Tuesday, March 26, 2013

            We got a little bit of news this week talking about communication with people outside of our mission. First of all we are moving on Thursday to the Bankhead’s house so we are pretty excited about that. Our new address will be 12101 Sutton Place Court St Louis, MO 63129. Please don’t send anything to our old address haha. It’s so annoying for the members to keep getting our old mail. Also we got an email today from the church that they are changing the email rules for missionaries and we are now encouraged to email our friends, family, and priesthood leaders instead of just family. So instead of writing letters emails would be great. My email is pbanks@myldsmail.net.

            But for some more important stuff this week went really well with missionary work. It started out with a way fun P-day on Monday. We drove down to Lindell and hung out down there all day. We went to the arch to show Elder Redmond then we walked up onto a bridge over the Mississippi and threw stuff in. We are like 10 year olds but sometimes throwing big things into a big river from really high is still fun. St Louis is a really artsy city and if you walk around there are random parks and buildings just full of awful modern art. So we walked around and took pictures with weird things. Then we went up into the MetLife building which is the tallest building in St. Louis. Because we are wearing white shirts and ties no one cares that we just walk around it haha. So we took the elevators to the top floor and just took pictures out the windows. It was a pretty fun day. Tuesday we had our musical zone conference with James O’Neil Miner and that was pretty fun. The first half had lots of missionary talent in it and it was... alright. But the second half was awesome. Some of the most talented people I have ever met got to share their musical talent and it was great.

            Wednesday me and Elder Redmond went on exchanges with Elder Bowen and that was fun. We went to go see Steve that night and had a really good lesson with him. We set a baptism date with him for April 20th. I am praying that I am still around in Oakville at that point. He is way solid and loves meeting with us. The only snags that he has would be he isn’t a huge fan of going to church on Sunday but he is willing to do it. And he is terrified of water. He told us he would probably never get baptized because he won’t go all the way under the water. That is a pretty common problem out here so we will just get to that when it gets here. We are teaching him the Word of Wisdom and the Law of Chastity next time we meet with him so hopefully those are sacrifices that he is willing to make. Things are looking really good for him though.

            This weekend was a great one. Friday we had a normal day then we had the James O’Neil Miner concert for the stake and it went great. Lots of people really enjoyed it. Also that night the office elders were there and I was talking to Elder Facer and he showed me and Elder Anderson a piece of paper telling us that Elder Redmond’s visa came and he is headed out to Brazil. We had so many awesome pranks planned to pull on him then President Clark ruined them all by telling Elder Redmond that it came. But he doesn’t fly out until April 1st. So we have plenty of time to think of a great goodbye April fool’s day prank for him. We are sad to see him go but happy that he gets to go to his mission finally.

Sunday this week was an interesting day. It snowed all day long and we ended up getting close to 10 inches. People out here have 0 idea how to do anything in the snow so it’s really funny/a huge pain when it snows. We were lucky to have sacrament meeting but our next 2 hours of church got canceled. Most of the rest of the stake didn’t even have sacrament meeting. If you could see me right now I would be shaking my head because the snow isn’t even bad and they canceled church. But they know what’s best for their wards way better than I do. Unfortunately, Steve didn’t make it to church because he didn’t want to drive down in the snow and he lives a little ways away from the church. But overall it was a super good day.

            Easter is coming up this weekend. It’s always a fun holiday and we get to do fun things with family members and friends, but it’s always important to remember what it’s really about. http://www.lds.org/bible-videos/videos/he-is-risen?lang=eng  this is a link to a bible video on LDS.org that I think is awesome. The bible videos are great and everyone should watch them all. It’s a good reminder to always remember what Jesus did for us and what a blessing that is. I am so thankful for Him and getting to tell other people about everything that He did. I love you all and hope you’re all doing well. I’ll talk to you all again soon.

-Elder Banks

Monday, March 18, 2013

            We had another awesome week this week. I never want this transfer to end because everything is just going so amazing, so I will jump right into talking about all the awesome things that happened. Monday was just a normal fun P-day. There are a bunch of really cool missionaries right around us so pretty much every Monday we just go down to the city and hang out with the Lindell1 and Lindell 2 missionaries and then the assistants and office elders come down. It’s so fun to just get to be in the heart of the city doing everything that there is to do. We went to a famous place called Fitzs and got some food. It was the best hamburger I have ever had and they have super famous root beer so we got tons of that too. It was a good way to start off the week.

            Tuesday was a normal day full of work. We went and followed up with a guy named Ben who we had tracted into the week before and he was outside waiting for us. He had read a lot of the Book of Mormon that we left him and he was pretty open about it. It was a good meeting and hopefully we can head back to go see him again soon. Later that night we got to go up and have dinner with the temple president so that was really cool. HIs wife is way into quilting so I took some cool pictures for my mom and he is huge into bow hunting so he had dear heads all over the walls haha. It was a really fun dinner.

