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.