Monday, December 17, 2012

He's got the flu :(

            Well this week has been crazy. This email might be a little short because I have no desire to do anything right now. Saturday night Elder Anderson woke up at about 1:00 in the morning and threw up for the rest of the night. The lucky guy got to give a talk in sacrament meeting too. Then later that night we went to the Jacksons to just relax so he could get better and we kinda switched places. Walking in I felt fine then after spending some quality time with my favorite white bowl I called some people from the ward to give me a blessing. Thankfully Elder Anderson was feeling well enough to drive us home. I spent the rest of the night until about 6:00 trying to sleep but mostly just throwing up. There are very few things in life that are more humbling than being curled up on a shower mat for 6 hours trying to keep a Gatorade inside me and failing miserably. But thankfully our shower mat is pretty comfy so I fell asleep for a few hours this morning. After getting a little bit of rest I felt a lot better and around 10:00 we made it over to the Jacksons to do laundry. I really over estimated how good I felt so I got back into the familiar position of curling up on their couch and took a nap. Now I am just thankful to be able to come and email, even if it’s only for a short while.

            A few days ago President Hair (a councilor to President Clark) called us up and asked if we wanted to have a Christmas party at his house tonight. The whole zone was invited but because of the lack of miles we all have this month we didn’t think many would be able to make it. But thankfully when we got all the calls back all 24 of the missionaries in the zone are going to make it tonight. So we are pretty excited for that.

But let me back up into the week a little bit. I had a few last days with Elder Williams and those were good. We get to see each other like 3 times over the next 2 weeks so that is going to be cool. Then on Wednesday we went to transfers and now I have Elder Anderson as my companion. There are 8 elder Andersons in the mission so they all have nicknames. My companion is either Duncan Anderson cause that’s his first name or Cowboy Anderson cause he did rodeo for a while before his mission. He is a little older than me (24) and he is from Payson, Utah. Being his companion has been great so far. He was in Fairview Heights for 7 1/2 months at the beginning of his mission and now he only has 3 transfers left so he could very easily die here and spend a full year. Just like with Elder Williams it’s great because he already knows a bunch of people and that makes things a lot easier. I’m pretty sure I haven’t gone more than 5 minutes without laughing since we got put together. Even when we were hovering over the toilet we were laughing out heads off. So I am looking forward to a really fun transfer.

             I’m trying to think of other things that happened this week. Well the water here is terrible. We are getting it from the bottom of the Mississippi so it all tastes like dirt. But on the bright side you come out of the shower with a nice earthy smell aka we always smell like dirt. But on a better note we had a really good experience at church yesterday. Brenda is quite the little recent convert missionary. She has started bringing her twin nephews Torey and Corey to church with her and they both bring their girlfriends. They are both 19 and seem pretty interested. Last night we got a call from Brenda and she was just exploding with joy because Corey had told her after church that he felt something different there and that he wanted to join. We were thrilled to get that call. We have a lot of work to do with him and he has a lot of life changes to make but if he really wants to be happy then he will be able to do it. Corey and Torey have a few kids and they have an amazing opportunity to raise them in a good environment so we are really excited to be able to help them with that.

Things are going really well here and as Christmas comes closer we are getting excited for that too. We have a Christmas party coming up on Thursday with a lot of the mission and then we are looking forward to a fun Christmas day too. I’m thankful for all the experiences that I get to have as a missionary and all the new things I get to learn both through the great times and the tough ones. Thank you for all of your prayers and support and I’ll talk to you all again soon.

-Elder Banks

           Oh man I almost forgot! Matt’s birthday is today. One of four birthdays in the world that I know. He is such an old fart now and I am so excited to get home from my mission and destroy him in a game of basketball for once in my life. Happy Birthday man!

A wet Thanksgiving football game
Sporting a Christmas vest

Monday, December 10, 2012


I have had some people ask me for Parker's address. Since he is not getting transferred this week, he will get mail at his Fairview Heights address:

Elder Parker Banks
113 Union Hill Road #6
Fairview Heights, IL 62208
    So this week was the end of a roller coaster of feelings and the beginning of a new one. When I first got to Fairview it wasn’t my favorite place in the world for sure. It took me a really long time to start to like it here.  After a while I started to get some really good relationships with some people in the ward and it has become one of my favorite places. But over the last week or so I have been preparing myself to leave because I figured that it was my time to go. So of course we got transfer calls on Saturday and because I was so ready to leave, God decided to leave me here. Elder Williams is headed out to serve on the University of Illinois campus and I will be staying in Fairview with my new companion Elder Anderson. Even though I know like 6 Elder Andersons in this mission my new companion is one I haven’t ever really had the chance to talk to much before. It’s interesting because he has also been in Fairview before and is getting sent back just like Elder Williams. He has 2 transfers left in his mission so he is getting ready to head home pretty soon. I am super curious how he is going to react to getting sent back. He has never been a zone leader before so hopefully it will be a cool change for him. He was here over a year ago so only a few people remember him but they seemed to like him. One thing I am hoping goes well is the ward losing Elder Williams again. They love him so much here and he is everyone’s favorite missionary because he has spent so much time here and loves the ward so much. Last time he left things didn’t go so well but hopefully it goes good this time. I felt really good at church this week cause the relief society president and a few other sisters in the ward found out he was leaving and said of course they would miss him but they were glad he was leaving the ward in good hands. So that made me feel really good. Losing a companion always makes me really appreciate having really great members in the ward and having such good friends like the Jacksons and the Kremers. I know that if we ever need anything they will be there to help out in any way possible.

     Besides transfers this has been a really normal week. It flew by, and I can’t think of anything to even say right now because I don’t remember any of it. Last night was fun. Elder Marshall is going to Dexter for his last transfer so he is done being an assistant so they came down to our area to have dinner one last time last night and we are playing basketball with them for one last time today. Elder Williams and Elder Marshall went to the Kremers and Me and Elder Christensen went to the Holidays in the O’Fallon ward. It was really fun and there ended up being a million people there. Six missionaries and a bunch of kids from the YSA ward so it was quite the party. The missionaries sang “Nearer my God to Thee” for the closing spiritual thought and it was really cool. Then as we walked out the door we asked them for a scale and got to weigh ourselves. Recently, depending on the day, I have put on 25-30 pounds since I left. The blessings of having a ward that feeds you huge amounts of food every night are amazing.

     Something really cool that has been happening this week is a lot of missionaries hard work is paying off, specifically in the Shiloh area. They had a really rough start of the transfer and were tracting for about 3 weeks straight all day every day and nothing was happening at all. They were getting pretty down but they kept working their brains out every single day. Then this week, all of their hard work paid off and investigators started coming out of nowhere. It’s interesting because they aren’t tracting into their new investigators, but because they are tracting and working hard God is blessing them. They now have 6 people who they are hoping to set baptism dates with very soon. Things like that have been happening all over the mission and especially this zone. God is really blessing us for working hard and allowing us to get to our goal of 365.

