Monday, July 30, 2012

My mom told me this week that my cousin Logan is a deacon now and my dad got called to be in the young men’s presidency! That is so cool. I can’t believe Logan is 12. I swear I still remember him being born. And I guess the 20+ years of dealing with me and my older brother is finally paying off for my dad. Hopefully we gave you enough practice to deal with all the young men in the ward.

Last Monday night after I wrote my email was probably my favorite day on my mission so far. That might sound a little strange because really nothing that special happened. We got the chance to hang out with Bryan and EJ who are 2 of our investigators. It was great because they both love doing missionary work. We ran out of miles this month way early so they came over and pretty much just drove us around to get to go see all of our investigators. Getting to hear about how much they love missionary work and how badly they want to serve missions just warms my soul. It was such an awesome night getting to see how much their lives have changed already.

They next cool thing that happened this week was the Super Activity down in St. Louis. It was amazing. The very first thing that we did was go to Busch Stadium for the Cardinals game. It was such an awesome game to go to. The final score was 7-4 so it was pretty high scoring and really exciting. The Cardinals ended up having like 17 hits or something like that so there weren’t too many innings where something exciting didn’t happen. The starting pitcher was Westbrook which was kinda funny cause he is the same guy who pitched the first time I went to a Cardinals game. David Freese, my favorite player, had an awesome game and if the score card in my brain is right he was 3-3 with 2 RBIs and 2 Runs so he had a pretty awesome game and that was fun to watch. Then Matt Holliday hit a home run so that was pretty cool to get to see as well. Then I was really happy because Motte came in at the end to close out the game so it was really fun to get to see him pitch. Unfortunately Molina, Berkman, and Beltran were all out for some reason so I didn’t get to see them so that kinda stunk. But I guess I will just have to come back after my mission to get to watch them again.
It was awesome to get to see all of my friends from the mission again and to have all of us in one place. It was cool to get to be with all 3 of my companions again. Elder Anderson has heard a million stories about a bunch of different missionaries so it was cool for him to finally get to put faces with all of the weird stories. It was such a cool experience to get to be back in St Louis. It was like I had never left off of our family vacation the year before. We walked right past the hotel that we stayed in and I got to lead our district all over the city and show them some cool stuff. After the game we had a few hours to just do whatever we wanted. No one I was with had ever been to the arch before so that’s were we headed. It was really cool to get to see it again. We didn’t have time to go up inside but I have done that once before and that is enough for me.

Then after that we went to Forest Park and had a talent show. It is crazy how talented our mission is. It’s not like it’s just a bunch of 20 year old wannabes getting up and singing and playing their guitars. We have people in this mission who are amazing and piano and singing and whatever you can think of. We had a kid play hymns on 2 recorders out of his nose too so that was pretty amazing. We went and spent the night with the St Louis Spanish elders and it was really cool to get to hang out with them. One of them was Elder Crowley who I had met before at a meeting so it was cool to get to see him again. Then on Friday we had just a few hours of meetings to go to to finish it out. Overall it was an awesome trip to St Louis and not one I will ever forget. I am so thankful that we have a mission president who is willing to trust us to go and do something like that. 180 young people in a stadium with all eyes on them is risky but it turned out really well for all of us.

This weekend was amazing and also pretty sad. Right after the Super Activity on Friday we were planning on coming back and having a baptism for the Pittsfield Elders. They have been working their brains out recently and they don’t have much to show for it. So they were really excited to finally get some baptisms. It was the Allen family that they have been teaching for a while. But then the worst thing that can happen to a missionary happened. About an hour before the baptism the Allen’s called and said that they changed their mind. Without going into detail they pretty much just said that it wasn’t for them anymore. They went from having an entire family getting baptised to having a very disappointing night. It was inspiring to me to see how sad they were but how much they didn’t let it phase them. They just simply went back to Pittsfield and got to work. They have found a few new investigators that seem really solid since the so hopefully they can help make up for the loss.