Wednesday we had our first appointment with Steve who is Amber McCombes boyfriend who she brought to church. He is way solid. He had some real questions and concerns which is great. We don’t ever want people to just jump into the church because someone they like tells them too. He missed church this weekend but we are seeing him tomorrow and we are super excited. He is probably our most progressing investigator right now.

            Wednesday was also a really good day that we finished off with a baptismal interview up in Lindell 2. It has been interesting recently because we have had to do a ton of baptismal interviews. Every person who has been interviewed this transfer has had some serious problems that they had to overcome so President Clark asked us to do the interviews instead of the district leaders and it has been a really cool experience. We have gotten to talk to so many people who have made amazing changes in their lives. Robert Franklin (the guy I interviewed) got baptized on Saturday and changed his life forever. It is so amazing to get to see so many cool changes in people’s lives. It’s different than anything I have ever gotten to do in my life and I am so thankful for it.

            Thursday I got to go to Arnold to go on exchanges with Elder Smith. He told me a really cool story that ties in with something my mom wrote me about today so I thought I would share it briefly. Before my mission I thought that in order to be a good member of the church you had to be this Mormon robot that fit in perfectly with everything the church taught. I have realized out here that’s not true at all. Very, very few of the people that we teach out here are living a church lifestyle before we meet them. Elder Smith told me a great example of a person that was baptized in his first area. He served in the ghetto of north St Louis and they found a guy who contacted them and wanted to get baptized. He was a skinhead and covered in tattoos from head to toe including a giant swastika across his chest. He had been sent to jail for a bunch of random stuff so he served some time there. While he was in jail they gave him a black cell mate and he tried to kill him. So they sent him into solitary to be by himself. He got super bored there so he asked them to give him a book. They gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon. He read the entire thing and thought it was the dumbest book he had ever read. But because he had nothing else to do he kept reading it. One day he had some kind of dream and found out it was true. For the next few years he read pretty much all the Ensigns and watched a ton of conference on old VHS tapes. They moved him back in with a roommate after a while and his roommate was an apostate Mormon who led an anti-Mormon group. But one good thing was he had an old quad. So he gave it to him and he read the entire thing. He was ready to get baptized as soon as he got out of jail. After all of these things he had been through he is now a primary teacher in the Pagedale ward. My mom told me a quote she heard was "My favorite smell in church is cigarette smoke." Also on my mission I think it was a stake president said that he wished he could put a sign up in the front of the church that said "Smokes Welcome" I have learned so much about accepting other people even with their flaws and past mistakes. Anyone can change from anything they have gone through in the past. I am so thankful for the opportunity that I have had to learn this and meet these people on my mission.

            Saturday I got the chance to go to Ryan Kremers baptism. It was so good to see the Kremers, Sandy, and everyone else again. I got the opportunity to give the talk on the Holy Ghost and stand in on the circle. It was really cool. I went down to Fairview with Elder Williams so it was super fun to get to be his companion again for a day in our old area. I am so thankful that I have had so many awesome companions. Being with them all has been so much fun. After the baptism we went to our old favorite place to eat and got 1 pound chili hamburgers. I would like to note that for the first time in my life I ate more than Elder Williams. No one tell him I said that haha.

Sunday we had a normal day at church after about 2 hours of meetings. Then Sunday night we got to go to the mission president house and meet with President Clark and James O’Neil Miner. He is the famous pianist that is doing a concert for us tomorrow night and for our stake on Friday this week. Hopefully we will have some nonmembers there that we can talk to.

            We found 6 new investigators this week which was awesome and we had about 8 lessons. Overall everything is just going awesome. Elder Redmond is still here and we haven’t heard anything about his visa yet but it has been great to have him around for a little while. I am so thankful for both of my current companions and everything that has happened this transfer. Hopefully it keeps going as well as it has been. I am so blessed and thankful for these amazing opportunities that I have been given.

