Monday, December 17, 2012

He's got the flu :(

            Well this week has been crazy. This email might be a little short because I have no desire to do anything right now. Saturday night Elder Anderson woke up at about 1:00 in the morning and threw up for the rest of the night. The lucky guy got to give a talk in sacrament meeting too. Then later that night we went to the Jacksons to just relax so he could get better and we kinda switched places. Walking in I felt fine then after spending some quality time with my favorite white bowl I called some people from the ward to give me a blessing. Thankfully Elder Anderson was feeling well enough to drive us home. I spent the rest of the night until about 6:00 trying to sleep but mostly just throwing up. There are very few things in life that are more humbling than being curled up on a shower mat for 6 hours trying to keep a Gatorade inside me and failing miserably. But thankfully our shower mat is pretty comfy so I fell asleep for a few hours this morning. After getting a little bit of rest I felt a lot better and around 10:00 we made it over to the Jacksons to do laundry. I really over estimated how good I felt so I got back into the familiar position of curling up on their couch and took a nap. Now I am just thankful to be able to come and email, even if it’s only for a short while.

            A few days ago President Hair (a councilor to President Clark) called us up and asked if we wanted to have a Christmas party at his house tonight. The whole zone was invited but because of the lack of miles we all have this month we didn’t think many would be able to make it. But thankfully when we got all the calls back all 24 of the missionaries in the zone are going to make it tonight. So we are pretty excited for that.

But let me back up into the week a little bit. I had a few last days with Elder Williams and those were good. We get to see each other like 3 times over the next 2 weeks so that is going to be cool. Then on Wednesday we went to transfers and now I have Elder Anderson as my companion. There are 8 elder Andersons in the mission so they all have nicknames. My companion is either Duncan Anderson cause that’s his first name or Cowboy Anderson cause he did rodeo for a while before his mission. He is a little older than me (24) and he is from Payson, Utah. Being his companion has been great so far. He was in Fairview Heights for 7 1/2 months at the beginning of his mission and now he only has 3 transfers left so he could very easily die here and spend a full year. Just like with Elder Williams it’s great because he already knows a bunch of people and that makes things a lot easier. I’m pretty sure I haven’t gone more than 5 minutes without laughing since we got put together. Even when we were hovering over the toilet we were laughing out heads off. So I am looking forward to a really fun transfer.

             I’m trying to think of other things that happened this week. Well the water here is terrible. We are getting it from the bottom of the Mississippi so it all tastes like dirt. But on the bright side you come out of the shower with a nice earthy smell aka we always smell like dirt. But on a better note we had a really good experience at church yesterday. Brenda is quite the little recent convert missionary. She has started bringing her twin nephews Torey and Corey to church with her and they both bring their girlfriends. They are both 19 and seem pretty interested. Last night we got a call from Brenda and she was just exploding with joy because Corey had told her after church that he felt something different there and that he wanted to join. We were thrilled to get that call. We have a lot of work to do with him and he has a lot of life changes to make but if he really wants to be happy then he will be able to do it. Corey and Torey have a few kids and they have an amazing opportunity to raise them in a good environment so we are really excited to be able to help them with that.

Things are going really well here and as Christmas comes closer we are getting excited for that too. We have a Christmas party coming up on Thursday with a lot of the mission and then we are looking forward to a fun Christmas day too. I’m thankful for all the experiences that I get to have as a missionary and all the new things I get to learn both through the great times and the tough ones. Thank you for all of your prayers and support and I’ll talk to you all again soon.

-Elder Banks

           Oh man I almost forgot! Matt’s birthday is today. One of four birthdays in the world that I know. He is such an old fart now and I am so excited to get home from my mission and destroy him in a game of basketball for once in my life. Happy Birthday man!

A wet Thanksgiving football game
Sporting a Christmas vest

Monday, December 10, 2012


I have had some people ask me for Parker's address. Since he is not getting transferred this week, he will get mail at his Fairview Heights address:

Elder Parker Banks
113 Union Hill Road #6
Fairview Heights, IL 62208
    So this week was the end of a roller coaster of feelings and the beginning of a new one. When I first got to Fairview it wasn’t my favorite place in the world for sure. It took me a really long time to start to like it here.  After a while I started to get some really good relationships with some people in the ward and it has become one of my favorite places. But over the last week or so I have been preparing myself to leave because I figured that it was my time to go. So of course we got transfer calls on Saturday and because I was so ready to leave, God decided to leave me here. Elder Williams is headed out to serve on the University of Illinois campus and I will be staying in Fairview with my new companion Elder Anderson. Even though I know like 6 Elder Andersons in this mission my new companion is one I haven’t ever really had the chance to talk to much before. It’s interesting because he has also been in Fairview before and is getting sent back just like Elder Williams. He has 2 transfers left in his mission so he is getting ready to head home pretty soon. I am super curious how he is going to react to getting sent back. He has never been a zone leader before so hopefully it will be a cool change for him. He was here over a year ago so only a few people remember him but they seemed to like him. One thing I am hoping goes well is the ward losing Elder Williams again. They love him so much here and he is everyone’s favorite missionary because he has spent so much time here and loves the ward so much. Last time he left things didn’t go so well but hopefully it goes good this time. I felt really good at church this week cause the relief society president and a few other sisters in the ward found out he was leaving and said of course they would miss him but they were glad he was leaving the ward in good hands. So that made me feel really good. Losing a companion always makes me really appreciate having really great members in the ward and having such good friends like the Jacksons and the Kremers. I know that if we ever need anything they will be there to help out in any way possible.

     Besides transfers this has been a really normal week. It flew by, and I can’t think of anything to even say right now because I don’t remember any of it. Last night was fun. Elder Marshall is going to Dexter for his last transfer so he is done being an assistant so they came down to our area to have dinner one last time last night and we are playing basketball with them for one last time today. Elder Williams and Elder Marshall went to the Kremers and Me and Elder Christensen went to the Holidays in the O’Fallon ward. It was really fun and there ended up being a million people there. Six missionaries and a bunch of kids from the YSA ward so it was quite the party. The missionaries sang “Nearer my God to Thee” for the closing spiritual thought and it was really cool. Then as we walked out the door we asked them for a scale and got to weigh ourselves. Recently, depending on the day, I have put on 25-30 pounds since I left. The blessings of having a ward that feeds you huge amounts of food every night are amazing.

     Something really cool that has been happening this week is a lot of missionaries hard work is paying off, specifically in the Shiloh area. They had a really rough start of the transfer and were tracting for about 3 weeks straight all day every day and nothing was happening at all. They were getting pretty down but they kept working their brains out every single day. Then this week, all of their hard work paid off and investigators started coming out of nowhere. It’s interesting because they aren’t tracting into their new investigators, but because they are tracting and working hard God is blessing them. They now have 6 people who they are hoping to set baptism dates with very soon. Things like that have been happening all over the mission and especially this zone. God is really blessing us for working hard and allowing us to get to our goal of 365.

     I wanted to end this week by talking about a lesson I have learned over and over again on my mission, most recently in the last couple weeks. Sometimes missionary work becomes hard to do. It’s hard to motivate yourself to go knock on the door of someone who 99% of the time doesn’t want to talk to you. In an effort to try to bring myself more happiness I would look for fun stuff, looking to worldly things to try to entertain myself. Not bad things, but just always looking forward to getting to hang out with other missionaries or counting down the minutes to dinner or until personal study is over. The same lesson I have learned a thousand times from that is that those things don’t bring real happiness. Reading the scriptures and using every second of every day to knock on every door you can brings real happiness. Working as hard as you possibly can in order to talk to that 1% of people who will listen to what you have to say, because most of the time that 1% is the last 1% that you talk to that day. I am so thankful for God and His willingness to help me to learn and grow from all of my experiences on my mission. I hope I can keep this lesson for once and not have to relearn it again. I know submitting 100% to Gods will is the only thing that can bring us real happiness.

-Elder Banks

Monday, December 3, 2012

Brenda's baptism

           This week was definitely an eventful one. Monday through Thursday were really slow. It seemed like we didn’t really get anything accomplished. We had a couple lessons but overall it just seemed a little slow. Friday we were just lucky enough to get to go to ZLC for another 6 hour meeting. It was actually really good. Something that stuck out to me was something President Clark told us. A missionary that came out on his mission the same time as me flew home this weekend. He has had a very hard mission and I can’t even count the things that have happened to him. This story could have been a sad one about another missionary getting sent home early. But what was said next was the thing that I really liked hearing. This missionary going home doesn’t really have anything to go home to. So President Clark helped him get into BYU Idaho and Elder Ditto who was the AP when I first got out on my mission is driving to the airport to pick him up. He is going to pretty much take care of him. He is moving in with Elder Ditto and 2 other missionaries who recently went home. The reason I thought this was so cool was because I’m sure there are a ton of missionaries who when they go home off of their missions are so glad that they don’t have to deal with the problem missionaries anymore. But these 3 missionaries have taken their calling to the next level and are taking care of and loving people long past their 2 years. It makes me hope that I am willing to do the things that they are doing when I get home.