Sunday was a good day for us because we had 2 baptisms, Mary Crouch and Betty Holsman. Of course all day Sunday things were crazy and Satan was working really hard to stop them, but thankfully they both worked out. Betty is a very very quiet lady and it is close to impossible to get her to admit she is feeling the Spirit. But after the baptism we couldn’t get her to stop talking about it. She loved it. Earlier today I opened my journal and read about the very first week I had here in Jacksonville. I thought it was really interesting that in my journal it said something like this "Today we had our very first teaching appointment. We went to see a lady named Betty Holsman and it went really well. She is really open to learning about what we are teaching." It gave the baptism new significance to me knowing that she was the very first investigator that I ever met on my mission. I am so thankful that I got to witness her make that decision.

This coming week is the last week before the transfer ends. There is a very good chance that me and Elder Anderson will be separated. It is always sad to go into the final days with a companion. But at the same time it is exciting because we have our minds set that this is going to be our best week yet. We are going to work our brains out and finish out strong. We are also getting a Mini-Missionary at the end of the week so we are excited about that. A priest from somewhere in the stake is going to come and stay with us for about 3 or 4 days. We are excited to help show him what a mission is really like. He will get to come to Bryans baptism this Sunday and hopefully he can feel the Spirit super strong while he does this. We want to make sure and help support his decision to work towards going on a mission.

Just a side note, I could be getting moved out of Jacksonville. So mail should be sent to the mission home now so it doesn’t get lost.

Elder Parker Banks
1850 Cragshire Suite 205
Maryland Heights, MO 63146

Thank you all so much for your support. I got a letter a little bit ago from some of my cousins and it made my day. It was so cool to get to know that so many people back home are thinking about me and praying for me. Thank you all so much for all you do. I know that the work I am doing out here is the best possible thing I could be doing with my life. Do I wish I could watch the Olympics? Yes. Do I wish that I could stay in the apartment sometimes and not go bike in the 105 degree weather? Yes. But I also know that when we do the things that we know are right even when we don’t want to God will bless us. I know that for a fact and I know that applies to every one of us not just missionaries. I hope and pray that we can all make the hard decisions in life that we know are right.

-Elder Parker Banks

Monday, July 23, 2012

I have to start by thanking all the moms who put together the Friends in the Field packet for me and all my friends. That was easily the best thing of mail I have gotten since I came out. I loved reading it so much! I was so excited and happy all the rest of that day because of it. My companion thought it was the coolest thing ever too. He asked if he could see it for a second and thought it was so cool he ended up sitting down and reading the entire thing. I am so thankful to have so many awesome friends and I’m so glad that we have all made the choice to go on a mission. I know Taylor and Chad are heading out so soon! You guys are going to love it. And Nate you still have a few months but it’s going to get here really quick so get ready. And also thanks to Liz for sending me all the stuff from Japan. The Japanese Ramen was a huge step up over the normal stuff we get. You can always depend on those Asians.

I know my mom was a little confused on this so I thought I would clear it up real quick. Today is Monday and it’s just a normal P-Day. Thursday and Friday I will be in St Louis for the Super Activity and that’s when we go to the Cardinals game and stuff. But I will talk more about that later.

This week has been awesome. Last P-Day we went bowling up in Springfield and it was way fun. I am terrible at bowling. But some other missionaries in the zone are really good. The best score we had was Elder Thacker’s 209 but the really cool thing was that he had 9 strikes. So that was a really fun day.

Then Tuesday we went to the temple and of course that was an amazing experience as always. It was an interesting trip because I had a few questions that I took that I wanted to get answered. It was probably my favorite temple trip because I just felt so good the entire time but the weird thing was none of my questions got answered. So I was a little confused by that, but then I learned that God was just giving me a lesson on patience. I went on exchanges to Pittsfield this week and in the 2 days that I was there all of my questions got answered. It really strengthened my testimony of Gods timing and how it’s much more important than our own timing.