-Elder Banks

Monday, March 11, 2013

            This week has gotten me more excited than ever to be companions with Elder Anderson. We are going to get to do so much random fun stuff. Last Monday after we emailed we drove to downtown and went to the Catholic Basilica for mass. It was just one of those random things we decided to do but it was so cool. The Basilica is an amazing building and it was really interesting. I learned a lot and it’s a lot easier for me to talk to people now about their religion now that I actually have an idea what the heck it is. After Monday, the middle of the week was super normal like always. Just lots of tracting and finding and stuff like that. It was a much slower week than last week but we found a lot of potentials so hopefully next week we can pick some of them up.
            Friday we had a DLZL meeting and it was so cool. We got the normal meeting stuff out of the way, and then we started talking about a new game that the zone is going to play. The momentum in our zone has been going down a lot over the last few transfers so we have been trying to think of something to get it going again. Elder Anderson coming into the zone along with a bunch of new missionaries has already started things off on a good note. Everyone is just getting excited for missionary work again and working super hard. One of the things President was focusing on was finding new investigators and we were struggling with that. We are supposed to get at least 20 a week and last transfer the most the zone found in a week was 18. But the first 2 weeks of this transfer we have found 28 and 27. It is so cool to see people getting so excited again.

Another thing we have been told to focus on a lot is working with members, so that’s the game that I was talking about earlier. We were trying to think of a way to get people excited about it working with members, and in honor of March Madness coming up we made a game called Member Madness. It’s just a super simple lame little game with a point system and prizes and stuff for working with members, but people are getting so excited about it. Only the district leaders know about it right now and it hasn’t even started yet, but already trash talk and a bunch of other fun stuff has started to go around the zone. Everyone wants to be the best missionaries at working with their ward. The regular season is coming up this and next week then that will determine your seed for the playoff bracket we made. The winner of the whole thing gets to choose a place and President Clark is going to take them to lunch. It’s such a simple game and it probably doesn’t even sound that cool but it’s like the closest thing we can get to sports so we are all super excited. And we have been trying to eat at all the cool places in St Louis and having President pay for one would be great so we better win.
            Saturday we got to go to a baptism that was really cool. It was for Brandy and Dakota in Arnold, which is the area right next to ours. It was great to see them finally get baptized because they have been trying for almost year. Brandy had a bunch of snags she had to get over and her daughter Dakota was just waiting for her. They were one of those families that you just know needed the gospel. They were found in one of the coolest ways I have ever heard. The missionaries a while ago in Arnold were trying to text someone in their ward. They punched in the wrong number so they ended up accidentally texting Brandy. She asked who they were and why they were texting her and they told her they were missionaries for our church. She responded with "Oh you’re missionaries? I have been looking for a new church." and the rest is history. It was exciting to finally see them be so happy and know that they made the right decision. Right after the baptism we had a giant ward party BBQ trivia night and that was great. Unlimited pulled pork always makes for a great night.

            Sunday was probably the best day of the week. It started with us accidentally missing all our meetings in the morning because our alarm went off an hour late. Yikes... But then after that things got a lot better. One random but cool thing happened while I was handing our programs before church. Some guy who I didn’t recognize but I think is from another ward came up and asked me if we had been giving out copies of the Book of Mormon outside the Fox Theater after the play. I told him we did and then he told me about a story about how he runs with a preacher every once in a while and his preacher friend told him about how someone the preacher knows very well went to the play and saw us standing outside afterwards. He teared up when he saw us and very humbly took a copy of the free book we were handing out. He has been reading the Book of Mormon ever since. He hasn’t contacted the missionaries yet as far as we know but hopefully someday soon he will. It’s so cool to hear all of these random stories. People in almost every area around St Louis have been talking about the Mormon missionaries outside the musical. Lindell has given out about 10 referrals of people wanting the missionaries to come over and who knows how many more have read the book or even just simply looked at the website. It’s fun to hear about some good results of hard work every once in a while.

            Church got even better later because we weren’t really planning on having any investigators at church this week. But we were happy to see that Sadika and Samira (the 2 Bosnian ladies) showed up. And we got even more excited because a lady in the ward brought her boyfriend and a young woman in the ward brought one of her best friends. All the visitors really liked it and the boyfriend (Steve) set up an appointment on Wednesday to meet with us. We love seeing the ward get into missionary work. President Clark has asked us to dedicate Sundays to visiting members and having them start doing missionary work. We visited with a few people yesterday and they are all in the process of making a list of non-members they know and choosing 3 of them to start working with. Missionaries have done it in the past and not been too serious, but we made sure to let everyone know we will be following up with them and this is the real deal now. We are excited to see what kind of results come out of this down the road. Possibly long after all 3 of us are in a new area or even home off our missions. But if it helps even one person get baptized, we would be thrilled. I am so thankful for this opportunity that I have to serve, and the super cool area and companions that I have right now. Being a missionary is amazing. I don’t really know what else I can say beyond that.

-Elder Banks

Monday, March 4, 2013

Elder Anderson #3

Man your email was full of surprises this week! I can’t believe Callie is getting married. That is so weird haha. But that’s super cool for her. I did get Aunt Jeanette’s package and Kayla’s mom sent me one too this week. It was awesome to get both of them. The Sanders kids live right by me haha. None of them are in our stake but they are all within probably 30 minutes of me. I can’t believe Ashlyn is going on a mission! That was a cool update. And ya we still live in the same place. We have no idea when we are moving but he is cool with us staying so it’s all working out.               

