Monday, April 16, 2018

Like A Fire Is Burning

My large calzone.
Very yummy, one of my new favorite meals in Immokalee
Hello everyone! So this week ended up being kinda crazy, not really what we were expecting haha.

We did a lot of service this week, mostly for a family from the Spanish branch. On Monday we spent the evening helping the Brown family, with some members of the Spanish branch, cut down trees and move logs left over from the hurricane. Who would've guessed that I'd still be doing hurricane cleanup. 

Saturday we went back, just the four of us, and raked leaves into piles and burned them then went to his fishing shop and helped load metal sheets onto a trailer. It ended up taking most of the day, but we made good friends with the dad. He's like your classic country dad, his wife is a member from Columbia and their daughter I believe was baptized as well but he is not a member.... It was good that we've been able to start breaking down the barrier, like Ammon, through genuine service. Even if we did smell like campfire afterwards haha. 

Speaking of smelling like campfire, yesterday we were surprised to come back from church to a very smokey Immokalee. Apparently there was a pretty decent fire burning in the everglades, and we were getting smoked by it all night. So I bet there's gonna be a lingering campfire smell for a little bit still. Coincidentally we also had the first real storm in a while yesterday evening, it only lasted a few minutes but I think it did the job. Things are nice and clear today.

On Wednesday we did an exchange and I left the area to go with Elder Latu in Lehigh acres, and coincidentally they also had a service project set up that day. It was a youth service project for one of their investigators. We were trimming back some hedges away from their house. It was a nice little project with good participation, and the investigator had chips and things and made everyone sandwiches.

Thursday we were surprised to get a call from Elder Latu with a "code red". Apparently there had been a mixup with the ZLs, and interviews with President were supposed to be that day, right then, and he was there waiting. This was after we'd already had our district training on Tuesday. So we quickly changed into our suits and went. Not every week do you get two DTs haha. Our interview was good, just checking up on things.

On Friday we tried a restaurant in town we'd never been to before named Roma in Havana. It turned out to be a nice little sit-down Italian restaurant. I ordered a large meat lovers calzone, and boy it was large haha. I ended up taking half of it home. It was very tasty, but a little expensive to be a regular thing.

Missionary work is still moving along. Yesterday our branch president was coming to pick people up, but somehow while he was getting ready he broke his hip or something. Apparently he was bending down to dry himself after a shower and couldn't get back up. But after laying down a little bit and putting a heating pad on it and doing some stretches he still came. It was a bit of a last minute scramble. He didn't pick up Saintanna because she wasn't all the way ready, but he did pick up our new friend Marie. She's been taught by missionaries in the past but is progressing pretty well right now... She came yesterday and liked it. It was a bit long, especially because she had to be picked up at 10 because of ward council and church doesn't start till 12, then there was another meeting after so she didn't leave until 4, getting home at almost 5. We got some calls from her family at home asking where she was, including the husband, and we had to assure them that she was fine and on her way. Definitely wasn't ideal, but that's what it takes.

Saintanna's still on track, we'll probably be having to do her baptism the first week of May though because there are 2 other people being baptized that day and she wants her baby to be blessed, so might as well use the fast and testimony sacrament meeting to do all of that. Should be a big day for the branch.

Overall the mission is doing great, everyone's pumped up, we've been finding 400+ NI [not sure what this stands for] for the past 3 weeks or so and this week we had the most dates in a while, 76. President Garns has been awesome at making sure that we're converted first and teaching the whys and hows of missionary work. Good stuff!

Hard to believe that transfers are next week, kinda bittersweet. This is probably my last week here and my last week with Elder Charles. We'll make it a good one. I've been a missionary for 19 MONTHS now! Crazy stuff! Things are picking up.

I think that's pretty much everything, kind-of a longer letter. Hope you all have a great week!

Eldè Stevenson

Monday, April 9, 2018

A Broken Heart

Birthday Dinner
Hello everybody! This week was pretty normal, and it wasn't at the same time haha. There were just a couple things that were out of the ordinary this week.

We had the zone leaders come over for a shadow exchange with us, and now that we have Elder Dick as our zone leader he was able to do some Creole work with us. It was good, had me remembering when we were together in Naples.