     I wanted to end this week by talking about a lesson I have learned over and over again on my mission, most recently in the last couple weeks. Sometimes missionary work becomes hard to do. It’s hard to motivate yourself to go knock on the door of someone who 99% of the time doesn’t want to talk to you. In an effort to try to bring myself more happiness I would look for fun stuff, looking to worldly things to try to entertain myself. Not bad things, but just always looking forward to getting to hang out with other missionaries or counting down the minutes to dinner or until personal study is over. The same lesson I have learned a thousand times from that is that those things don’t bring real happiness. Reading the scriptures and using every second of every day to knock on every door you can brings real happiness. Working as hard as you possibly can in order to talk to that 1% of people who will listen to what you have to say, because most of the time that 1% is the last 1% that you talk to that day. I am so thankful for God and His willingness to help me to learn and grow from all of my experiences on my mission. I hope I can keep this lesson for once and not have to relearn it again. I know submitting 100% to Gods will is the only thing that can bring us real happiness.

-Elder Banks

Monday, December 3, 2012

Brenda's baptism

           This week was definitely an eventful one. Monday through Thursday were really slow. It seemed like we didn’t really get anything accomplished. We had a couple lessons but overall it just seemed a little slow. Friday we were just lucky enough to get to go to ZLC for another 6 hour meeting. It was actually really good. Something that stuck out to me was something President Clark told us. A missionary that came out on his mission the same time as me flew home this weekend. He has had a very hard mission and I can’t even count the things that have happened to him. This story could have been a sad one about another missionary getting sent home early. But what was said next was the thing that I really liked hearing. This missionary going home doesn’t really have anything to go home to. So President Clark helped him get into BYU Idaho and Elder Ditto who was the AP when I first got out on my mission is driving to the airport to pick him up. He is going to pretty much take care of him. He is moving in with Elder Ditto and 2 other missionaries who recently went home. The reason I thought this was so cool was because I’m sure there are a ton of missionaries who when they go home off of their missions are so glad that they don’t have to deal with the problem missionaries anymore. But these 3 missionaries have taken their calling to the next level and are taking care of and loving people long past their 2 years. It makes me hope that I am willing to do the things that they are doing when I get home.

The rest of ZLC was really normal. We went through and figured out how many baptisms are 100% going to go through this month. When we figured that all out we were set to end the year with 360 baptisms and our goal the entire year has been 365. As you can guess our mission is very fervently praying and working to try to find 5 more people to bring to this gospel before the year is over.

            The best/most stressful/craziest part of the week this week was Brenda's baptism. We were planning on going to pick her up and drive her to the church at 11:30. But of course baptisms can’t run smoothly or it would just be too easy. There were some complications and Brenda wasn’t quite ready to go until 1:00. We flew to the church and tried to get everything ready as fast as we could. One of the things we were trying to figure out was how to baptize her. Brenda is in a wheelchair and can take a few steps but can’t walk very well. So our original plan was to have her walk down into the font and then sit in a chair and she would just get leaned back out of the chair. What a missionary plans very rarely actually works so of course this one didn’t. When Elder Williams tried to dip her under she went maybe half way and it just wasn’t working. So we had Elder Vaka jump in the font and him and Elder Williams were just going to dunk her like normal. Things got even more complicated because Brenda is afraid of going all the way under the water so she was freaking out a little bit. Even though she had 2 6 foot 4 huge elders in there helping her she was afraid of going under the water and them not being able to pick her up out of it. This baptism was a good example of Satan fighting up until the very last second to try to get her to back out. When she finally got a little more prepared they dunked her and it went perfectly.

Personally my favorite part was right after she came out of the water. Lots of Brenda’s friends and family where there to watch her and they aren’t members so they don’t really know much about our church. I spent the first little bit of her in the water telling them they all had to put their cameras away, but it was great when she came out of the water because they all just started cheering and clapping. Not your normal baptism but it worked. When Brenda stood up and wiped her face off she looked out and just yelled "I did it!!" It definitely wasn’t your average baptism but it works. As the bishop was trying to get everyone to go back into the relief society room I walked past a lady in our ward who said "I’m going to stay and enjoy the Spirit that’s right here." Even though it was definitely a weird one, the Spirit was still strong and everyone in the room that day knew that Brenda made the right decision.

            Talking to Brenda after her baptism, compared to before, is like two different people. I had the opportunity to give her the gift of the Holy Ghost in sacrament meeting and she was just beaming. In just 24 hours she has gone from reading and praying and going to church because she knew she was supposed to, to doing all of those things because she LOVES to. She called us this morning and had a bunch of questions about a chapter she was reading. I got to talk to her for about 20 minutes and answer some of her questions and afterwards she just got so excited and was saying how much she loves reading now and how amazing it is to learn all of this new stuff from the scriptures. Seeing the effort and love she puts into reading and praying now makes me want to be better. We should all love doing those things as much as she does.

            Something else I have learned this week is to appreciate the simple things we know in this church. In Sunday School this week when we taught Brenda about baptisms for the dead she almost fell out of her chair she was so excited to hear she could get her dad baptized. Simple truths I have been lucky enough to have for my entire life are just blowing her mind because they are so amazing to her. I am so thankful for the opportunity that I have had to see these changes in her and in so many others.

With transfer calls coming up this next week I have a lot of different emotions than I thought I would. Me and Elder Loveless were talking last night about how we have been kinda excited to leave our areas ever since we got to them. We just haven’t really clicked in them like we did in our last areas. But over the last week or two Fairview and O’Fallon (Elder Loveless' area) things have just exploded and great things have happened. So now that the time when both of us have a good chance to get transferred is here we aren’t as excited as we thought we were going to be. But wherever I go I know that’s where God needs me. If it’s out in the middle of nowhere or in the middle of the city I know I won’t be sent anywhere without a good reason. I will let you all know what happens next week.

And I have to close by congratulating McKay Hansen on his mission call. I have no idea if he is reading this or not, but that is so cool that you are going to Uruguay! It’s about time we get you out of our country. America can only handle you for so long. I hope all those weird Spanish movies I watched you make paid off so you can go and speak it now. You’re going to be an amazing missionary.

I am so thankful for the opportunity that I have to serve a mission and I am so thankful for all of my friends who are making the same great decision. I am blessed beyond belief with amazing friends both back home and out here in the field and I am thankful for the knowledge that I have that these friendships last more than just this lifetime.

Elder Banks

Monday, November 26, 2012


          This week was full of really fun stuff but a lot of work too. I don’t think me and Elder Williams had a normal full day working together except for Saturday. Last P-day we all got together as a zone and went to a really nice turf field in O’Fallon and played games. It was a blast, but then just like every other time we play sports on p-day we were all really tired after. Wednesday I got to go on an exchange with Elder Smith for a few hours. It adventure. We had a blast and I don’t know if I have ever laughed as hard as I did that day. Elder Williams and Loveless went to St Louis while me and Elder Smith stayed in O’Fallon. We had planned on going to a certain city in their area to see some people. It got interesting though because first of all Elder Smith is a new missionary so he doesn’t know the area that well yet and we were also on bikes so we didn’t have a GPS. Needless to say we got lost. We ended up riding our bikes for about an hour and a half straight which wouldn’t be too bad except for we weren’t really riding on the road. The roads in Illinois are awful to say the least. They are barely wide enough for two lanes of cars to fit on. So if we were lucky there was a gutter we could ride in but most of the time we were in gravel off the side of the road. Then we ended up in the middle of a corn field on our bikes. Ya that was a terrible idea. Then when we finally got to where we were supposed to go, we got a call about 5 seconds later that Elder Williams and Loveless were on their way back to come pick us up. It was a really fun day but my legs felt like they were going to fall off after that.