This week was one of those weeks where you look back and you can’t help but smile because it was so awesome. The first couple days were pretty normal. Monday we had P-day and just played basketball the whole time then went to Ted Drews to get ice cream even though it’s been freezing this week. Then Tuesday we just went around and had a normal day of work with nothing too special happening.

Wednesday is when things really got shaken up. We went to transfers and Elder Bullock headed out and Elder Anderson came in. Also we got our visa waiter who is going to Brazil and his name is Elder Redmond. We got home on Wednesday way earlier than I thought we were going to so we had a lot of free time so we just went out and tracted for 4 hours. It was amazing because Elder Anderson is a pro. He can talk to anyone about anything and they will just eat it up. Everyone wants to just talk to him it’s fantastic. We got 3 new investigators that day. Then later that night we headed up to the Fox Theater to give away copies of the Book of Mormon again. We had 5 boxes to give out and a ton of cards to give away after that. We were pretty excited and then the Assistants called and told us that they were going to come and bring all of the missionaries who were going home the next day to help us. We got way excited then and there were about 15 missionaries there. My new companion Elder Anderson is really good at singing and playing the guitar, so him and a couple other missionaries stood right outside the doors and sang hymns as people walked out. My trainer Elder Jensen was one of the missionaries going home the next day so it was awesome to get to spend one last night with him doing missionary work. It was an amazing experience and way better than the first time. It was just so amazing to get to see all the missionaries on their last night as a missionary getting to do this amazing thing. They were all so happy I can’t even explain what it was like. Some of them were almost in tears because they couldn’t have asked for a cooler experience on their last night. It was tough to see Elder Jensen go home but I am so thankful that I got to serve with him and I owe so much of what I have learned out here to him.

We got home Wednesday night at around midnight and I was dead tired, but I couldn’t fall asleep because I was so happy. The pure joy that I felt that night was unlike anything I have ever felt before in my life. The love and closeness I felt for my Savior and for my friends is something that I won’t ever forget.

            The rest of the week has been super normal. We just worked as hard as we can. The thing that hasn’t been normal is that we have been getting amazing results out of it! Elder Anderson is a wizard. He can turn any normal bad door conversation into the greatest thing ever. People just want to talk to us all the time. The last few weeks we were teaching like 4 lessons a week about and we were lucky to find 2 new investigators. In just a few short days we taught about 10 lessons and had 6 new. It has been so fun.

The experience of Elder Anderson mixed with the greenie fire of Elder Redmond has been so cool to be a part of. Just a little background on my new companions. Elder Anderson is from St George. He was a DJ before his mission and he is 20 years old. He is way into music and has all these cool synthesizers and stuff that are super fun to play around with. While he was in college he was a DJ and he is majoring in communications. It is so much fun to be around him. We are laughing so much and it’s just been great.

Elder Redmond is from Eagle Idaho just outside of Boise. He likes music a lot too. He is more into band and choir and that kind of music but it’s cool to be around 2 people who are so musically talented. Elder Redmond is super excited to get to Brazil. He is 19 and took a semester at BYU Idaho. He wants to be a chemical engineer.

            Sunday was stake conference and it was really cool. It wasn’t like any stake conference I had ever been to before. We started and the stake president stood up and did all the normal before meeting things and had a song and prayer. Then we all sat down and watched a broadcast of some seventy’s and a member of the general relief society presidency speak. Then Elder Oaks gave a talk. It was broadcast to 9 states in the Midwest and it was a super cool experience.

Right after stake conference we got to give a couple baptismal interviews so that was really awesome like always. Sunday night was great and we got to go to the Fox Theater for the final night. We had almost the whole zone there and it was just awesome. We all met 2 hours before and started filling out cards with phone numbers and things. The assistants had gone around and taken all of the extra BOMs that we had in the entire mission so we had 14 boxes. We spent a while writing in 560 copies of the Book of Mormon and filling out countless cards. We had people singing and playing the guitar again and it was just awesome. Total in the few times we got to give things away we gave 1160 copies of the Book of Mormon away and hundreds of Mormon.org cards as well. People have already started calling and texting wanting the missionaries to come over so we have seen so many blessings from it already. Last night it was so cool because everyone just loved us being there. The cops were supporting us and always had our back because they just thought it was the best thing ever that we would come out there. It was awesome. I am so excited for this transfer and I know it’s going to be a good one. I love all of you and will talk to you again soon.

Elder Banks