We've been focusing our finding a lot on visiting formers and past potentials for the past few weeks now, and we have been having some good success. This week we hit our finding goal of 5 new investigators, the most we've had for one week since we came into the area, all with spending less than an hour knocking the whole week! It was pretty amazing, these people have all had contact with the church to some degree before, and we were able to spark some of the interest that they first felt again.

Our area is a somewhat unique one in this mission, where there are plenty of people who have desires to learn more about the gospel, but because of circumstances they cannot come to church. I've been feeling a bit frustrated again, I feel as if my knees have been kicked out from under me. I know that some things are just not in my control, but anyone that knows me knows that I'm the type that wants to fix everything, and if it doesn't get fixed I get frustrated haha.

We weren't able to get rides for anyone this week for church... No one else was able to come out. Saintanna and Neftalie were busy anyways, so was Christopher, but it's still frustrating knowing that we wouldn't have had rides for them if they weren't. 

But I guess things are still going well, Saintanna is still committed to baptism. We went by last night, and it was Neftalie's son's birthday. He turned 2 yesterday and we had a nice little party with them. Christopher, our recent convert, came with us too, and we had a good time. Some problems will need to be addressed, not for Saintanna..., and that just kinda topped off my frustration yesterday I guess haha. I'm feeling a bit better now, I'm staying optimistic, but Immokalee is kinda breaking my heart.

"The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit." (Psalm 34:17) 

That's pretty much it for this week, hope you all have a great week!

Monday, April 2, 2018

What A Prophet!

Hello everybody! Wow, some amazing stuff just happened, where do I begin?

Monday was Pday, we had a fun time just chilling as a district playing sports. Then we tried to do FHE again but no one came again. This week we made sure to tell everyone that they need to let us know if they'll be coming otherwise we won't waste time waiting around to see if some comes (Haitians are notorious for being really late as it is haha). I didn't make brownies this time, maybe that's why haha.

This week we helped a Haitian teacher that was retiring move out of her house. A member of the Spanish branch volunteered to have us help her I guess. Not sure exactly was the situation was, but we spent a good couple hours helping her move boxes and pack up the big Penske truck she's taking up to Georgia. It was a good experience to be doing some good physical labor and making friends with some Haitian people.

Elder Charles got his first flat tire this week! It was on our way down to see Saintanna. We did all we could to patch it but the hole was too big, his tire had torn and the tube got pinched. We ended up locking up our bikes and walking the rest of the way to Saintanna, and we coordinated with the other elders to get the car and pick us up and drop us off again at our next appointment. Fun stuff.

Speaking of Saintanna, things are still going well. Ever since she found out more about how we take care of ourselves she's been insisting on feeding us something every time we go by haha. Lately, since her husband works in the watermelon fields, we've gotten giant slices of watermelon to eat before our lessons. We're working on having her baptism in the next couple weeks. She and Neftalie came to the Sunday morning session of conference and loved it, especially because our branch brought lots of food to share afterwards.

Now, speaking of conference. What a conference man. Not only was it my last one in the mission field, but what a way to finish it off. I'll start off by saying that President Nelson is my new favorite prophet. In the words of Elder Holland, "What a prophet!" I've really enjoyed the past couple talks he gave before becoming president of the church, and now my love and respect for him has increased 10 fold. Being able to stand in solemn assembly to sustain him as the prophet, as well as the other leaders of the church was a very unique experience that I am very grateful for. Listening to him during conference, I truly felt his love for me in a way I can't really describe, a way that felt like him channeling the love of the Savior for me specifically.

There was so much that happened during conference, it's hard to know where to start! It really all started during the Priesthood session, where President Nelson gave his first address to the church. In it, he announced that there will no longer be separate high priests and elders quorum groups, but now the Melchizedek priesthood will for one united Elder's quorum! This is a sign that the Lord is hastening His work and revealing His mind line upon line, precept upon precept. The rest of the session was focused on clearing up questions and giving details and examples. Then, during President Nelson's final address in that session, he called upon each office in the priesthood to arise (literally!) and stand with him as we sang the closing hymn, "Arise, O Men of God" It was a very spiritually moving experience for me, and I learned a lot about the blessing and privilege of holding this priesthood.

