Monday, February 25, 2013

Book of Mormon Musical

           Soooo much happened this week. It was super busy and super fun. The first few days of the week were pretty normal. Nothing really out of the ordinary happened. Thursday is when things started to get a little interesting. A blizzard and ice storm came through that was built up on the news to make it sound like St Louis was going to turn inside out and explode. To prepare for it all the schools got canceled and we had to park all the mission cars for the day. It was a pretty big snow storm and there was some weird ice/rain/snow combinations, but really it wasn’t too bad at all. The one thing that made it tough was we live about an hours walk away from anything in our area. We planned to do some tracting and got to walk for about an hour through the freezing rain just to get there. It made me really appreciate having a car. Luckily I got a Raiders scarf from the Kremers for Christmas so that kept me nice and warm. Elder Bullocks scarf wasn’t long enough to cover his face so he wasn’t as lucky haha. Poor guy.

            Friday we went to ZLC in St Louis and that was good like it always is. President Clark told us that the church is going to announce 50 new missions because there are 107,000 missionaries headed to the field right now. Also our new mission president’s name is President Morgan. He is from somewhere around Layton. He is moving out here with his wife and his daughter is finishing her senior year in high school out here with them. That’s about all we know from them right now. ZLC was awesome because we thought we were going to be fairly far behind our goal. Everyone set their goal close to 5 this month for baptisms and we were one of the only zones who reached that and we got 10. But the real help came from the Champaign zone where they had 9 baptisms the day after ZLC and that pushed us up to be 3 ahead of our goal for February. We are staying on track right now and we are really happy about that.

            Saturday was transfer calls and I don’t know how much I said last week so I might be repeating some things, but we got a call sometime recently to tell us who the trainers are. We found out that President Clark got an email from the church recently that they have 88 missionaries who are waiting for visas and they need somewhere to send them. They wanted to know how many we could take. President Clark told them we could take 8 and so all the zone leader companionships are now going to be training a missionary waiting to go to Brazil. I assumed I was staying so I was pretty excited to hear I would be in a tri and get to train someone at least for a little while until he heads out to his mission. I thought me and Elder Bullock would stay together but I was wrong. Turns our Elder Bullock is going to go open a new area, Washington 2, and I am going to be staying and getting Elder Anderson. President Clark just loves putting me with all the Elder Andersons. This one’s nickname is DJ Anderson because he was a DJ before his mission. All I know about him is that he is super good at singing and playing the guitar. Everyone says he is hilarious and super chill so I am excited about that. It’s a little stressful knowing I have to take over an area and bring 2 new missionaries into it, but I am excited.

            Sunday was awesome. We started out in church and had ward conference. We got a lot of really good talks and ward council was huge but it was fun to get to go to that. Church overall was just super solid and a great spiritual experience.

Sunday night was definitely a night I’ll never forget. A little bit of background. The Book of Mormon musical is playing in the Fox Theater about 10 feet from the Lindell elder’s apartment building. We knew this was a good chance to be seen so at the Lindell district meeting we all met with the assistants and figured out what we were going to do. All our plans were smashed when President heard from the church PR rep that we weren’t to go anywhere near the theater until he figured some things out. Sunday morning the assistants went to church in Lindell and told them they were good to do whatever they wanted. So us, Lindell 1, and Lindell 2 all met up that night to prepare. We dressed just like the missionaries in the play (even with no coats even though it was freezing) and got ready to hand out some copies of the Book of Mormon. We also hung a giant 15ish foot Mormon.Org banner covered in Christmas lights from the Lindell apartment window so everyone who drives by will see it. We got a table and 2 boxes of the Book of Mormon and some cards and thought that would cover it. There are 40 copies in each box. We thought that a couple people here or there would take one and out of the 4 thousand who see the play each night we would hand out a box or 2. Well people started flooding out of the theater and we gave away those 2 boxes in about 5 minutes. People just thought it was the best thing ever that we were standing out there. There were a lot of different reactions. Of course there were some people who were just jerks like always. But tons of people were so proud of us and thought we were geniuses. They were so nice and friendly. Then there were the people who treated us like animals in a zoo. That sounds like a bad thing but it was actually pretty cool haha. They thought it was great to see a real Mormon Missionary. People just wanted to talk and take pictures with us. So Facebook in St Louis is going to be blown up with pictures of people with Mormon Missionaries haha. The best thing was there were a ton of people who really wanted to know more about the Book of Mormon. Real sincere people wanted to know why we were out standing in the freezing cold giving away this book. On our way back to the apartment after everyone had left we walked past a restaurant and saw a lady reading the Book of Mormon we had just given her. Seeing that one thing made the whole night worth it. In all, even though we ran out and had to go back to the apartment for more, we gave away 200 copies of The Book of Mormon in about 20 minutes. It’s impossible to do it justice by typing it in an email. But being in downtown St Louis completely surrounded by skyscrapers and people who want to learn more about your religion was amazing. There are about 2 more weeks’ worth of shows so hopefully we can get a bunch of other missionaries to get to do the same thing we got to do because it was an amazing experience.

