Monday, June 18, 2012

Hello family:

I think that’s awesome that Shelly called you. She asked for your number the other day so I figured she would. I don’t have a copy of her program because we didn’t have any haha. The copier at our church broke so we didn’t make any. And Caitlin’s last name is Buchanan. Thanks for everything and I’m glad that you had a good time in St. George. And I laughed so hard when you ended my letter with Park-meister. Man that was awesome. But thanks for everything and I will talk to you again soon! P.S. Thanks for the package! It was awesome and delicious.

I would be an awful son if I didn’t start out by saying happy father’s day to my dad. One of the biggest things that I have realized on my mission is that I wish I had spent more time with my dad. So get ready dad cause in about 2 years I am going to have a lot of free time to spend with you until I get a job. But thanks for everything that you do for me and always being an awesome example.

Austin I heard you did an awesome job on your farewell talk. Weston is going to have an interesting birthday this year with Austin and Ryan both leaving for the MTC that day. And Austin you will have to send me some pictures of your missionary haircut haha. I don’t know what that could look like.

Speaking of pictures I sent my SD card home this last week with like 100 pictures on it and all that made it to my house in Utah was an empty envelope. So that’s the reason why there won’t be pictures on Facebook for a while.

This week has been a roller coaster for sure. There have been some awesome things happen but also some pretty awful ones. One of the cool things that happened this week was we got to go to Springfield for zone conference. That is always really fun. I told the story about Carlos in my last email and President Clark called up "the Jacksonville Elders" to tell that story in zone conference. So that was pretty cool. But for me the coolest part was when the Smiths got up and bore their testimony. They are the senior couple in our mission and they are awesome. A few weeks back they took me and Elder Jensen out to lunch and it was really cool to get to know them better. President Clark called them up to bear their testimony about their mission. Of course Sister Smith cried the whole time but when it really got extra spiritual was when Elder Smith started talking. He isn’t a very emotional guy but he started crying talking about some of the lives that they had changed. One of the 4 Elder Andersons that was sitting within 4 feet of me is a big goof ball who had been joking around the entire time. But right after that testimony he turned around and looked at me with watery eyes and just said "Oh man if I cry I’m going to kill myself." So it’s official that if he cried there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. So as always zone conference was awesome.

One of the cooler things we got to do this week was go to a Civil war reenactment. There are some very interesting people at those things. But it was really cool. We definitely stood out when we went there. A bunch of dirty civil war actors and then two guys walking around in their white shirts and ties was a pretty big difference. It was cool cause we had people walking up to us the whole time asking us what we were doing. That was a pretty fun couple of hours.

Another cool thing that happened this week was once again we had to wait a few minutes to have a meeting with one of our investigators. So we had to find something to fill up a little bit of time so we went tracting at an apartment complex. We only ended up having time to knock on 2 doors. One of them no one answered. But the second one was a guy named Dan. The reason it was so cool was because a ton of zone conference was about tracting. So it was my turn to talk and I just practiced doing all of the stuff that we learned a couple days before. And what do you know for the first time on my mission someone actually let us into their house from tracting. We taught a quick first lesson and set up a return appointment with him. It was cool to see that applying what we learned from our leaders turned into a new investigator for us.

Most of the investigators that we already had this week dropped us. I think we lost 4 progressing investigators this week total. Which stinks cause I have only been dropped about three times on my mission before this week. But our 2 most progressing investigators now are William and Carlos.

William is a 11 year old kid who is awesome. His mom was less active but she makes it out every week now. William is so excited because he is getting baptised on Saturday. This will be the first baptism I have been a part of being the senior companion. Turns out it’s a lot harder to throw a baptism together than I thought. But thankfully Brother Mathusek has been helping us out a lot and taking a little bit of the stress off. So William is set to be baptised in a couple days and we are really excited for that.

Carlos is the guy that we met just over a week ago. We have met with him every day since we met him and he has grown a ton each time. It’s insane cause his testimony is already amazing. Satan is smacking him around hard but he is withstanding every bad thing that comes at him. So far his mom and all of his friends have told him to pretty much get out of their lives until he drops this religion. That was the very edited version of what they really said to him. So he is pretty much losing everything. But on Friday we told him to pray and ask if this was the right thing for him to do and if he should be baptised. When we went back on Saturday we got a pretty crazy response. He told us about how his dad is the most important person he has ever had in his life. He was paralyzed for the last little bit of his life and then he passed on not too long ago. He said that when he prayed he didn’t get a response for a while. But then he prayed again and the voice of his dad came into his head and told him that this is what he needed to do. The story that he told us would normally be really hard to believe. But it was so sincere that there is no possible way that he was lying. Carlos reminds me of Joseph Smith because he is giving up everything for this religion. And there is no way that he would be willing to do that unless he knew that it was true. He has some things to work out but he now has a date set for July 14th. We are really excited to work with him towards that.

A lot of awesome things happened this week. But as missionaries know all too well there must be opposition in all things. Losing so many investigators this week was really hard. But the hardest thing of all happened on Saturday night. Kodie had a baptism set for the 30th of this month. We met with him earlier that Friday morning and talked to him about everything. He still had a couple doubts to be worked out but he was working hard on it. We stopped by to see Shelly, his next door neighbor, later that night and all we saw was a very, very sad looking Kodie putting his bike into the back of his moms car. We didn’t think much of it but we went over and could tell from the yelling inside the house that there was some family troubles going on. We thought it was best to stay out of it so we just gave him a pat on the back and told him everything was going to be alright. About 10 minutes later he came up to talk to us and Shelly and said something like my mom wanted me to come say bye to you guys cause she said we are never coming back here. So I’ll probably never see you guys again. Then he just turned around hopped in the car and they drove off. I had no idea what was going on. All we know is that poor little almost 11 year old kid is out somewhere away from all of his friends, family, and everything he has ever known living with his 24 year old mom. It is not the best situation in the world that’s for sure.

But even as that awful night has haunted me for the rest of the week the words that Shelly said to Kodie as he was walking away have been constantly running through my head. "Don’t worry buddy. God will work everything out." Every time I want to just give up or not knock on that last door. Every time I think of how unfair it is that the first person that I ever grew to love in Jacksonville could get so close then get ripped away at the last second. That same line just runs through my mind. I hope and pray that I will see Kodie again someday soon. But no matter what happens I know that God will work everything out. This life is full of trials and afflictions that no one wants to go through. I have seen and heard things since I got to Jacksonville that I never could have dreamed of. I always thought that the news or the movies were bad. But the stuff that they don’t show on the news is even worse sometimes. There are people here who go through more each day than I have in my entire life. But Shelly’s advice always rings true, "Don’t worry buddy. God will work everything out." I am so thankful for the knowledge that I have of the plan of salvation and this gospel. It brings hope to even the darkest situations. I used to feel bad for myself when things would get hard on my mission. But all I have to do now is look out the window and get on my knees to realize how blessed that I really am. We should all take some time to count our blessings, because whether we think so or not we are all blessed.

Elder Banks

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