Some other interesting things that happened Saturday was that a lot more of the church leadership went through changes. We got 2 new apostles, Gerrit W Gong and Ulysses Suarez, as well as a multitude of new general and area seventies.

Sunday got very interesting too. President Nelson himself conducted the morning session, something I don't think has been done before. Then in the afternoon session, he announced that there will no longer be home/visiting teaching, but a new effort simply called "ministering". It is a more united, coordinated effort in the quorums to be more people-oriented than report-driven. No longer will we simply share a lesson once a month and check a box, but we will be building relationships and having regular interviews to discuss needs and strengths of those we minister to. AND THEN he announced 7 new temples, including one in INDIA and another in RUSSIA. Wow, talk about hastening the work! Much of his remarks during conference focused on the personal need to prepare for the 2nd coming. Mind blowing.

If you can't tell, I loved conference haha. The rest of it was great too, I didn't take a lot of notes 1) because I was so mind blown by the Spirit and 2) because I'm nearly out of pages in my notebook haha, but here are a couple highlights:

• Real success comes from not only going from failure to failure, but growing from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm. Lynn G Robbins (I saw him!)
• Casualness leads to casualty. Teniela B Wakolo (I saw him too!)
• Keep His commandments, and we'll be alright. Russell M Nelson
• Small and simple things over time bring great things, both positive and negative. Dallin H Oaks
• Good inspiration is based upon good information. Russell M Nelson
• Behold the Man! Dieter F Uchtdorf (I saw him too!)
• Are we active in the gospel, or merely busy in the church? Gérald Caussé

After returning home from conference, not 10 minutes later it started pouring rain haha, I broke out the old rain jacket and we worked the rest of the night. 

That's pretty much it, sorry this is so long, I promise I have pictures to supplement. I'll be trying a new thing and sharing them with a Google Photos album, let me know if this is a bad idea for some reason. Anyways hope you all have a great week!

Artsy, sunset pic

Israel, Israel, God is Calling

Our post-conference Haitian feast

A "cleansing and replenishing" is taking place

Welcome to my swamp

Monday, January 22, 2018

A Busy Sabbath Day

Coral Springs Zone - The Coolest
Photo from Elder Webster
Hello everyone! Here are a couple of highlights from this week.

First, we had a zone training! It's been a while since we had one, with all the holiday conference things going on. It was good, we talked about forgiving and watched the 12 step video about Larry (drug addiction recovery and forgiveness). It's a good one, led to a lot of good discussion. Kind of surprising how intense those 12 step videos are.

I also went on an exchange with the ZLs this week! It's the first time I've left my area for an exchange since I came to this zone. It was good to work with Elder Flake, even though I don't know Spanish haha. It didn't end up mattering too much though, the appointments all fell through. It was just one of those days. He gave me a good training about faith too, which I appreciated. And Elder Bullock handled the area like a champ, they found 2 new investigators!​​

Speaking of new investigators, this Saturday we had like a mini mission thing with some of the youth in the ward. We had 2 young men come with us Saturday morning to visit some potential investigators, and we were able to teach them both! Also got a little bit of knocking in with them before we all met back up for lunch. It was a fun little adventure.

Yesterday was a really productive day, even though it was a Sunday and most of our appointments fell through. We rearranged our schedule several times so that we could meet with one potential investigator that we have been struggling to meet with, and after talking with him we discover he's the non-member father of a recently returned missionary in the branch! Pretty amazing, he was mostly just curious about the church and our basic beliefs, so we talked about prophets and Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith with him and he seemed pretty interested. 

Then while we were knocking, the 2nd door we knocked let us in and we shared a little Plan of Salvation lesson with an older Haitian lady. 

​Our district leaders doing a fake rap battle at zone training

Finally, we met with a less active family that's really solid in the church but just can't get there on Sundays. We had a really good lesson where we talked about the scriptures and read Alma 32:26-43 together. The dad really felt the spirit and opened up to us, and even asked if we could eat some of his dinner with him haha! First time I've actually sat down and eaten Haitian food with a Haitian family in a long time. Classic "diri nwa" [black rice] with chicken and "griyo" [fried pork]. Have fun looking those up haha. [Haitian Recipes]

I almost forgot to mention that Yesterday Elder Bullock and I gave talks! It was only the 2nd talk I've given on my mission, and the 1st in Creole! It was good, it seemed to go over well. I talked about why we do missionary work (putting it in the context of the plan of salvation a little bit) and then told the members that we are here to work together with them and to help them do missionary work. Several people said thank you afterwards so I assume it was well received.