The rest of ZLC was really normal. We went through and figured out how many baptisms are 100% going to go through this month. When we figured that all out we were set to end the year with 360 baptisms and our goal the entire year has been 365. As you can guess our mission is very fervently praying and working to try to find 5 more people to bring to this gospel before the year is over.

            The best/most stressful/craziest part of the week this week was Brenda's baptism. We were planning on going to pick her up and drive her to the church at 11:30. But of course baptisms can’t run smoothly or it would just be too easy. There were some complications and Brenda wasn’t quite ready to go until 1:00. We flew to the church and tried to get everything ready as fast as we could. One of the things we were trying to figure out was how to baptize her. Brenda is in a wheelchair and can take a few steps but can’t walk very well. So our original plan was to have her walk down into the font and then sit in a chair and she would just get leaned back out of the chair. What a missionary plans very rarely actually works so of course this one didn’t. When Elder Williams tried to dip her under she went maybe half way and it just wasn’t working. So we had Elder Vaka jump in the font and him and Elder Williams were just going to dunk her like normal. Things got even more complicated because Brenda is afraid of going all the way under the water so she was freaking out a little bit. Even though she had 2 6 foot 4 huge elders in there helping her she was afraid of going under the water and them not being able to pick her up out of it. This baptism was a good example of Satan fighting up until the very last second to try to get her to back out. When she finally got a little more prepared they dunked her and it went perfectly.

Personally my favorite part was right after she came out of the water. Lots of Brenda’s friends and family where there to watch her and they aren’t members so they don’t really know much about our church. I spent the first little bit of her in the water telling them they all had to put their cameras away, but it was great when she came out of the water because they all just started cheering and clapping. Not your normal baptism but it worked. When Brenda stood up and wiped her face off she looked out and just yelled "I did it!!" It definitely wasn’t your average baptism but it works. As the bishop was trying to get everyone to go back into the relief society room I walked past a lady in our ward who said "I’m going to stay and enjoy the Spirit that’s right here." Even though it was definitely a weird one, the Spirit was still strong and everyone in the room that day knew that Brenda made the right decision.

            Talking to Brenda after her baptism, compared to before, is like two different people. I had the opportunity to give her the gift of the Holy Ghost in sacrament meeting and she was just beaming. In just 24 hours she has gone from reading and praying and going to church because she knew she was supposed to, to doing all of those things because she LOVES to. She called us this morning and had a bunch of questions about a chapter she was reading. I got to talk to her for about 20 minutes and answer some of her questions and afterwards she just got so excited and was saying how much she loves reading now and how amazing it is to learn all of this new stuff from the scriptures. Seeing the effort and love she puts into reading and praying now makes me want to be better. We should all love doing those things as much as she does.

            Something else I have learned this week is to appreciate the simple things we know in this church. In Sunday School this week when we taught Brenda about baptisms for the dead she almost fell out of her chair she was so excited to hear she could get her dad baptized. Simple truths I have been lucky enough to have for my entire life are just blowing her mind because they are so amazing to her. I am so thankful for the opportunity that I have had to see these changes in her and in so many others.

With transfer calls coming up this next week I have a lot of different emotions than I thought I would. Me and Elder Loveless were talking last night about how we have been kinda excited to leave our areas ever since we got to them. We just haven’t really clicked in them like we did in our last areas. But over the last week or two Fairview and O’Fallon (Elder Loveless' area) things have just exploded and great things have happened. So now that the time when both of us have a good chance to get transferred is here we aren’t as excited as we thought we were going to be. But wherever I go I know that’s where God needs me. If it’s out in the middle of nowhere or in the middle of the city I know I won’t be sent anywhere without a good reason. I will let you all know what happens next week.

And I have to close by congratulating McKay Hansen on his mission call. I have no idea if he is reading this or not, but that is so cool that you are going to Uruguay! It’s about time we get you out of our country. America can only handle you for so long. I hope all those weird Spanish movies I watched you make paid off so you can go and speak it now. You’re going to be an amazing missionary.

I am so thankful for the opportunity that I have to serve a mission and I am so thankful for all of my friends who are making the same great decision. I am blessed beyond belief with amazing friends both back home and out here in the field and I am thankful for the knowledge that I have that these friendships last more than just this lifetime.

Elder Banks