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