            The next day was Thanksgiving and it was great. We started by first thing going over to O’Fallon to have a turkey bowl with their ward and it was so much fun. The teams were split up 20 and under against 21 and older and i think even the 20 and younger team was dead tired by the end. It was weird to have a day where we didn’t have to tract or anything so a bunch of us all just went to the church and ate Jack in the Box for our Thanksgiving lunch and then played sports for a while. After a few hours of basketball and volleyball we went to the Matattalls for dinner and had a great thanksgiving dinner there. But probably the best part of Thanksgiving was we got about 8 missionaries and we went back to that turf field at night. The reason it was so fun though was because it was pitch black all around us but the field has lights on it. And about half way through our game of Gator ball it started to pour rain. After an hour of running around in the cold rain we were all very satisfied with our Thanksgiving. I am so thankful for the opportunity that I have to be around so many good friends out here in the mission field. I know most missions in the world don’t have the same opportunities that we have here in St Louis and I am so thankful that God sent me here when I needed to be here. I am thankful for the chance that I have to help people and also to make so many great new friends while I am here.

            Friday I got to go on exchanges with Elder Anderson and it was freezing. It was like 35 degrees or something so it wasn’t that cold at all but there was a wind that day that could split you in half. After a while of tracting in that, Satan has a pretty powerful tool in tempting you to go inside and warm up and rest. But once you can push through all the bad stuff that’s going on you realize after how good you feel for being obedient. And the first thing we did that day was walk in an hour and a half long parade and hand out pass along cards. We handed out a thousand cards so that was great but after all the walking and riding I had done, especially in the cold weather, I was ready for a nap. But of course no matter how ready you are for a nap as a missionary you don’t get one.

Then on Saturday we got the really cool chance to go to a baptism for Sister Fults. I got to interview her a couple days ago and she is an awesome lady. It was really good to meet her and it was awesome to get to see Elders Loveless and Smith finally get a baptism because they have been working so hard and so well together for a few months now. I haven’t been to a baptism for like 3 months so getting to go to one again was an amazing experience and got me excited for this weekend when Brenda is getting baptized.

             Sunday, for once, actually went pretty smoothly. Brenda made it to church without a hitch and is ready to get baptized this weekend on Saturday. We figured out the whole baptism schedule for her this week and we are getting really excited. Elder Williams gets to baptize her which is going to be interesting. She can’t walk very well and is a very big lady. She hasn’t been up or down stairs in a really long time so getting her in and out of the font is going to be interesting, but we know that as long as we do all that we can do God will provide a way. Then on Sunday I am going to have the opportunity to give her the gift of the Holy Ghost so I am really excited for that opportunity.

I am so thankful for this time that I have to serve a mission and to serve in this area. Even though a lot of the time being on a mission is really hard, it is always a really great experience. I am so thankful for all that I have learned and that God would trust me enough to give me all the blessings that I have received. I am so thankful for all of the great people I get to be around so often and I wouldn’t trade any of the experiences I have had on this mission for anything.

-Elder Banks

Monday, November 19, 2012

         It feels like I just wrote an email home yesterday but I will try to think of some stuff to say today. Wednesday was pretty normal after we got to email. We pretty much just tracted all day. Nothing really happened but it was alright. The next day was a lot better though. The APs came and we got to go on our exchange with them. It is always way fun to have them come over. They are really fun missionaries to be around. Going on the exchange with them was crazy because for like the first time in the history of missionaries every single thing that we planned out for that day went perfectly as planned. With the 4 of us all in Fairview that day I think we had like 8 lessons and 5 new investigators. We had a total of 7 new investigators this week which is crazy. Normally if we get 2 in a week we are thrilled. It was a huge blessing though because we had to cut a bunch of people out of our teaching pool recently so it was really nice to get to build it back up a little bit.

            The next day we got to go on exchanges with the East Saint Louis elders and that was fun too. I got to be with Elder Vaka for the day who is a giant Tongan who is from Oakland California so of course we got along because he is a Raiders fan. He got to tell me about how cool it is to sit in the Black Hole and pretty much just made me want to go to a football game. And as I was typing some kid walked past me in the college wearing a Raiders hat. Must be some kind of sign. But anyway it was a really good exchange. One of the cool things that happened was we got a call from the Belleville elders needing our help. They have a girl who is like 13 years old who wants to be baptized. They have been working forever trying to get to meet her parents to get approval but she lives with her grandparents and her parents live kinda far away so they couldn’t ever get up there or get a hold of the parents. But God obviously wants this girl to get baptized because they called us and we found out her dad had told them they could come by that day. So we drove up there and he was totally cool with her getting baptized and then we called her mom and got her approval too. Then right after that she got her interview and passed. It was cool to see all of the hard work from those elders pay off and everything got set up perfectly. She is planning on getting baptized this Saturday.
            Later that day after all of that stuff happened, me and Elder Vaka got to go and teach Brenda Wilson who is our investigator with a baptismal date for the 1st of December. It was pretty crazy when we went over there. There were like 8 grandkids all having a giant WWE match in the living room and of course they all wanted us to join in. It was just chaos. But we love all those little kids so it was really fun at the same time. After a while we got everyone to calm down a little bit and had a lesson. At the end of the lesson we had one of the grandkids give the closing prayer. After the closing prayer, Kahmon, who is a little boy probably around 4 years old walked up and whispered in my ear that he wanted to pray too. So he sat down and everyone got quiet again for him. Then he simply just repeated what I whispered into his ear and said a prayer. It was a really cool experience for all of us and when i opened my eyes Brenda was just crying her eyes out because she was so happy to see her little grandbaby saying a prayer.

            Just like always Sunday morning was insane. We had like 6 people who were planning on coming to church that day and right after we finished studying we had about 6 phone calls from people with excuses why they weren’t going to make it to church that day. It was really frustrating because I feel like my stay in Fairview can for the most part be summed up with investigators who seem solid and get so close then Satan snatches them away. I was getting ready for another investigatorless day at church when Brenda texted us why she wasn’t going to make it. Her reason was by far the most legit out of all of them and she very easily could have just decided to not come that day. But once we told her that it was just Satan trying to hold her back and keep her from going to church she went into super determined black lady mode and once people get like that there isn’t anything that is going to stop them. She had a bunch of crazy stuff going on but she fought through it and ended up making it to church. We were so thankful that she knew how important it was and that she put the effort into making it to church. Once we got to church it was a great experience just like always.

            A quick update on Archie who is our other most progressing investigator, we are still meeting with her and things are going really well but she doesn’t want to come back to church until she can get some nicer clothes. We explained to her that it doesn’t matter what you wear but she wasn’t having any of that. Hopefully we can get that worked out and we can get her coming back to church again soon.

