Monday, August 26, 2013

          This week was a lot more normal than last week was. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday we had zone conferences. Those are really fun but they drain you really fast. Thursday was up in Champaign so that was a good 3 hours from St Louis so we planned on spending a couple days up in that area. We got to take some missionaries to Olive Garden later that night so that was really fun. I ate a lot of bread sticks.


The next day we got to spend some time doing missionary work. I was so excited to go tracting again. We hadn’t done that for a couple weeks and I was going through withdraws. This new system of no tracting that we are doing in a few zones is working really well but it’s a lot less fun than tracting. So getting to go out to different zones and knock on a few doors is always something I really look forward to.


We spent the first bit of the day with Elder Locklear and Elder Rougeau. It was cool to get to talk to Elder Locklear cause he has a really cool story from back home. He has a couple aunts and uncles that are active but that’s about it. But recently his mom has started taking the lessons and being reactivated and her nonmember husband has really warmed up to the missionaries. There are a ton of missionaries out here who are the only active members of their families or the only members in their families so I love to hear all the stories about how them coming on a mission has changed their families lives. The blessings that come from serving are impossible to fully understand.


Right after we spent some time with them, we went and spent a few hours with the Elder Anderson that I trained and his companion Elder Cox who has been out for about a week now. I got to go tracting with Elder Cox and it was a ton of fun. They live in a college town and school just barely got back in so it makes for quite the adventure. It’s always fun to walk up to a door and see a front yard completely covered in beer cans and barf and then knock on the door and talk about religion with them. Sometimes they are just stupid kids but it’s always an awesome opportunity to get to find a college kid who really wants to know more and change their lives. 


            This weekend was pretty normal but it was really good as always. We went up to Warrenton for church and learned all about keeping the Sabbath day holy. That’s an interesting idea as a missionary because our Sunday is pretty much the same as every other day of the week. Trying to set Sunday apart as a day of rest and extra worship is interesting but its good practice for when we get home.


This week is going to be another fun one. We have 2 zone conferences on Tuesday and Wednesday then Thursday is Elder Facer and Sister Minyards birthdays so we are going to Lottawatta Creek to have dinner. That’s going to be a really nice break in the week. Friday we have MLC then Saturday we are driving up to Champaign to do our zone leader exchange. I am really, really excited to do our zone leader exchanges over these next few weeks. We haven’t had the chance to do much normal work recently cause we have had a ton of meetings and a ton of random problems pop up. It will be really nice to get to get back into the routine of teaching nonmembers again. I love teaching so much. I love that I get to teach missionaries so much and I love teaching nonmembers even more. Bearing a strong testimony is such a blessing in our lives. I am so thankful for the knowledge that I have that these things are true and that I do have the ability to bear my testimony on them. I love this gospel and am so thankful for everything it does for me. 


-Elder Banks  



Monday, August 19, 2013

This week was probably the most exhausting week I have had so far on my mission. It was partly my fault but it was just insane all the way around. Tuesday is when the craziness started. We picked up 35 new missionaries from the airport and started hauling them around everywhere. We showed them the temple and then spent most of the rest of the day at the mission home. The Morgan’s had a big BBQ ready for all of us and we just had a fun rest of the night. After they all went to bed at 10:30 we had our meeting to put them with their trainers and ended up getting home around midnight. Then we had to wake up bright and early the next morning to get ready and to show up at the hotel and mission home to gather all the new missionaries up to get them to the church on time for transfer meeting. 


             Wednesday was a blast! We had transfer meeting which is always super fun and there was a huge group there for us to see. The meeting is always a really fun experience and President Morgan did great his first time.


After that we went to the temple with the new missionaries which is always fun. I sat in the Celestial room with Elder Christensen and Sister Crandall and we just talked for a few minutes about the temple and how great of a blessing it is and it was a really cool experience to have.


Then we headed to the mission home and spent the rest of the night there having another BBQ and just having fun. The rule the last night is that the departing missionaries can stay up as late as they want. We sat in the living room while Elder Anderson played the guitar until about 1:30 and then President Morgan headed off to bed. At that point about half the group had gone to bed but most of my best friends from the mission were all sitting in that room with us and we knew it was our last night together so we were going to make it count. 5 hours and a lot of random activities later we had spent the whole night being stupid high school kids again. Real life set in a little bit when we realized that we had to get in the van and head to the airport. Saying goodbye to that group was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I felt like trash after the airport but I held myself together pretty well. One of my really good friends, Sister Crandall, stayed with us for a few hours and then her parents came to the mission home to pick her up. That was a cool experience to see but it was so dang hard to say goodbye again and by time that was over I was physically exhausted from staying up all night and mentally exhausted from losing so many of my friends all at once.