            The work here in Oakville has slowed down a ton. Trying to retain these recent converts has become close to impossible and we can’t seem to find any new investigators. We found one guy named Norman who is great and super sincere so we pray he reads his scriptures and comes to know it’s true. Hopefully with a change in missionaries coming up we can really get the work going. I am so thankful to Elder Bullock and all the good times we had and the things we learned from each other. I am so thankful to be a missionary and hopefully I have some awesome new investigators to tell you about soon! I love you all and will talk to you again soon.

-Elder Banks

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

            I am going to have to be really quick today because we don’t have very much time. Yesterday the libraries were closed so we didn’t get to email but we had a sweet pday anyways. We had a zone BBQ at the church and played basketball and watched the movie The Best Two Years. It was a super fun day.

But backing up a little bit, it has been a really good week. At the beginning of the week we went and taught these two ladies named Sadika and Samira. St Louis has the largest Bosnian population in the world outside of Bosnia. Sadika and Samira are both Bosnian and they love coming to church and come every week. Unfortunately it’s more for welfare than anything else. We have had so much junk going on with welfare recently its driving us insane! But teaching them has been really fun and different. They have very little understanding of Christ. They have heard some stories about Him but that’s pretty much it. So we have had an interesting time trying to teach them from square one. It makes me really thankful that most of the people that we teach have some kind of Christian background.

            Thursday morning I woke up and went on exchanges with Elder Spjut in Lindell. It was cool because you wake up and you can’t see anything because you are surrounded by skyscrapers. Then you step outside and the arch is just down the street from you. Their apartment is right next to the Fox Theater and they are showing the Book of Mormon musical right now. It’s really funny because people either look at all the huge posters and then us and get confused, or you can contact someone right in front of a poster that says Book of Mormon, and ask them if they have ever heard of the Book of Mormon before and they have no idea what it is. People in St Louis struggle sometimes.

The not so cool part about waking up in Lindell was waking up and feeling horrible. I knew from the second I woke up that the sinus infection that I keep getting on my mission was coming back. Thursday was a really, really long day of busing. I got a blessing that night from a few missionaries and then we headed back to Oakville. When we walked into Brother Mills’s house I went straight to the bathroom and started blowing my nose. Before I could even turn the corner Brother Mills was handing me a handful of pills and telling me to go to bed. The weekend was really long too. We had a lot of stuff we needed to do so we went and did it all but I could barely get from the car to the house. One of the many blessings of living with Brother Mills is that he can write prescriptions so I got some pills and I feel pretty good now. It just made me really thankful that I was living in such a perfect situation to get over these things.

            This weekend ended with church on Sunday and it was really interesting. We sat in on a lot of meetings with the bishop and some other people and we had to try to help with a bunch of stuff that we really don’t want to have to deal with. After all the meetings we were just sitting with the bishop and he looked at us and said "Well we have graduated from ward problems 101 and now we are getting into the more advanced courses" It was a day that definitely made me thankful for all of the hard work that bishops do and all of the effort that they put into their callings.

Even though there have been a lot of problems this week there has been a ton of good too. We found 4 new investigators which doubled our teaching pool and they are really cool people. Me and Elder Bullock are getting along great and it is a ton of fun. It was a huge adjustment for both of us at first but now we are having a great time together. Transfer calls are this weekend and it seems like it has gone by so fast. This transfer is only 5 weeks and we are thinking that we will probably get 1 more transfer together so we are really happy about that and excited to get to serve together for 6 more weeks (probably at least).

            Monday was Pday that I talked about that briefly already, and today as been really good so far. We went down to Crystal City to a district meeting and had a great time there. Then we went and ate at Ryan’s which is like a really bad Golden Coral. We felt awful after that. Then right after that we went to get our hair cut. Now we normally just cut our own hair on Monday, but a few days ago a member in our ward told us that she really wanted us to go and meet the girl who cuts her hair. So she paid the girl beforehand and told us that she wants the missionaries to get their hair cut there from now on to try to build a relationship with this girl and hopefully teach her someday. We went in to the salon and got our man cards ripped up at the door because it was like walking into a little girl’s room. But hey we got free haircuts out of it and we got to talk to some really cool people for about an hour. So hopefully something comes out of that sometime in the future and we will head back in a month or so to get our haircut again and see how they are doing. We also got to sit down and have a lesson with a guy named Norman and he has a ton of questions that we were able to help answer and it was really good. We are looking forward to a great week and hopefully everything that we have planned out goes well! I love all of you and will talk to you again on Monday.