I mentioned it a second ago but I went to Pittsfield again this week. It was been really fun to get to go there so much recently. My first 3 months I never went on exchanges there. But I have been able to go every week for probably the last 6 or 7 weeks. So I have really gotten to know the investigators there and it has been so much fun to watch them grow. We get to go to the baptism of Rooster Allen and his family this weekend. Rooster is a 350 pound biker and living proof that the Spirit can touch ANYONES heart. The most fun thing that I got to do in Pittsfield was me and Elder Schriver woke up at 6 and went out to play some catch with a football. And for the first time in weeks while we were out there it started to pour. Playing football in the rain normally sounds pretty miserable but for some reason that morning it was amazing. And a member in Pittsfield gave us some pills that made us pee the color of Cheetos so that was pretty cool too.

The reason that this week was so good was because we had a bunch of meetings with our investigators and they are all doing great. We have 6 baptisms scheduled over the next 3 weeks. It has been so crazy to see how much God has blessed us in Jacksonville. All of these people we are teaching just love it and they are all golden. They keep bringing us more of their friends and family to teach and it is just an amazing experience.

Sadly there hasn’t been any news on Carlos. He was never confirmed so technically it’s like he was never baptised. We are still hoping and praying that he will make it to church sometime soon. We have been trying to contact him but because of his mom there isn’t much we can do without going to jail. So that stinks.

We are really excited for the Super Activity that is coming up. We head down to St Louis on Thursday and we will spend the day down there having a talent show and an awesome dinner and stuff. Then we are going to the Cardinals/Dodgers game that night which should be super fun. Then we are sleeping over with some other missionaries in St Louis and finish all the other activities the next day. That is going to be an amazing way to start the weekend.

Then on Sunday we have 2 baptisms. Mary Crouch and Betty Holsman are both getting baptised. They are both about 60 year old women and are completely different stories. Betty has been taking the lessons for a few years now and the baptism of her grandson Williams is what finally pushed her into knowing it was all true. And Mary has been taking the lessons for about a month and knows it’s all true. We left her with the Doctrine and Covenants DVDs and told her to watch them if she wants. There is like over 12 hours of stuff on there and we went back 2 days later and she had watched every single video on them. She is definitely excited to get baptised.

I am so thankful for the opportunity that I have to be a missionary and for the opportunity that I have to see all of these people’s lives change. I talked a little bit last week about maybe not getting to see some of the baptisms. There is a fairly good chance that I will be leaving Jacksonville the first week of August. The 2 people getting baptised are TJ and Booker who I have had the chance to teach for about 5 and 4 months. I would love more than anything to get to stay and see them baptised. But if God needs me somewhere else I will know that’s where I need to be. I am so thankful for all of the amazing people I have met out here. Being blessed to see other people like Christ sees them is one of the greatest blessings I have ever received. I am so thankful for this church and I know that without it our lives would mean nothing. I am so glad for the amazing friends and family that I have been blessed with to help me out so much and get me to where I am today. I hope that in some small way I can repay all that I owe to my loved ones. I hope that your testimonies are growing along with mine. I love all of you and will talk to you again soon.

-Elder Banks

Monday, July 16, 2012

Hey mom, to answer your question about service there is no set number of hours to do it but we are encouraged to do it a bunch. We do like 2 planned service hours a week. Pittsfield does like 8 though. So it just depends. We usually do service during bad hours of the day when no one is home and we have nothing else to do.

That clip from Coles email was kinda sad. One thing that I think he will realize soon though is that it doesn’t matter what your companion does. As long as you are doing your very best to do the work. Having a companion who talks about his girlfriend all the time is the most annoying thing ever. But what’s so good about each companion is that you can learn what not to do. God always gives us our trials to help us learn. Having such a young district right now has been fun but kinda rough. Everyone is so young that they always want to talk about what they did back home. It makes it kinda hard to focus on what we are supposed to be doing right now. I am really thankful for Elder Jensen and my zone leader Elder Young because they really taught me how to talk about home without being annoying. There is a time and a place for everything. I have been VERY blessed to have the companions that I have had and the missionaries around me that I have been around. They have been exactly what I needed at the time I needed them.