Seeing that I was in absolutely no shape to function the Morgan’s let me go in their basement and sleep for a couple hours. Laying alone in a bed with nothing to do but think was probably the worst idea ever after sending all those missionaries home. It finally just hit me and for the first time in a really long time on my mission I just layed there and cried. It was pretty awful at the time but I have learned a lot from it and it has really helped me to relearn why I’m out here. I’m not out here for me at all but I’m out here to serve other people and to help them as much as I can. I am so thankful for those friends and companions that I had and how much they each helped me learn. My body and mind are finally starting to recover from those few days and now I’m excited to get out and have a good full weeks work this week. 


            A few other things happened this week that were both good and not so good. We spent a day working up in Linn which is a little tiny area that just barely opened up and that was fun. It’s up in the Columbia zone and there was a wedding reception that night in Columbia for Cameron Marshall. It’s probably been about a year since I talked about him but me and Elder Marshall used to hang out almost every p-day when he was an assistant and I was in Fairview Heights. We became really good friends and he was companions with Elder Facer. He met the stake president daughter from one of his old areas when he got back to Utah and next thing ya know they’re married! It was really cool to get to see him again after 9 months and see him taking the next step in his life. That was a super cool experience.


One thing I learned this week that was some interesting news was that Booker who I taught in Jacksonville died this week. He struggled with some health issues so it was his time to go but it’s always tough to hear about all these people that I knew so well at the beginning of my mission dying. 


            One really cool thing that has happened over the last few weeks has been the switch to member missionary work. We currently have 2 zones in the mission that are no tracting zones. Instead of tracting they just go visit members and ask for referrals. We haven’t had enough time to see how it’s going to work yet, but hopefully this is a glimpse of the future of our mission! I am so thankful to get to be right in the thick of missionary work as it is making all of these amazing changes. I am so thankful for the blessings that it brings me and the people around me and wouldn’t trade these experiences for anything! 


-Elder Banks



Monday, August 12, 2013

            This week was a nice change of pace for us. We have transfers this week so we spent this whole last week transfer planning. It was a whole new experience with President Morgan. It was pretty cool because we ended up with the same result but the way we did it was a lot different. With President Clark he knew the people really well and as we talked about who to put where he would simply say yes or no and we would move on. We worked on it for like 4 hours or so each day and would go through the whole mission 5 or 6 times before we were done. With President Morgan, we sat down and spent 9 straight hours in his office the first day and we were about 1/4 of the way through the mission. We talked in detail about every person so he could get to know them a little bit better. At the end of the week we still have a new board with lots of people going to new places and getting new companions, but we only went through probably twice instead of the normal 6 or so. It has been really cool to see all of the differences between President Morgan and President Clark in the way they run things, but to see and feel that it is still run by the spirit and all the decisions they make are inspired. 


            We got to do a couple random fun things this week. We had dinner at the mission home with the 4 sister training leaders. We are going to have 6 next transfer and one of the 4 goes home this transfer, so it was a goodbye dinner for her and we had a really good time.


Saturday was our day off for the week and we got the opportunity to go with the South Zone leaders to a soccer game. Elder Terrazas is a huge soccer fan and the two teams playing were Real Madrid and Inter Milan so he really wanted to go. We found an investigator to take with us as well so it was a really fun experience. We got to see Christiano Ronaldo score a goal and he is one of the best soccer players in the world, so that was a once in a lifetime experience. The best part of the whole game was when it got to be 3-0 for Real Madrid and the game got not so interesting anymore. We were in the Edward Jones Dome and 55,000 soccer fans started to try to entertain themselves. Mostly it involved random cheers in languages I couldn’t understand and kids running onto the field and taking pictures with the players. Besides the fact that Elder Terrazas decided to wear the rival team’s jersey it was a great day. Lots of people yelled at him but I don’t know Spanish or Bosnian so I didn’t have to worry about it haha. 


