I’m so excited for it! The mission is going to be so excited. It hasn’t been announced yet so I’ll tell you next week. But hopefully 2014 is just as great as 2013 has been!
-Elder Banks

Monday, December 23, 2013

Jasmina and Husein Todorovic Baptism


As normal, transfer week was crazy. Monday we got a call at 2:00 that we had a missionary who was going home sitting by himself at the mission home and no one was there. Of course it was Elder Williams haha. We went over and spent a couple hours with him and all the other departing missionaries started to trickle in throughout the night. We got to spend a good last night with all of them and it was a really good night. Elder Williams was one of my really good friends out here so it was sad to see him go but I’m excited to see him again sometime.


Tuesday we took the departing missionaries to the airport and sent them all off then stopped by to get some lunch in the airport waiting for the next set of new missionaries to come in. While we were sitting there waiting a guy wearing a Utah Utes jacket came over and started talking to us and it turned out to be Elder Petersen’s dad. Elder Petersen is one of our really good friends who we spent a ton of time with this last transfer so it was fun to get to meet his dad and take pictures with him. It was even more fun to get to show Elder Petersen after. We spent the rest of the day with the new missionaries and it was a normal fun day with them.

Wednesday we had transfer meeting and it was the most exhausting one ever. Something we didn’t realize is that with the way the office elders were set up this transfer neither one of them had ever prepared for a transfer meeting before. So pretty much nothing was ready with phones and cars and new areas. The meeting ended and we just ran around like crazy trying to figure out how to do a bunch of stuff that none of us had ever done before. It was crazy but it worked out. It made me extra thankful that I never have to go to one of those again. After transfer meeting we helped the sisters in our ward move cause their apartment pretty much exploded with water damage and that took forever moving an apartment with only a minivan. That was pretty much the rest of our day.

Thursday and Friday were really normal days of missionary work with nothing too spectacular happening. We had a few good lessons and everything is going really well.

Jasmina and Husein Todorovic were by far the highlight of the week for us. At the beginning of the week we weren’t sure if they were going to get baptized or not and we met with them and asked them if we could move their baptism date back a week or so and they said absolutely not. They were so excited to get baptized and had been studying so hard they wanted it this weekend. It took a lot of work and meeting every day but we were able to get everything done in time and they were both baptized on Saturday. One cool thing about it was that neither me or Elder Wunderli had ever actually been the person down in the water to baptize someone before and we both got to do that this weekend. Elder Wunderli baptized Jasmina and I got to baptize Husein. It was a lot of work getting that baptism ready for the few days before and the few hours before. We spent about 3 hours boiling water on the stove and bringing it over to the font to fill it up. Our little building doesn’t have the greatest water heater in the world. But with all the work and stress that came with the baptism it was so worth it. It was one of the coolest days of my mission. Jasmina has 2 more sons that we are teaching now who will hopefully getting baptized soon. It’s been amazing to see over the last 2 weeks two families get baptized and completely change their lives and their family’s lives. Husein always talks about going on a mission and how excited he is. They’re just going to have an amazing future. 

Jasmina got to bear her testimony at the baptism and it was amazing. She isn’t much of a talker in front of groups of people so I didn’t think she was going to get up given the option. But she stood up and started by her best friend who introduced her to the gospel. She continued on through all her tears to explain how crazy her life had been recently and how she used to make fun of her friend all the time for becoming a Mormon. But when things got really tough she asked if she could come to church with her. She couldn’t even control her emotions when she parked at the church for the first time because she knew she was home. She knew before she even got into the building that this was the right place for her to be. Three weeks later she and her son got baptized. I am so thankful for the opportunity that I had to be a part of that process and hopefully the rest of her family will be joining her soon. I couldn’t ask for more my last transfer as a missionary. I love this time of year and I love the people that I get to serve. Merry Christmas!

-Elder Banks



Monday, December 16, 2013

Troy and Bryson Outlaw at their baptism on December 14, 2013

Troy and Bryson Outlaw Baptism

           Transfer planning this transfer was quite a bit different than it has been over the last few. Things were a lot crazier this week than normal. We usually have time set apart to plan things out from about 10-4 on Tuesday through Saturday. With all the meetings that President Morgan had and all the appointments that we had set up, we missed out on a lot of that time. When we rolled around to Friday we still had half a board of empty places to fill up with missionaries. But thankfully we were able to make it through and get everything worked out. It’s looking like it’s going to be a good transfer. And of course because its transfer planning week I had to get sick. Me and Elder Wunderli both had a rough couple days in there but everything worked out alright and we’re feeling better now so that’s a blessing with the craziness of transfers coming up. 

            Saturday this week was by far the best day. It started with us coming into the office and finishing up everything with transfers and that went really well. Then, right when that all got done, we headed back to St. Louis Hills for Troy’s baptism. It was so cool! Troy was baptized and so was his son Bryson. A bunch of cool stuff happened that day at the baptism. We knew that Sister Outlaws dad was the one who was going to baptize Troy and Bryson. She had told us his name a couple times but it never really registered who this guy was until I saw him. He came to the baptism and I recognized him from Oakville because we went and visited him when I was there and his son was living with him. We taught his sons girlfriend and started to reactivate the dad. I know there was a lot of other factors involved but it was cool to see someone that I helped teach almost a year ago be able to baptize his son in law and grandson into the church. 

            Right after that baptism we headed up to Edwardsville Illinois for another baptism. Elder Wunderli found this girl a few months ago and she was getting baptized now and had requested that he come back and give a talk. I had met her once before and she’s super cool. It was amazing to see how many people were at her baptism. She had the support of the entire ward behind her. There were like 8 or 10 missionaries there who had all had a part in her conversion and it was just a really cool experience to see all the hard work finally pay off. I got to talk to her for a few minutes after her baptism and she told me something that was really cool for me. The time before when I had met her it was right after general conference. She was kind of thinking about baptism but had a lot of things in her way still. It was a really relaxed conversation not a lesson or anything but we started talking about President Uchtdorf’s talk and his quote "Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith" and almost as a joke I just looked at her and said "So ya. You should probably just do that." We left and I didn’t think much of it after that, but at the baptism she came over and talked to me about that experience and thanked me for saying what I said and the way that I had said it. She said that was something that had helped her out for the next few days to get her through some of the trials that came up. I love learning about the little things that missionaries and members of the church do or say and it turns out to be just what someone needed to hear.

            Saturday night we called out all the transfer news and then headed home. We got home at about 11:00 just totally exhausted and still sick with our colds. I hit the bed and about 30 seconds later had to go to the bathroom and got hit with some great food poisoning. I finally got out of the bathroom and got back to bed at 5:00 am and tried to get a couple hours of sleep before church. Both of us were feeling pretty awful but we were able to make it to sacrament meeting to see Troy get confirmed so we were glad we were able to make it to that. We spent the rest of the day sleeping in the Morgan’s basement haha. But we feel a lot better today than we have for a while. We’re really thankful we got sick a few days ago and were getting over it now cause we have tons of stuff coming up this week. The departing missionaries are all coming in today so we have to get them on the road and then new missionaries come in tomorrow. We have 3 baptisms scheduled for this Saturday but because we missed quite a few lessons due to sickness we’re not sure if we’re going to be able to get them ready by this Saturday so it’ll probably have to get pushed to next week.

Overall everything is going amazing here. I love the opportunities I have been given and am thankful that we have been able to take advantage of the blessings that have been put in our path recently. Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday Matt!! Hope everyone enjoys their holiday season. 

-Elder Banks