            This coming week is going to be a really good one. We are hopefully having 3 baptisms in the zone this Saturday and saying we haven’t had one in over a month now it is great to see some people willing to make that step. The Fairview area got a couple referrals this week that we are super excited to go and contact. They are solid families who want to learn more about the church so we hope and pray that things work out with them. Thanksgiving is this Thursday and we are way excited for that. We get to go play in the Turkey Bowl in O’Fallon and then we have like 5 member families that want to feed us so we are probably going to eat a ton and then feel sick for the rest of the week. That is what Thanksgiving is all about. I am so thankful for the opportunity that I have to be a missionary and focus all of my efforts on teaching and helping people. It’s a once in a lifetime chance and I am so thankful that I got to take advantage of the chance I was given. – Elder Banks

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

             The beginning of this week has been pretty crazy so far. We obviously didn’t get to email the last couple days but they were filled with awesome stuff. Starting on the not so spiritual side yesterday after days of getting pushed by Brother Kremer to get my ribs fixed my stubbornness finally gave in. A guy in our ward popped all my ribs back in and it felt great. But I was especially thankful because he actually realigned my neck too and told me that was the source of the pain I was having. Turns out instead of having a S shaped spine mine is flat so that’s why my ribs pop out. It’s genetic so thanks mom and dad haha. But I am so thankful to have people who are looking out for me because he told me I was either going to have pain for the rest of my life, regular doctors’ visits for the rest of my life, or I would have to take care of it myself. He taught me how to stretch out my neck and I have to do that 3 or 4 times a day for about 6 months and it should get things in the right place for a while. Having people around me who can bless my life in random ways like that is a huge blessing.
The other stuff we have done these last few days are, we went to the City Museum and had mission conference. They were both awesome. The City Museum is like a huge playground and it was sweet. There aren’t really any rules so we pretty much just ran around this huge 11 story building and did whatever we wanted for a few hours. Me and Elder Williams are both super sore because of it now but it was totally worth it.

 Then yesterday we drove out to St Louis again and had mission conference. It was really fun to get to see a bunch of missionaries again. Elder Jensen was there are I got to talk to him again. It blows my mind that he is coming up on the end of his 2 years. He hit his year mark right at the beginning of training me and it’s going to be a tough day when I have to see him go home. I also got to see my companion Elder Anderson again and that was awesome. I haven’t gotten to talk to him much recently so it was good to get to be with him for a while. Elder Choi from the Seventy was there to talk with us as well. We learned a lot and laughed a lot too because him and President Clark are both hilarious so it was a really good day.

             I am getting a little ahead of myself though so I will back up to what happened last week. Last Pday we went to St Louis and something kinda random happened. We were driving in downtown towards a goodwill to buy more ugly clothes that missionaries don’t need but we love to have, and Sister Shutt pointed out a plaque on the side of a building that said something about this is the site of the very first church in St Louis for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So that was really cool to see, and the funny thing was it was about 10 steps away from the hotel that I stayed in last summer with my family when we came on vacation here. That was just a kinda cool little random thing I learned this week.

                        We had leadership last Tuesday and it was a great meeting. I got to do my training and it went really well. It was one of those things that made me really grateful for the Spirit. I didn’t really know what all I was going to do even when I was sitting in the room watching other missionaries come in. But I had prepared as much as I could and the Spirit took over from there. I gave the training 3 times and it was different all 3 times. But each time the Spirit was there really strong and I learned a ton. I hope that the other missionaries learned as much as I did. Then later that night President Clark gave us all permission to watch the election so that was fun. I don’t really care about politics right now but it was fun to watch I guess. I liked that the first presidency released that message about praying for Obama and America. I think that is really cool and truly the only thing that can help our country.

                        The rest of the week was pretty normal until Sunday morning. Sunday morning is easily my least favorite part of the week. Always Satan stresses us out and causes a bunch of trials because he knows that church is going to be awesome. This week we got hit with a few bombs. Brenda who we were hoping to get baptized this month had a tooth that pretty much broke in half so she was in so much pain she couldn’t make it to church. Archie who is the older lady we swept the porch for was planning on coming to church. When the Kremers went to pick her up she told them about how her son was getting a divorce and crazy stuff was going on. But the hardest one was the very first phone call we got that morning and found out one of our best friends in the ward Danny Allen Sr had died that morning. I have never had anyone close to me die before except my great grandma when I was barely old enough to remember and my dog, which kinda counts. So it wasn’t very fun to lose our friend. Sr. was probably in his 40s and the craziest guy ever. His house is pretty much a bunker and full of weapons and stuff no one should ever need. Going there was the greatest thing ever. Never before have I been so happy to hear someone call me Elder Blanky or Sister Banks. He was a really great guy who loved the missionaries like his own kids and we will definitely miss him.

            So even though before church was tough just like always once we got to church it was a great experience. Archie got to come and it was so great to have her there. She loved it. Getting to be around so many of the people that I care about and learn about the gospel that I love so much is always a great experience. I am so thankful for the opportunity that I have to be out here on my mission and sharing this message with the people out here. Even though 99% of the time was are stressed, frustrated, and tired the 1% of the time we get to see the results of all of that make it so worth it. I am so thankful for the opportunity that I have and I know these 2 years are going to change me and others for the rest of our lives.

-Elder Banks

Monday, November 5, 2012

             This was the week of absolutely nothing going the way that it was planned out to. Monday was fun because me and Elder Loveless got to challenge the Aps to a game of basketball and it was a blast. Even though we lost in overtime both times. Of course. But we ended up having a little bit too much fun and were late to our dinner appointment so that messed up that night. Everything ended up being good though.

Tuesday we had 7 lessons planned out and ended up only having 1. We have had worse days but it was a little frustrating. Wednesday was when things got real messed up. Wednesday was transfer day and Halloween. We weren’t getting transferred so we figured we would just work the first part of the day and then from 5pm and on we had the night off so we were going to go hang out with members and go trick or treating with their kids and stuff. But those plans blew up Friday night when a missionary went crazy. We had to drive him to meet with president after transfer meeting then pack him up and get him moved to a new area. We got in our car at 9:30am and drove/packed up until 9:45 pm. It was a long day with a lot of hours in a car. Happy Halloween. After that things started to calm down though and the rest of the week went really good. It was nice to see the blessings that God gave us to end the week after the beginning was so crazy.

            Because it’s the beginning of the new transfer we are loading up on a bunch of meetings again. Wahoo. Tomorrow we have a leadership meeting that actually got moved to our building so at least its close. But I have to give a 25 minute training. I have been nervous and trying to think about it all week. Of course I still don’t know what I am going to do. But God has this great way of helping us out of tough situations when we do our best to prepare for them. One thing I am really excited for this week is that we get to go on a few exchanges. There are a couple new missionaries in the zone because of transfers and I am really excited to get to meet them.

             Something I am way excited for is next Tuesday because we get to have our mission conference. Elder Choi, who I think is a 70, is going to come down to our mission and talk to us. It is going to be a really great experience to get to hear and learn from him. And we get to drive down to Chesterfield so we get to go out to eat at Ghengis Grill which is amazing so I’m pretty excited for that.