            This coming week is going to be another insane one. I’m super thankful I actually got to sleep in the same bed all week last week because we are going to be so tired this week. We are picking up 35 new missionaries from the airport tomorrow and then sending 18 home the day after that. I am not looking forward to Thursday at all. That morning we are taking the returning missionaries to the airport and a lot of my best friends are in this group. Elder Loveless and Elder DJ Anderson are 2 of the best friends I have made out here and taking them to the airport on the same day is going to be so hard. This is the group of missionaries that mostly became zone leaders at the same time as me so I have learned a lot and "grown up" with these elders so it’s going to be a rough one for sure. I was in the MTC with Sister Crandall and she goes home this week too so I’ll take that as my official 18 month mark. I’m so thankful for the many opportunities that I am going to get this week. Picking up the new missionaries and sending home the old ones is always a great learning experience. I am so thankful for all of these cool experiences that I get to have that very few other people ever experience. I am so blessed to be out here doing this work and I love every day of it!


-Elder Banks


Monday, August 5, 2013

That’s so funny that everyone is talking about the new temple video cause everyone is talking about it out here! We are probably going to the temple like twice in the next week so I’ll get to see it a couple times before the transfers over.


It’s crazy that I’m 3/4ths of the way done. I talked to President Morgan yesterday and he has pretty much decided that I’ll be in the office for the rest of my mission, but I asked him if I could go out for my last transfer and he said that would be a good idea so hopefully that’s what happens. It’s still pretty far away but looks like that’s going to be my next 6 months. I have my fingers crossed that he will let me train even though I only have 6 weeks and training normally takes 12. He said I could so hopefully his mind doesn’t change over the next 4 months.


             President Morgan had a great quote this week that I think sums pretty much everything up. We were at the mission home and it was getting close to 11: 30 and I said, Well I’m going home and getting some sleep. And President Morgan simply said "what’s sleep?" I wish he was joking but I’m pretty sure we have all forgotten what a full night’s sleep actually feels like at this point.


We have had a ton to do this week but it has been so much fun. On Monday we went with the south zone leaders, my old companion Elder Anderson from Oakville and his current companion Elder Terrazas. And we found an old golf course in the middle of a corn field and it was so cool. We payed 5 bucks and we got to mini golf and use the driving range for as long as we wanted. We hit sooo many golf balls and my hands are still covered in blisters. Totally worth it.


The next 3 days were all interviews and I almost killed myself. (I also read a talk about not using sarcasm this week...I’m still working on it) But for real it was awful haha. Like always its super good to see all the missionaries but after sitting in a relief society room for 10 hours you are definitely ready to get out. 


            On Friday we got to go on our exchange with the Columbia zone leaders. They do their missionary work on Mizzou campus and there is no one there right now. So we drove to Jeff City and went to district meeting and then tracted for a while and we found some super cool Russian young single adults that we invited to come to the branch and they were really fun to talk to. It poured rain so even just running from apartment building to apartment building we got soaked. I was with Elder Boren who I really love being with so that made it a really fun day.


After that on Saturday we drove down to the North St Louis zone and went on exchanges with those zone leaders. That zone is the only zone in the mission right how that is under the rule no tracting. Their stake president and zone leaders decided that they think that would be best and it’s been cool to see the results. There are definitely ups and downs but they are getting some referrals that are super solid and things are looking great for them in that zone. 


            Church on Sunday was probably the highlight of the week. We were gone and didn’t see our apartment from Tuesday morning at about 7 until Saturday night around 9. By time we got home we were so exhausted we forgot to pick somewhere to go to church. Sunday morning we called some of the zone leaders and they told us to go to the Crystal City branch. We headed down there and we didn’t expect much because it’s a tiny branch. But when we got there we were blown away. They had a baptism that Saturday so they confirmed this super awesome lady in sacrament meeting. The whole time we were there the whole ward was begging us to not transfer any of the missionaries away from their ward. They love those 2 elders. Even though they have a limited priesthood they have members set up to go out with the missionaries 4 days this week and they always have at least 3 nights filled with members just going out and doing missionary work. It’s so awesome to see what even a tiny branch can do if they have some good members who are willing to sacrifice their own time and talents to help out the missionaries. I am so thankful for helpful members who are willing to do missionary work with us and help us out in any way that they can. This gospel really does change lives and when we really figure that out it becomes our only desire to share it. I am so thankful for the knowledge that I have of this gospel and how much it blesses my life. 


-Elder Banks