This week was by far the most insane week of my mission. I had some of the greatest joy I have seen so far at the beginning of the week, but then the end of the week really tested us. I will start by going over the good stuff. On Tuesday I got permission to text Caitlin. Elder Jensen and I helped her to get baptised then she moved away just a few days after. I had been super curious about how she was doing and we aren’t allowed to text anyone outside of our area without permission. So I finally got around to getting it approved and talking to her again was awesome. It just made me so happy to hear about how awesome she is doing. She is moving back to Jacksonville soon and she is still strong in the church. The coolest thing is that she is probably the shyest person I have ever met. But she told me about how she felt prompted to bear her testimony to a couple of her friends and now they are coming to church with her. Finding out how awesome she is doing made me so happy.

The next awesome thing that happened this week was on Friday I drove Elder Cooper down to St Louis so we could both go to leadership conference. Going to St Louis is always super fun especially when we get to go to big meetings with a bunch of missionaries. When we showed up the first person I saw was Elder Barney and it was way fun to get to talk to him again. And then for me probably the best part of the entire conference was getting to see Elder Jensen again. It was so much fun. It was cool because it was like we never switched companions. The second that we started talking it was way funny and it was just awesome to get to talk to him again. I am excited for the super activity that is coming up soon so that all of the missionaries can be together and I can still be with my companion. In addition to all of the fun stuff that happened there we also had a lot of really good meetings. I turned to Elder Cooper when they handed out the schedule for the day and said "This is only a 6 hour meeting? That’s not bad at all" Definitely not something that I ever thought I would say. But after the 6 hours I had learned a lot and it really helped to put a lot of the things we do as missionaries into perspective.

One other crazy thing that happened at the beginning of the week was out investigator Booker had a heart attack and died, but then he came back to life. He is kinda a crazy dude who maybe isn’t all the way there but his story sounded pretty real. It has been kinda cool because it has really helped him to start progressing again because he says that God sent him back to this earth to finish something. And God told him to listen to us because what we are sharing with him is important. Hopefully that helps him to really grasp everything that we are teaching him.

Now on to the not so great part of the week. A couple weeks ago I said that I couldn’t remember the last time I was really stressed. And that was true I have really learned to handle stress pretty well out here. But then God decided to humble me a little bit and sent some trials our way this weekend. This weekend was Carlos' baptism. Saturday morning we got a call from our bishop telling us that he had just gotten off the phone with Carlos' mom and that she was furious. Threatening to put us all in jail and kick Carlos out and sue the church and a bunch of other stuff. Most of which she really has no power to do, but still threats aren’t a missionaries favorite thing to hear. A few minutes after that we decided to pray to know what to do. During and right after the prayer I had a really strong impression that we needed to go to the church. So, stressed out of our minds we headed over to the church. Carlos has no way to get a hold of us because he doesn’t have a cell phone and doesn’t have our cell number memorized. He isn’t very big into technology so his house phone is pretty much everything he has and his mom took complete control over that. Thankfully he looked up the church’s number in the phone book and called it while we were sitting at the church wondering why we were supposed to go there. We talked to him and he said don’t cancel anything because I really want to go through with this still. Everything went pretty smoothly the rest of that day. He got baptized and it was a good service. He bore his testimony and sang happy birthday to himself over the pulpit and sang some song about a horse. It was definitely not a baptismal service that I will ever forget. After the service he was super worried about having to go home and face his less than stable mom. But he promised us that he would make it to church the next day no matter what. We showed up at church the next day pretty early and didn’t see him. We weren’t too worried at first but then as it got closer and closer to the meeting getting started we started to worry. We had no way to contact him because we go to jail if we step foot on his mom’s property or call his house.