             A huge lesson I learned this week is to not judge people. A while ago we went tracting with Ron (Brother Kremer, but he will kill me if I call him that) and we saw this super old lady sweeping off her porch. When I saw her I didn’t even want to go talk to her because she just looked crazy. But of course the people I was with are more righteous than I am so we went over and swept her porch and talked to her. We set up a return appointment and went back and she answered and told us not today or whatever so I thought I was right. Just another crazy old person who isn’t interested. But then we went back a few days later. She let us in and we shared the first lesson with her. After, she talked to us and told us that she was really worried we weren’t going to come back after she turned us away once because we would think she isn’t interested. She then went on to tell us about how she really wanted to learn more about this and that she would read and pray about the Book of Mormon. Me and Elder Williams walked out after that lesson just amazed. We were so happy that she was serious about learning more about this. She should start to progress even more soon and will hopefully start coming to church and then soon after that accept the invitation to be baptized. I was so happy that she was willing to learn from us, and I have never been so happy to be completely wrong. It just goes to show that anyone can surprise you, especially when they have the Spirit with them to help them learn and grow.

             I am so thankful for the opportunity that I have to come out here and see people change every day. I have met people who were some of the worst people you can imagine. They break every commandment and they love every second of it. But then you get to see them change and go from some of the worst people you have ever met to some of the best. Seeing the change of heart that is talked about so much in the Book of Mormon is one of the coolest things that I have ever gotten to see. Watching people change and become better is the whole reason we are out here as missionaries. We are sharing the message that will change people the most and in the best way possible. I am so thankful for the message that I have the opportunity to share and I hope that we can all learn to love it and also allow it to change our lives for the best.

Elder Banks

Monday, October 29, 2012

            Well let’s get this out of the way first. The Giants won the World Series. Thank goodness Weston is in Fiji so he can’t rub that in my face for the next year. But the Raiders won this week so that was a good thing.

Now on to the stuff that I am actually supposed to be thinking about. We had a really good week of missionary work this week. I want to start off by talking about our most progressing investigator Brenda Wilson. She is a really interesting story. She has been taking the lessons forever but things just haven’t been able to work out. She is a really big lady and in a wheelchair that is super heavy so it is really hard to get her to church on Sundays. Since me and Elder Waldron got here we have been trying to figure out a way to get her to church and have tried to get help from the ward but it hasn’t really gone anywhere. Then on Monday we got a call from Elder Keller in the office and he told us that we had the opportunity to change cars if we wanted to. So we got to trade in our Malibu for a mini van. First of all driving around the ghetto looking like a soccer mom is pretty dang cool. Second it was an answer to our prayers because now we can just drive down to get Brenda and put her giant electric wheelchair into our van and get a member to come pick her up. She came to church for the first time in a while yesterday and loved every second of it. She has a baptism date for November 17th right now. And that day may change around a little bit but she should be baptized by the end of November so we are really excited for that.

            Another person who came to church yesterday for the first time since I have been here is Rick Jackson. He is a recent convert that Elder Williams baptized when he was here the first time. I just met him not too long ago because he moved to Texas for a while. But it was cool to get to see him at church because he hadn’t been able to go while he was down working in Texas. We went to his house this morning to do laundry and we were talking to him and he told us that he loved coming to church this week because it made him feel so good. It’s cool to see how big of a deal it was to him to get to come to church again. It has been really cool to get to know them better as they have moved back from Texas. Even though their dog thought it would be funny to poo on my silk tie last night. Ya that was great.
            Earlier this week we got to go to ZLC and it was... long. As always it seems to go on forever but it’s a good meeting. We found out that we are having a leadership meeting in our stake center this next Tuesday. Then last night I got a call from the APs that I am giving a 25 minute training on using members during the holidays. That will be interesting cause pretty much everyone there has been out longer than I have and I haven’t been out for the holidays yet. I am really excited to get to do that though.

After ZLC we got to go to the wards trunk or treat which was really cool. There were a lot of non members there and we got to be the judges for a chili cook off so that was delicious. Then the next day Brother Kremer took us to the temple and of course that was a great experience. I hadn’t been to the temple in close to 3 months because me and Elder Waldron never made it there. So after a long pause between visits it was great to get to go back and feel the Spirit in the temple again.

            One of the bigger things that happened this week was we got transfer calls. Thankfully me and Elder Williams both get to stay in Fairview for at least another 6 weeks together. We were really happy to hear about that. We are really excited about all the changes that are coming to the zone. We think that every change that was made is going to be a huge blessing and the zone is really going to improve. And, also, most of the missionaries that I have gotten to be really good friends with get to stay in the zone. I am so thankful for constantly being surrounded by awesome missionaries who help me so much and always show me the kind of person that I need to be.

            This week in church we read the talk from April’s conference by Elder Scott, I think. It is about receiving person revelation and inspiration. I love that talk so much. It was a great reminder as I read it again this morning about the things that we need to do to have the Spirit in our lives the strongest and how to receive help on life’s hardest questions. I would encourage all of us to go back and read conference talks again and get those spiritual reminders of what we need to do to make ourselves better. I am so thankful for the Spirit and all that it does to help me in my life and how it helps guide me onto the right paths. I love this opportunity that I have been given and am so thankful for it. I hope we can all take advantage of the opportunities that life puts in our path.

Elder Banks

PS: That is so cool that Kaylee had her baby. I hope everything with that goes smoothly from now on too. Oh and a huge like 6 foot 6 black guy just walked past me wearing a bright yellow Pikachu hat from Pokemon. People here are awesome.

Monday, October 22, 2012

              I totally forgot to talk about something last week so I have to start off with it this week or I will probably just forget about it again. So, we got an email from President Clark last week that was really interesting. We have 180 missionaries in the mission right now. Starting in January we are going to be getting 30 more elder and 30 more sisters. So our mission is about to get huge. We are going to open a bunch of new areas and even some new zones. The changes that are coming in our mission and just overall in the mission field are going to be amazing.

            This week has seemed like it was about 6 months long. I forgot my planner that has all my notes in it today so I am just going to have to try to do my best to remember everything but no promises because my brain is pretty fried today. So last Monday we got to go to Paint Louis which was really cool. It’s a 3 mile long wall of graffiti. It was awesome to get to see all of that but walking to the end and back was 6 miles so it wasn’t the most relaxing P-day I have ever had.

Then the whole middle of the week went really good. We got to work our area a lot more than normal and got a lot of lessons done. It was really good to get to go see so many of our investigators and help them out. Chris and George are two friends who we love teaching George is around 50 and Chris is probably in his 30s. They came to church on Sunday and it was so great to have them there. Saying that me and Elder Williams have only had 1 person at church in our time together having two in one day was great. Hopefully they want to come back and can start to change their lives.

            Another cool thing that happened in the middle of the week was that I got a letter from Elder Anderson in Jacksonville. When I opened it up there was a note from Terry and TJ in it and a CD from Brother Michael. It was so good to get to hear from them again and see that they are still doing so good. It is so amazing to get to see the changes that Terry and TJ have made and that they are still doing so well. I miss Jacksonville so it was really good to get an update on them.

