Monday, August 27, 2012

I will start this week by admitting to being the worst son ever. I have never known my parents birthdays and apparently magically remembering them is not a blessing that comes with becoming a missionary. My mom’s birthday was this last week and I wanted to wish her a happy late birthday. I don’t know what she did to end up getting stuck with me as a son but she has done an amazing job of loving me no matter what. I know that I speak for all of her kids when I say that we could never have asked for a better mom. Also I know that means my dad’s birthday is coming up in a few days so happy birthday dad! I also want to thank my sisters for the endless yards of licorice I got in the mail this week and the giant air heads. Needless to say I had to brush my teeth a few extra times this weekend but it was worth it.

This week was a great one. Lots of really cool and fun things happened. On Tuesday we got to have our interviews with the president. It may only be for like 5 minutes but getting to talk to him is always a huge blessing. The day after interviews we had our exchanges with the assistants. I spent the day with Elder Christensen and it was a really good day. I didn’t know him very well before so it was good to get to know him and to learn from him. He was the AP at 9 months so he knows how I feel being a young leader. He had a lot of really helpful things to talk to me about.

At the beginning of the day of exchanges we had the chance to go up to Alton and have a zone meeting. There is an investigator in Alton who is a Baptist minister right now. He gave a special talk and we got to have a Q and A with him about how we could help people. It was really cool to hear his side of the story. He isn’t a member yet but he loves the missionaries and is working to get baptized right now. The minister’s son after the meeting thought it would be funny to give us some special taffy. It is called wildfire taffy. I think they said it is 10 times the power of a fireball candy. They didn’t tell us this until after we ate it of course, and they also told us after that you have to be 18 to buy it. So I can say that I have eaten, turned red faced, and cried over a candy you have to be 18 to buy.

Later that night we went to a place called Lotawata Creek, probably the best place ever. In the Midwest a huge food out here is called a horseshoe. It is pretty much just a bun with hamburger and fries on it covered in cheese sauce and whatever else you want on it. So we went out to eat and I got a chili filled horse shoe and Elder Christensen got a heart attack burger. The burger has 7 pieces of cheese on it and they dip the entire thing, bun and all, in batter and deep fry it. Neither of us got more than half way done with our food and we both felt like dying after. We asked the cook and he said the whole thing probably had about 5000 calories in it. It was great.

We have had an interesting week with animals this week too. It seemed like there was an extra amount of dogs this week. Normally dogs aren’t too bad. Me and Elder Christensen went to an city called Cahokia and like 75% of people there have pit bulls. I think that pit bulls are the coolest dog in the world so I always go over and play with them. We walked up to some ladies house and she had a big slobbery smiling pit bull on the front porch. I went up and let him smell my hand and he seemed really friendly so I went to start to pet it. I know for a fact that God had to protect me because that thing lost its mind. God must have made my reflexes super fast for that second because I have no idea how I got my hand out of that dog’s mouth before it clamped down. My heart was definitely pounding as we ran down the driveway to get away from it, but at least it gave us something to laugh about the rest of the day.

On a more spiritual note Cahokia was a great place to go. The people there are pretty much dirt poor but they are super humble. We tract for at least a few hours a day and have found very little success. But in Cahokia we spent 3 hours going up and down 1 street and got 5 return appointments and 2 new investigators. It was a really good day and now we are just hoping and praying that when we go back on Thursday a couple of them are actually home.

This week has been a real testimony builder for me and it has been an amazing experience to finally start to really get into the swing of things. I am really starting to love my mission. For the first time I can actually say I’m not jealous of the missionaries who are going home this transfer. I am so thankful for the time that I have left to stay out here and serve the Lord.

I want to end by talking about something that the Baptist minister talked about. He said there are 2 kinds of faith, faith that informs and faith that transforms. It kinda goes along with what I talked about last week. If we just have faith to go to church and be a Mormon then we are going to be informed. We will know what to do and most of the time we will probably do it. But we need to change ourselves and have the faith to transform. We need to transform our lives and base them completely on the gospel. Before my mission and at the very start I always thought that only missionaries could focus on the gospel 24/7. I have thankfully been proven very wrong. I know that normal people have jobs and school and stuff like that to worry about. But I have met people out here who have dedicated their lives to God and they always know what to put first. Those people without fail are the happiest people I meet out here. They know that regardless of what they have to give up God will provide. I hope and pray that I can be like that every day for the rest of my mission and for the rest of my life. And just as much I hope and pray for each of you to be able to make the same change.

-Elder Banks

Thanks for everything and I will send you my SD card soon. Love ya! P.S. president told me I had to brag to you and tell you that I am the youngest zone leader in the mission.

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