As you have probably guessed Carlos never showed up to church. He never got the Gift of the Holy Ghost and we haven’t been able to contact him since then. The sick feeling that I had during sacrament meeting is impossible to explain. The pain of having someone get so close but then get stopped by someone they love is horrible. Carlos' mom is not healthy. Without Carlos living in the house with her she would die. Unfortunately she doesn’t realize that. She threatens to have him kicked out of the house if he ever comes to church again. It is so hard to see Carlos who loves his mom so much have to deal with so much hate and anger coming from her. We don’t really have any idea what’s going to happen from here. We hope and pray that Carlos can get in contact with us somehow and let us know what’s going on. But one thing that does bring me joy and hope is knowing that just like Kodie (who i found out is living in Iowa somewhere now) Carlos will be baptized at some point in his life and we will get to be with him in the Celestial kingdom. Satan has powerful tools on this earth. As I have seen far too clearly and far too many times on my mission already, family members and friends can destroy a person’s spiritual progress in the blink of an eye. The knowledge that we have that God will work everything out and no matter what happens is the greatest gift that He could every give. It doesn’t make it easy, but it makes it bearable.

After the pretty rough week we had this week we are excited to get a new start today. We are going up to Springfield to go bowling with the zone and we are pretty excited about that. Tuesday we get to go to the temple which of course we are thrilled about. Then on Wednesday and Thursday I am headed up to Pittsfield again. So this week should go by pretty quick. Even though sometimes things get rough here we know that we are blessed a ton. We currently have 4 baptism dates and 3 investigators that have said they want to be baptised all we have to do is decide on a day. It’s hard to explain how amazing that is. God has blessed us more than we can even explain. Jacksonville could see more baptisms in the next month than most missionaries in this mission see in their 2 years. Odds are that me or Elder Anderson will get transferred before most of these baptisms actually happen, but something that I learned at leadership is that the "What’s" of missionary work are baptisms and the numbers. The "Why" of missionary work is bringing people one step closer to eternal salvation. Whether I see these people get baptised or not it really doesn’t matter at all. Knowing that I have been a tool in God’s hands to bring these people back to Him is more rewarding than anything else I could ever do. I love all of you and I will talk to you again next week.

-Elder Banks

Monday, July 9, 2012

I haven’t started my email with a sports update in a while so I figured I would talk a little about that. I heard the Jazz went crazy with trading people. Hopefully it turns out well. I saw about a half inning of the Yankees-Redsox game last night at Brother Michaels house so that was my baseball fix for the week. And I heard the Cardinals are not doing so hot. So hopefully then can step it up for the game we get to go to at the end of the month.

But probably the funniest thing I saw this week was at a restaurant called Los Rancheros. We went there with the Whiting’s for dinner and they have ESPN playing everywhere. So when I was walking to the bathroom I had to stop and watch it for just a second. I ended up watching for like 10 seconds and I saw the number 1 not top play of the week. It was Nastia Liukin on the uneven bars and she ate it so hard face first into the mat. I was laughing so hard. That was definitely a good 10 seconds of TV to see.

I heard Weston did an awesome job on his farewell talk and Taylors is coming up pretty soon. You guys are going to do awesome in the field.

I remember last week I complained about the weather a little bit. I wish I could go back to that weather so badly. It has gotten so much hotter here. Probably the hottest day of the week was Friday. We had to get an oil change in our car so we had to drop it off for a few hours. We biked around Jacksonville and it was super tough. It was about 105 degrees but the heat index was at 120. Riding your bike around in 120 gets old pretty quick. But one thing that is really cool about it is that I could look at my watch and it would be like noon and I was so tired I had no idea how I was even going to keep my eyes open. But then the next thing I knew I was sitting on my bed a 9:30 at night not knowing how I made it through the day. It is very obvious that God has been helping us every step of the way this week.

The 4th of July was the weirdest day ever. We pretty much didn’t do anything. We went and ate lunch with a bunch of people from the ward and that was really fun. Then we went and spent like 4 or 5 hours at Brother Michaels house. It was really nice to get a break but even nicer to get back to doing missionary work the next day. We watched fireworks that night and it made me miss Utah. The fireworks here are awful compared to the ones back home. But it was still fun to get to see them.

We had an awesome week finding new people to teach. We were running pretty low on people about a week ago but we were blessed a ton this week. I don’t have much time but I want to just give a quick rundown of each person we are teaching now.

Carlos is still awesome. It has blown my mind how he has been able to change his life completely. It’s obvious that he knows this is true. Anyone who can make it through hardcore drugs, drinking, chastity problems, having an anti Mormon mom, and losing his dad is going to be a pretty awesome member of the church and this Saturday he is going to finally get to make that step. I can’t say enough good about Carlos and I am so excited to see him get baptised.