            Saturday was a really fun day cause it was our exchange with the APs. It’s always really fun and we always get a lot of work done that day because we have four missionaries working the area. We had some sweet tech deck competitions so that made it fun too. I got to be with Elder Marshall who actually spent 6 months of his mission in Fairview. It was good to go around with him because there were a couple people who just weren’t quite ready to hear the message while he was here. So we went around and saw them and it was really interesting to see the humbling experiences they had been through. Most of them had something really tough happen and so they needed the gospel more than ever now. Then told us they were ready to talk and we set up times to go back and see them this week. It was a really fun and productive day.

            As always Sunday was a really good day too. Me and Elder Williams got the chance to speak in church about missionary work and sing in the choir. I can tell you right now there is no way I would be in the choir if Elder Williams didn’t make me but it’s usually a good experience.

After church we went down to Cahokia and met a guy named Trey. It was an interesting visit because he spends a lot of time at a house we teach someone at. Last time we went there he was snorting coke with his friends. But this time we caught him alone and got to talk to him a little bit. It is crazy to see how much peer pressure and worldly influences can change a person. Trey is a super good guy and wants to learn more about our church. We are going to do our best to teach him more but we have to get him away from all the bad influences that surround him.

Of course that applies to all of us though. It doesn’t matter if we are the best member of the church in the world if we constantly surround ourselves with stuff that we should be staying away from it is going to wear on us. We may not fall into the major sins of the world but the Spirit will be dulled when we are in those situations. The Spirit wants to be with us but can’t follow us into situations we know are going to be bad. It’s His job to help us to know they are going to be bad and stay out of them. Then it’s our decision to turn away and go do what we know is better. As we are all surrounded by worldly influences, we need to put ourselves above those things and follow the example of Christ. I am so thankful for the opportunity I have to know the things that I know about this church and I hope and pray that I can always continue to learn more and grow closer to Christ.

Elder Banks

Elder Banks meeting the other Elder Banks

Monday, October 15, 2012

          We had a great week this week. Last Monday we got to have a nerf war like I talked about and it was way fun. It is always really cool to get 30 missionaries together and just have fun every once in a while. Especially to see a bunch of missionaries dressed up and out of the normal shirt and tie for a change.

Things got a little bit crazier after that but it was still good. Monday or Tuesday night we got a call at 2 in the morning that an elder needed to go to the emergency room. So we drove up to get him and of course by time we got to him he had taken some pills and everything was back to normal. We were glad we got the opportunity to help him out, but it made the next day a lot longer to miss out on that few hours of sleep we lost.

After that but still early in the week I had a really cool experience though. A couple of the Kremers were feeling not so great earlier this week and we went over to see them. The reason it was so cool for me was because I got the opportunity to give Sister Kremer a blessing. Nothing really spectacular happened but it was just one of those things where you feel so good during it and the Spirit from that moment doesn’t leave you for a long time.

            I want to thank everyone for all the birthday wishes and stuff. It was different to have a birthday away from home but it was great. To be honest I am not a big fan of celebrating my birthday at all. For my entire life I just spent my birthday doing what I do every other day with family or friends. So I tried to keep my birthday pretty quiet this year. But of course when your companion and the Kremers know it’s your birthday instead of nothing happening you end up having two restaurants full of people stare at you and your birthday announced by the bishop over the pulpit in church. So needless to say it wasn’t anything like I wanted it to be but it was really fun. I am probably going to want to die over this next couple weeks because of all the candy I have now. Thank you to everyone for sending it all and I will do my best to control myself and make it last more than a couple days, but with me and Elder Williams there aren’t any promises.

            This may seem like a pretty little thing but it has actually ended up being a pretty big deal for the last couple days. So my back was bothering me a little bit more than normal recently and it was starting to get really hard to sit in lessons for a long time and lay down in bed. But on Saturday we went to do service down in Cahokia and brother Nance was there. We asked him to come to the lesson that we had right after with us and he gladly came. After it was over I remembered that he was a doctor and asked him about my back. Turns out that he actually wants to specialize in that kind of stuff. Turns out I had a few ribs out of place and that was kinda messing up the alignment of everything so he grabbed my back and popped them back into place right there in a ladies driveway. I love the little things like God allowing me to have a doctor willing to go to a lesson with us. My back has felt so much better over these last few days and I am so thankful that God would help me out with that.

            Of course I can’t finish up this email without talking about sports. Of course the Raiders lost on my birthday because that’s just what they do. But they only lost by 3 to the only undefeated team left in the league so I guess that’s not too bad. At least it’s not like my birthday 5 years ago when the Raiders got killed by the Chargers.

The Cardinals sure had a good weekend though. At dinner on Thursday I think it was I looked over my shoulder just in time to see Jason Werth hit a walkoff  homerun to beat the Cardinals so that was rough. And it got even worse when we went to bed knowing the Cardinals were down 6-0 in the elimination game. But then when we woke up the next morning everything got better from there. We found out that they came back and won 9-7 and now they are in the NLCS. Then last night they beat the Giants so that was exciting too. After finding out that my favorite basketball player is hurt and the Raiders are still horrible it’s nice to get to cheer for a team that actually wins. Oh and Matt I am way jealous that you got to go to the Cardinal’s/Giants game. You better have pictures.

            On the more spiritual side of things, I noticed something really cool this week. I have talked about conference with a lot of people, and a common theme with everyone is that they always seem to tell me what they think the overall message of conference was. The reason I think that’s so cool is because not a single person has told me the same thing as someone else. It is amazing to me that even though we are all listening to or reading the exact same words over and over again, everyone gets exactly what they need out of it. I am so thankful that God knows me and knows all of us and exactly what we need when we need it. I feel extremely blessed to be where I am right now working with who I am working with. Elder Williams has been great to have as a companion. Our teaching pool was like 6 to 8 when he got here and now we are teaching 15 to 20 people each week. It is great that even though we don’t have much time to spend in our area we can work our guts out and make that time as useful as we possibly can. Even though most of you aren’t on full time proselyting missions right now we still all have the same work to do. You're a missionary from the second that you come out of that font full of water. We all need to use every second that God has blessed us with to the fullest of its potential. Whether that’s sharing the gospel with your friends and family or strengthening ourselves and our loved ones in the church, we should always be doing something to further the work of God.

Elder Banks

Monday, October 8, 2012

Pictures: Elder Banks cooling off with an Otter Pop, Elders Banks and Williams watching conference, Elder Waldron and Elder Banks with Ron and Vicki Kremer on Vicki's baptism day.

               So hopefully this email makes sense. We don’t have much time today because we are having a zone nerf war strobe light costume party at the church and we have to go set it all up so we are a little bit short on time. But anyways I think it is awesome that they lowered the age for missionaries! The age thing obviously doesn’t really affect me at all. But the reason I’m so excited for it is because, first of all, most of my friends that are back home are old enough to go pretty much right now. It is especially a huge change for the sisters. Second I hope that the amount of missionaries out right now shoots up like crazy soon. With all of these new people being able to come out I hope to see new missions all over and current missions get huge. I had to get that out of the way but I will talk about the rest of conference later.