-Elder Banks

Monday, February 11, 2013

             This week was amazing. But before I talk about that I have to say how proud I am of McKay Hansen. It’s so crazy to see the 2nd wave of my best friends going out on their missions now. My mom told me a lot about his farewell and if anyone is going to be an awesome missionary it’s McKay. I love ya man and I know you’re going to be an awesome missionary.

            This week started out with a lot of stress because we had zone conference on Tuesday. It was super fun especially because we combined with the O’Fallon zone so I got to see everyone that I was serving around for the last 6 months. It was so much fun. It was Elder Bullocks first time as a zone leader at a zone conference so it was a big change for him to be training and all that stuff, but it ended up going really well and it was a blast.

The rest of the week was pretty normal and slow until we got to the weekend and it was probably the best weekend of my mission. It all started on Saturday when John Reichle and the Medina's all got baptized. There were 5 baptisms, with 9 missionaries there, and President Clark. It was pretty much a mission party. I got to teach John quite a bit so it was really exciting to see him get baptized. The Medinas are in our ward but are taught by the assistants so I didn’t know them as well but I see them once or twice a week so it was still super exciting.

After the baptism we went on our AP exchange for the transfer. It wasn’t your typical exchange. I always learn something when I get to go on exchanges and this time I learned that I love hockey. After the baptism our ward mission leader Brother Firth told us he has season tickets to the St. Louis Blues and he had 4 tickets he needed to give away for tonight. How convenient that there just so happened to be 4 missionaries in his ward that day. So he gave us the tickets and we talked to President Clark and got permission to go. And this is where things got really interesting.

            Saturday was our baptisms, the hockey game, and of course we can’t forget it was Mardi Gras. St Louis has the 2nd biggest Mardi Gras parade in America right behind New Orleans. We had to drive through the heart of St Louis to get to the Blues stadium and we saw some aftermath for sure. As we were driving through Elder Lewis started talking about how when Nephi looked into our day and said we were going to be super wicked we were probably driving through what he saw. It was kinda funny but kinda sad. There were people everywhere who had been drinking since like 8 that morning so they were long gone. The cops were all so busy doing other stuff that at one intersection it was super busy and we were lucky enough to have a drunk guy holding half a beer directing traffic. It was unlike anything I had ever seen. There were people all along this street just waiting for the next single guy or single girl with a car to come and pick them up. It was crazy. So everyone in St Louis was already wasted and then they all decided to go to the hockey game. We showed up and found out that our tickets were on the 6th row. There were 10 goals scored in the first 3 periods and 9 of them were on the goal that was about 20 feet in front of us. Hockey fans are crazy and it is great. The game ended up going into overtime and the Blues scored to win the game but they refs took it away because of goalie interference. The sold out crowd went from going crazy cheering to going crazy furious in about 5 seconds. The Blues ended up losing in a shootout but it was still way sweet to get to go. Probably the coolest sporting event I have ever seen.

            We ended up getting home pretty late that night and had to wake up at 6 Sunday morning so we were pretty tired. But church was awesome and made up for it. 5 people got the gift of the Holy Ghost and 3 people got the Aaronic priesthood. It was really cool for us to get to stand in on so many circles that day and use our priesthood. It was one of the most spiritually rewarding and fun weekends I have ever had in my life. The only bad thing about having 5 baptisms in your ward is that your teaching pool gets destroyed. We don’t have any progressing investigators anymore and only a couple people to work with. We went out last night and worked as hard as we could in the dark cold and we set up 3 or 4 solid appointments for next week that will hopefully get us some new investigators.

            I’m so thankful for all of the amazing opportunities I have to learn, serve, and have fun out here. I am so thankful for all of the friends I have who are making the choice to go on missions now. It’s going to be the greatest experience of your life no matter where you go. I love teaching people about this gospel and getting to see their whole lives change. There is nothing better than knowing you were an instrument in God’s hands and helping someone come to know that this is Christ’s true church back on the earth.

            One final thought before I go. I have had an interesting experience over the last 6 months or so seeing some of the most solid members of the church I have ever met become inactive. Finding out about it shocked me and it scares me too. I know that Satan is always trying to get us whether we are a return missionary, recent convert, or 3 time bishop we can’t ever rest. I am so thankful for all of the good people in my life and how much they have helped me change and I encourage all of you to never stop changing. Always progress in the gospel and never settle for less than what God wants for us.

-Elder Banks

Monday, February 4, 2013

He got to watch part of the Super Bowl!

            Pretty sure that I have the coolest friends in the whole world. My mom sent me a clip of Weston Gadd’s last email home and he is a champion. He always told me about how he wanted to have to chop his way through the forest with a machete on his mission so hopefully serving on a random island in Fiji is close enough. I miss him so much but I am so proud of my best friend for working hard. I have a ton to learn from him and I’m so glad I got to grow up with him. I have a feeling that he doesn’t have a basketball hoop in his church building so maybe I might actually be able to beat him in PIG when he gets home.