Betty is Williams’s grandma and she has made a ton of progress. She hasn’t made the insane changes that Carlos has made but sometimes the little changes are even harder. So we are really proud of her for making so much progress. She has a baptism date set for the 29th of July.

Mary is a new investigator that I think I mentioned last week. We found her through a member and she has been to church quite a few times and loves it. I have never seen the kind of friendship that her and the member of our ward have. They care about each other more than I have ever seen before. She now has a date for the 29th as well.

Danielle is a new investigator that Elder Anderson and Elder Schriver found on Tuesday. Brother Michael has a 20 year old daughter that spends some time at his house every once in a while. They went over to drop something off and Heather (his daughter) was there with her friend Danielle. Apparently Danielle wasn’t looking too good. She is just getting out of an abusive relationship and she lives at the woman’s crisis center. They gave her a Book of Mormon and set up a time to go and see her. So on Thursday I got to meet her for the first time and it was a really strange meeting but a really good one. We aren’t allowed to meet alone with girls unless it’s in a public place. So we met with Danielle in a public room at the crisis center. But we didn’t really put together that at a woman’s crisis center there wouldn’t be any guys. So we were the only guys in the entire building so that was pretty strange for a couple of missionaries. But thankfully the Spirit was really strong and now we know that we definitely need to bring a man from the ward with us haha.

TJ is Terry Anderson’s son and we have been teaching him for a while. He has a date set for August 4th and we are excited for that. His dad finally quit smoking and even with all of the crazy family problems they have been having he is still a strong member of the church and will hopefully be able to baptize his son.

Brian is TJs friend that we met this week and he is awesome. He came to church and said it was the greatest thing he has ever done and he doesn’t ever want to miss a week again. We set a date with him for the 4th with TJ and all he could say at church was how excited he was to get baptised and how he wished he could do it sooner. We wish we could do it sooner too but he has to come to church at least 3 times so we figured the 4th would be good.

We have been so blessed this week and if everything goes right me and Elder Anderson should have 5 more baptisms before the end of the transfer. That would be an awesome way to finish out the transfer and our time together. It has blown my mind how God can bless us in the greatest ways that we would never expect. Every time Satan tries to put a negative thought in my mind about the church not being true all I have to do is think about all of the miracles that happened to us that day and I know for a fact that they aren’t just random. God is watching over us and cares about each and every one of us. He knows what’s best for us and even if it seems unfair or impossible to handle at the time. If we can just look at the eternal perspective of what is happening to us we will be able to handle and challenges that are thrown into our path.

-Elder Banks

Monday, July 2, 2012

It's HOT in Illinois

I have to start by wishing everyone a happy 4th of July! We got some cool news this week and found out that we get the entire 4th off. We get to just hang out with members and do whatever for a day. We also get to stay out until 10:30 and watch some fireworks so we are pretty excited for that. Also I was really glad that my mom gave me a couple updates on how my friends are doing on their missions. It sounds like Cole is having fun in the pouring rain out in Australia haha. As for us in Illinois we would kill for some rain. It has been so hot here it’s insane. There have been intense heat warnings going around everywhere and everyone is supposed to stay inside. The thermometer in our car spent most of its time this week between 100 and 105 degrees. There was one day where it was extra hot and it hit 114 and i don’t think we saw it drop below 110 that day. Of course the heat wave had to hit at the end of the month so we didn’t have any miles left on our car. So we ended up having a great week of riding out bikes around and pretty much being drenched the whole time.

Besides the heat it has been a really good week though. I want to thank my mom and Jennifer for the awesome packages that they sent me. When you only have 3 dollars to last you the last 2 weeks of the month it’s always nice to get some candy in the mail. Skittles make an awesome breakfast.

I never thought I would do this but I have to thank my mom for making me take piano lessons. I know that she is saying I told you so right now. But we took a keyboard from the church and put it in our apartment and it has entertained me better than anything else. I spend every free second of the day on that thing. I hope hearing that would make Justin Lowder proud.