This week was a really good one. One of the cool things that happened this week was I got to talk to all of my former companions. I got to call Elder Anderson to talk to him about some stuff going on in Jacksonville. While I was on the phone with him we talked about all of the recent converts and how they have been doing since I came to Fairview. Just as expected there was mixed results. There are the ones who are still strong and help the missionaries out all the time. Those are the ones that really make me happy. Then there are the people who get baptized and then completely fall off. It is so hard to hear about those people and wish I could do something for them. For now all I can do is keep them in my prayers, but if I ever drive through Jacksonville again I will definitely have some people to go talk to. Getting to catch up with Elder Anderson again was great cause I haven’t seen him since I left Jacksonville.

I talked to Elder Jensen this week cause we see him all the time so that was fun like always. And then between sessions in conference the Kremer’s got a call from now Brother Waldron. It was really fun to get to talk to him and see how he is doing with his new life back home. It was a really cool experience to get to talk to everyone this week and it’s great to see how good they are all doing.

             On Thursday this week I got the chance to go down and stay in Waterloo for a day. The reason I got to go on exchanges there is because they needed someone to be interviewed for baptism and I got the opportunity to do that. The bad news came early in the day during district meeting when the Waterloo elders got a text from the man being baptized that said he didn’t think it was a good thing for him to do at this time. Knowing that Waterloo hasn’t seen a baptism for about a year and a half this was a really hard text for them to get. After the meeting me and Elder Shivers drove over to this guy’s house to talk to him. I can definitely see why he didn’t think this was a good time. His house is half finished and he is doing the entire thing on his own. His wife has gone into this state of depression and rarely leaves her room and he has 3 small children to take care of including a 9 year old with autism. He just thought he was too busy to do the things he needed to do after he got baptized. It was an amazing experience to get to talk to him and help him realize that this is exactly what he needed to do. There was nothing better for him to do than to get the Holy Ghost and have that help and guide him in his life. After a long meeting with him at the end we ended on a great note. He passed the baptismal interview and he knew it was what he needed to do. He knew it want going to be easy, but it was going to be worth it.

            To be honest right now I don’t even remember what we did the rest of the week up until Saturday and of course that was conference. Conference is easily the best holiday for missionaries. Most other holidays just end up being us not being able to leave our apartment all night and sitting around for a few hours. Having the opportunity to go watch the prophet and apostles talk is the greatest thing we could ever hope for. This conference was even better than last conference because instead of watching it alone in a big church building, me and Elder Williams got to watch it with the Kremer’s. It felt just like being home again. It was so much fun and such a good experience for all of us. (especially cause I started convincing Ryan to be a Raiders fan). But of course the best part of conference is always getting to hear and learn from some of the greatest men on the planet. It is amazing to hear their words and know they are straight from God.

I have been thinking all day about which talk I wanted to quote or whatever to end this email. The main thing that kept coming to my mind was one of the overall themes of conference being our example as members of the church. They talked specifically about missionaries a lot. But we are all in the spotlight more than ever now. It doesn’t matter if you are going to BYU or if you live in Fairview Heights, Illinois there are thousands of people watching you every day. In Illinois those people may have never even heard of this church. Your example could be what changes their life forever. At BYU, or in Orem or wherever you are, you are still being watched and seen by thousands of people all the time. Just because they are members of our church doesn’t mean they don’t need your help. If they see you stand up for what you believe in when tempted with something you know you shouldn’t do, they will know they should always stand up for their beliefs. If they see you cave to pressure it just gives them one more reason to not read their scriptures, pray, or go to church on Sunday. We can’t ever take a break from being the good example to people around us.

             I am so thankful for the opportunity that I have to stick out in a crowd of people. We don’t go anywhere without hundreds of eyes reading the little black name tag we wear. I don’t ever want to be the person that embarrasses our church because of something I do or say. I hope that I can always be a representative of Jesus Christ and do things the way he would have me do them. I am so thankful for all of the blessings I have and I hope we can all always remember how blessed we are.

Elder Banks

Monday, October 1, 2012

            The only thing I can think of to describe this week is just constantly being tired... I went to bed so tired I could barely walk and woke up so tired I could barely roll out of bed. We were insanely busy this week. On Monday right after we emailed we bussed down to the St Louis Zoo. That was really fun. The coolest part was getting to go into this special exhibit thing they have and petting/feeding stingrays and little sharks. Besides the fact that we left the zoo smelling like dead fish and super worn out from walking around all day it was a really fun way to start out the week.
After that I spent a couple days in different cities around the stake on exchanges. In O’Fallon we were walking around tracting for a few hours and it started to get really cloudy and stormy so we thought it would probably be a good idea to start biking home. Thankfully we made it home for dinner and about 5 minutes later I looked outside and the rain was coming in sideways. It was the craziest storm I have ever seen. It was really cool to get to watch it from inside a house, but at the same time it was really nerve racking knowing that there was a bunch of missionaries out in it. Thankfully everyone made it through safe. Later that night we went up to Alton and stayed there for the night.   

The next day I got to go out and teach with Elder Anderson. We went to a guy named Carme's house and it was an awesome lesson. We taught him the plan of salvation and he loved it. Everything we said just made sense to him. He accepted the invitation to be baptized on the 20th. Even though it wasn’t my area or investigator it was still such an awesome experience to see someone who is that excited to hear about the message we have to share.

            Another cool experience we had this week was on, I think, Wednesday night. We had a dinner with the Mattatalls. They have a very unique house and it is set up differently. There is a front door and you walk through that and then there is a giant outdoor patio like room then you get to the real front door. They keep the doors locked so we normally get there and call and they just come let us in. When we got to their house on Wednesday we realized that we had left the phone back at the apartment and we didn’t have enough miles left on the car to go back and get it. So after pounding on the door and honking the car horn we realized that we didn’t have any way to make it past that first front door to get to the house. We were out of ideas so the only thing we could think to do was to just say a prayer. We prayed that we could get their attention or get into the house without having to use all out miles to go home. We prayed then just kinda sat there and looked at the door and the deadbolt locking it. After a couple seconds Elder Williams says Well there is no way this is going to work but it’s worth a shot. Then he reached into his back pocket and pulled out his knife. Stuck it in between the door and the frame and somehow shoved the deadbolt back into the door and the front door opened right up. It’s another simple little example of the power of prayer. We know that there is no way that knife should have been able to open that lock but for some reason it worked. We needed help and God helped us out.

             Thursday we went to zone conference. It was really fun to get a different view of zone conference this time. It was great to get to hear from the assistants and President and Sister Clark and we learned so much there. But it was really fun to get to do a training and be the one doing the teaching. We trained on how to use time wisely which was a pretty tricky thing to train on. Elder Williams came up with a really good idea that I wanted to share. We used the story of Christ with the woman at the well. He gave her the water so she would never thirst again. As missionaries we are messengers of Christ and we are responsible to give that same water to people. We had a cup with us that had a bunch of holes in it. Of course because we aren’t perfect like Christ our cup has holes in it. But as we do the things that we need to do like planning, studying, and all the other basic things missionaries and good members of the church should do, Christ will help us to plug up the holes so the water stops leaking out. It’s our responsibility to plug up all those holes so that if we run into someone who needs that "water" we can give them a full glass and not just the drops out of the bottom.