             This week was a lot like every other week and had a ton of good stuff happen with a ton of not so good. One of the biggest things I have been working on and learning this week and this last year is to take the bad with the good but to focus on the good. Thursday was a real trial and a blessing. So on Wednesday night we planned out our day and it was just awful. It was pretty much empty except for 2 potential stop bys. So we ended up planning for about 5 hours of tracting. I knew it was going to be a long day and when I woke up on Thursday morning I was just fried. I did not want to get out of bed and I definitely didn’t want to go out and work at all. But I just thought that because I felt like garbage hopefully that meant that it was going to be an awesome day. I got out of bed and did everything as good as I could. I worked out and listened to Mormon messages while I ate breakfast. I put a lot of thought into my studies so that they would be good and it ended up being a great morning.

The day went about as well as we had planned. A ton of tracting and then some people who ended up not being home when we went to see them. But it was awesome. Me and Elder Bullock had a ton of fun together and we have been getting along better and better every day. We never had anything against each other or any arguments but it has gone from a lot of silence and just being around each other to talking all the time and laughing and having fun. I think he is great for me to be more serious about things and I am helping him have a little more fun. It’s working out great.

So tracting was great. We found like 6 new potentials that said we could stop by sometime and if we are lucky one of them might even be there when we go for our next appointment. But the highlight was tracting into Mark Wozniak. He is a pharmacist and we knocked on his door and Elder Bullock was guided by the Spirit to pretty much not even do a door approach. We just pretty much said hey we are missionaries can we come in? And amazingly he let us it. We sat down with him and had a full first lesson. After he said ya I believe everything you taught except for Joseph Smith. But I’ll read the Book of Mormon and pray about it and find out if that’s true or not. We are going back to see him a little later this week and we are so excited for that.

             Later that night we had an appointment with some new investigators we had found earlier that week. We were trying to find someone to come with us and everyone was busy. We called a ton of members and none of them could come. Finally we decided to call this random priest we ate dinner with a few days ago. He sounded super surprised on the phone to hear it was us but said that he would come out with us. The appointment we had planned on going to fell through. But we took him to go see a recent convert family that is having some struggles. He seemed to really, really enjoy coming out with us. Then on Sunday he got up to bear his testimony. He said that he had been thinking about going on a mission lately because he is 17 about to graduate and he had done a ton of thinking. He was leaning towards not going and he pretty much decided to just go to school. Then he said that the Elders called him. He came out with us and he had an amazing experience where he got to help people and he had never gotten to do anything like that before. He thought that if a mission was all about helping people like that then he is going for sure and that now he has made up his mind the other way. He is going, and he knows that God wants him to go. So even though the appointments we had fell through that night we helped a priest make a big decision in his life and I am so thankful that I got to be a part of that. I felt like a million bucks Thursday night. Even though it was a super hard day of work and disappointment I loved it. I have based a lot of what I am doing now off of that one day. If I could feel like that every day I know I would be doing my very best as a missionary.

            Friday I got to go to Fenton to be with Elder Perkes for the day. He was a zone leader for the last few transfers so I already knew him pretty well. We had so much fun. Again we did a ton of tracting. We met a lot of super nice people even though we were freezing to death. At 8 that night we got to go out and tract a super, super rich area. It was this private area up on a hill with castles for houses. We thought it would be fun to try. It was really awful haha. Everyone except for one guy was super mean. It was really fun and we learned a lot and it was super interesting for me to get to see how unhappy, angry, and miserable these people were who had everything you can imagine. They had everything that money can buy, but still they were miserable. It made me so thankful for the gospel and the knowledge that we have of it. Oh and Elder Perkes taught me how to light my socks on fire without ruining them or burning my foot. That was a pretty sweet way to celebrate my 1 year mark.

            I am so thankful for all of the miracles that I have seen on my mission. I have been very spoiled, especially with serving in my areas. Oakville is interesting because EVERYTHING falls through. It’s crazy. About 5% of the appointments we make actually work out and those are all with the super solid investigators we have. But at the same time there are tons of blessings here. The ward is awesome. We live with a sweet member and we even got invited to a Super Bowl party for dinner. President Clark said we could watch it for an hour at our dinner appointments so I ate my pizza and wings and watched the Super Bowl yesterday and it was awesome. I got to know some of the members better and they are just amazing. It’s interesting to look around the mission and see that the awesome wards who do so well with recent converts have a ton of baptisms. The not so good wards don’t have many at all. The quality of missionary has very little to do with anything. The ward and their willingness to help people learn and grow is the biggest part. I love this work and I love getting to be here in Oakville. I hope things continue to go well here and we keep seeing the miracles pouring in.

-Elder Banks