This week was really good. We have a really strange area right now but it is working out really well. We only have like 6 people in our teaching pool right now which isn’t too good cause we are supposed to have between 12 and 15. But every time we get a new investigator they just drop us after 2 or 3 meetings. It is getting really frustrating. But the good thing is that with those 6 investigators 3 of them now have baptismal dates. Carlos is set for the 14th and that is really solid. Then Betty (Williams grandma) and Tj (Terrys son) are both set for the 28th. They are so awesome to teach and we love seeing them. They all love having us come over and we are some of their best friends. They always want us to come over every day and teach them and we love that. The only down side to that is it doesn’t leave us much time to find new people to teach. We were really running low earlier this week on people to teach and we needed a miracle to find some more because tracting wasn’t doing anything. Thankfully on Sunday we were able to get in contact with a family we have been trying to reach and they want us to come up and meet with them. They live in Beardstown so it’s kinda a far drive but they really wanted us to come over so we are really hoping that things work out with them.

Probably the coolest thing that happened this week was a lady in our ward came up to us at church with her friend and said Hey elders this is my friend Mary. She has been to church 3 times now and loves it. She has been reading my Book of Mormon and would love to have her own copy. She would also like to have you guys come and teach her. That was definitely not something that we had expected at church that day. We are really hoping that things work out with her and also with the family up in Beardstown. The one thing that I forgot to mention is that the family in Beardstown is from Africa and speaks French. That is going to be a really interesting meeting.

Unfortunately we still haven’t heard anything from Kodie. As always we are just hoping and praying he is alright. Another not so good thing this week was that Booker didn’t make it to church. We tried to figure out where he was and finally found out he was in the hospital. He had a heart attack on Friday night. We don’t really know how Booker is still alive. Since I got to Jacksonville he has been to the hospital like 5 times with strokes and heart attacks and problems because of the heat. But it always seems like 3 days later he is back home fishing in the 110 degree weather. We know that God has him sticking around for something and we are hoping that we can help guide him on the right path.

To close up this week I wanted to just bear my testimony on a couple quotes i heard this week. One was from a kid named Dylan who just got his mission call to Central Salt Lake and leaves on Aug 8th. He teaches the gospel principals class here an on Sunday he said "Sometimes we miss the silver lining because we are looking for gold." I really liked that because it applies to my life a ton. When I was with Elder Jensen for my first couple transfers I would get disappointed whenever things didn’t go perfectly right. But now I have really learned how to relax. Always look for the positive things in life. I can’t even remember the last time I really got angry or stressed out. God has helped me a ton to just relax and realize that sometimes there isn’t anything we can do. Sometimes the silver lining isn’t what we want it to be. But silver is better than nothing so I have really learned to enjoy it.

Also the second one is from a talk Kayla sent me from Elder Bednar this week. I don’t know if I already said this in an email but I have been obsessed with learning about the Atonement. Before my mission I really didn’t understand it at all and now that I have been studying it for about 15 minutes a day for 5 months I have started to learn a lot more. I am still only scratching the surface though. The reason I say that is because this quote from the talk really kinda sums up everything that I have learned in a small and simple sentence. "There is no physical pain, no anguish of soul, no suffering of spirit, no infirmity or weakness that you or I ever experience during our mortal journey that the Savior did not experience first." I can promise that really is true. Christ, the greatest of us all, trembled because of pain in the garden of gethsemane and yelled in anguish from the cross after having the Spirit once again taken away from him. Any pain or anguish or suffering that I can experience is nothing compared to pain that could cause a God to suffer like Christ did for all of us. When you look at the trials in life compared to the trials of His life it really puts things in perspective. Not a single one of us has something to complain about but we all have numberless things to be thankful for. I know that if we can all spend a little more time thinking about Christ and a little less time thinking about ourselves we will be happier than we have ever been before in our lives. I know it will work because it has happened to me, and I know that I still have a ton of work left to do, but I am thankful to God for allowing me to learn and grow as much as I have already.

-Elder Banks