            When Thursday ended,  I was pretty much ready to drop. 2 days of exchanges and one 6 hour meeting down but we still had another 6 hour meeting and 2 days left in the week. On Friday we woke up and headed straight over to St Louis for ZLC. It was a good meeting. Long. But it was good. Saturday we bussed down to Cahokia and spent the day walking around down there. We kept having to get on the bus to get to different places in Cahokia and even if the bus ride was only 5 minutes long no matter how hard I tried Elder Williams had to wake me up when it was time to get off. I could not keep my eyes open. Church was good on Sunday and it was nice to get a break from our crazy schedule and get to just sit and listen in a meeting for once. For some reason on Sunday I just felt like something was off. I had no idea what it was. I knew I was tired but there was something more than that. Brother Kremer asked me a couple times if there was something wrong and I didn’t know what it was so I just said I was tired. I went throughout the whole day just wanting to figure it out. Around 10 that night I finally realized what it was. In all of the chaos that happened this whole week we didn’t have our studies any day after Tuesday. That meant I had gone almost 6 days without studying from the Book of Mormon. I opened it up here and there but I hadn’t really sat down and read. It hit me how big of a deal that was and how that book is such an important part of my life now. I woke up this morning determined to read and then of course we ended up having to drive an hour to Edwardsville. We have our whole day planned out after we email and shop to sit and do nothing. We are really looking forward to it. But I will have to sacrifice some nap time to get some reading done. I know that The Book of Mormon changes lives and people more than anything else. Opening the pages and reading is the best cure to anything that could possibly come against us in this life. I didn’t appreciate quite how important it was before my mission. But now knowing what it is and how important it really is I never want to stop reading it, and the only reason that I can stop reading it is to go out and to try to get other people to read it. I love that book and I love getting to share it with other people. As I sadly found out this week we can’t let Satan tell us that we don’t have time. We always have time to read and if we don’t, then make time. Nothing is more important than making sure we can have the Spirit with us and there to guide us throughout everything we do each and every day. I am so thankful for all the amazing blessings I get to see as a missionary and I hope that you can all see the blessings of this gospel in your lives too.

Elder Banks
Elder Banks and Elder Anderson at the St. Louis Cardinals game in September.

Monday, September 24, 2012

New companion, Elder Williams

             I can’t believe it has only been 7 days since I emailed last. So much stuff has happened it feels like it has been a year. Monday and Tuesday were pretty normal days. Then Wednesday was transfer meeting and we headed out to St Louis to get new companions. It was tough to see Elder Waldron go home but from what I have heard he is doing well with his new life. I must say transfer day was probably the most stressful day of my mission so far. I don’t think there was 5 minutes where our phone wasn’t exploding with calls and texts. Between having to drive back to St Louis to get some lost keys and opening 2 new areas where elder’s didn’t have rides to get back from the meeting it was quite the day.

The best part of transfer day was getting to meet Elder Williams. He is awesome. He is about 6'4" and close to double my weight. He is a huge goofball. Just like all the rest of my companions he is really tough to figure out. He loves outdoor stuff like hunting and has worked on an oil rig/ in an oil field thing since he was 13. But he is also super good at singing opera. Haha that is definitely a talent that can keep us entertained. Unfortunately he is a Broncos fan so the trash talk has been pretty much nonstop. If the Raiders lose next week I will probably never heard the end of it. It has been amazing to have him back in Fairview Heights though. Everyone in the ward loves him and is so glad he is back. He has only been out for 6 weeks longer than me and he spent his first 6 months in Fairview. He has never really had a normal companion because he got trained and then trained twice. So this is a big change for him but he loves it. As zone leaders we are co-senior companions which is great. I am ZL1 but I’m 99% sure that doesn’t actually mean anything. We are both just really happy to have a companion who is close to our same mission age and we can work completely as equals. Apparently there was a ton of confusion between when he left Fairview and now because he has like 20 investigators for us to go and see. Our teaching pool has doubled in the last couple days just from people who were lost or forgotten after he left. We stopped back by and they are excited to see us and want to learn more.

            Of course it has been a big change getting a new companion. One big difference is that Elder Waldron would ask me every time we left the apartment if I had the keys, and every time I thought Ya I’m not stupid of course I have the keys. So of course the 2nd day that he is gone I locked the keys in the apartment. That was a humbling experience. It was really fun though because it would have been so easy for us to get frustrated and for Elder Williams to get mad, but it ended up being a ton of fun. Luckily the night before we had unlocked the window of our apartment. The bad thing is that window is on the 2nd story. So we spent the next 30 minutes breaking into our 2nd story window and getting the keys. It was a fun night.

            Another theme this week was humbling experiences. We met up with a kid named Alex White. He was a former investigator and is a really cool kid who is about 13. Because the weather is cooling down when we go down to Cahokia there is always a million kids outside playing street ball. So of course when we saw Alex outside playing basketball we did the whole, if we can beat you in PIG we get to teach you thing. Let’s just say getting killed by a 13 year old in PIG will knock your pride down a couple levels. But thankfully he wanted to have a lesson with us anyways. He is a super bright kid and we read Lehi's dream with him. He picked up pretty much everything that we wanted him to and we are going back for a little bit of redemption in basketball and a 2nd lesson sometime next week.

            This coming up week is going to be absolutely crazy. Tonight we are going to O’Fallon for an exchange and I will be spending the night there. The next night we are going up to Alton to have a blitz up there. We are going to drive home from that and head straight over to Zone Conference. Zone Conference is a 6 hour meeting with about 60 other missionaries and president and sister Clark that we are in charge of. Then Friday we are going to St Louis for Zone Leader Council and that’s another 6 hour meeting. Then we get to finish the week off with DLZLC for a couple hours on Saturday and then church on Sunday. It sounds like a lot of long boring meetings but we are so excited. This is going to be the quickest week ever for us.

             Something in my mom’s email to me this week that really surprised me was hearing that Connor got his mission call. It is so crazy that it has been almost a year since I found out I was headed to the St Louis Mission. And now hearing about all of my friends coming up on their missions is the coolest thing ever. I can’t wait to hear about all of the mission calls that are coming to my friends now. Going on a mission is by far the hardest decision I have ever had to make. And don’t try to fool yourself into thinking it’s going to get any easier once you are out in the field. It’s always going to be tough, but it is also always going to be worth it. Having the testimony that what you are doing is the greatest thing that you could ever do for your life and for the lives of so many others makes all of the hard times worth it. There is no physical, mental, or spiritual pain that any of us could ever go through that Christ hasn’t already gone through first. No matter what comes our way the quiet assurance that all of our losses and trials will be made up to us if we are faithful can always keep us going. There are many people in our lives who have tried their hardest to point us in the right direction, but that is about all they can do. They can show us the right way and try their hardest to help us down it, but we won’t ever budge down the right path unless we make that choice ourselves. I love you all and I pray for you every day. I am so thankful for good friends who are making the right decision to go on a mission. I know that if you put the effort into it that God expects of you then it will be the greatest experience of your life.

-Elder Banks