Also almost forgot to mention that Laurette came to church with her son Alex! We really had to scramble to find a ride for her, we ended up having one of the ward council members bring them early and they sat in the foyer while we were in our meeting. They seemed to really enjoy it, Alex looked like he was loving primary. We haven't been able to meet with her since to follow up about it, but we'll try to go by tomorrow. Brother Ca..... also came with his family for the first time in a little while, and it was nice to see him there. 

That's pretty much it from this week. We've still been pretty busy, our days are starting to get booked up which is nice. Crazy that we're starting into the last week of the transfer now, a new transfer starts on the 31st. I'm starting to realize just how old I am getting in the mission, and I don't like it haha! For example in his talk Elder Bullock said that he came out in August 2017. Then I said that I also came out in August, but August 2016! That was a weird realization. Anyways hope you all have a great week!


Eldè Stevenson

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Happy New Year!

Hey everybody! Happy new year! Crazy to think that 2017, my full calendar year as a missionary, has come and gone. 2018 is going to be a year full of new changes and challenges, but I'm looking forward to it!

So this past week was pretty good. We did a lot of teaching and finding. A couple experiences stood out however. The first was teaching a family of 4. We had talked to the mom a few days earlier, and she had expressed to us that she wanted us to teach her kids about the gospel since we knew both English and Creole, and she felt her kids didn't understand anything from going to her Haitian church. We went back and taught her 2 kids and their neighbor friend, aged 15, 11, and 10. We taught them the Plan of Salvation using some awesome 3D-printed cutouts that my family had just sent me for Christmas. They were all involved and interested and asking all sorts of questions. The mom was there too, kind of in the background. Afterwards we gave her a pamphlet to read over and see what we were teaching her kids. It was a great lesson, but it felt weird to be teaching to younger kids like that. Then we went back a few days later and taught them the Restoration, and I realized that if we claim that Joseph Smith saw God and Jesus Christ at age 14, then what's to stop these kids from accepting the gospel. It was a cool learning experience for all of us.

Another interesting experience happened that same day. We had been knocking doors and found 2 ladies sitting in a car in the driveway. We go up and talk to them and end up saying a prayer with them. Come to find out that one of the ladies has a mom in the nearby hospital recovering from surgery after a stroke, and she asked us if we could come back to go pray for her mom. We said "of course!" So the next day we go back and follow her and her 2 little boys to the hospital. We heard her speaking creole to the boys before we left, so when we got there we started speaking Creole to her. She was so amazed, and asked us if she could snapchat us during our prayer! We were like "sure...?" And then as we're checking in, the lady's boyfriend shows up out of nowhere, which was kinda weird but we spoke Creole to him and it was all good. So we get up to the room, and there are already 2 Haitian ladies there praying over the mom, so we stand there awkwardly as they finish and then strike up a conversation with the mom. Then I make Elder Bullock say the prayer while the one lady videos it for snapchat! He did great. Definitely one of those "I never thought I would be in this situation" type of moments haha!

We've been keeping up with Laurette, and we were able to take one of our awesome members to a lesson with us! We talked about the Priesthood and the member was able to connect with her and explain it in a way that we just couldn't, it was great. She can't read, so today we'll be getting some CDs to burn some chapters from the Book of Mormon in Creole for her to listen to. We gave her one that we had already, but it wasn't in order but we figured that we should at least give her something to listen to. Overall it's been going great, she's going to ask her husband about being baptized so hope all goes well.

Another great thing that happened was that last night we found Carl again! Turns out he went to Haiti for an unexpected funeral and that's why he's been missing. He's still super on board for meeting with us, and had talked with his member friend back in Haiti about the church and stuff which was great. We've scheduled to teach him tonight, so hopefully we can get everything back on track for him to be baptized.

A pretty long letter this week, I have a couple pictures that are pretty unrelated so I'll just throw those down at the bottom for ya. In other news, it's raining today for the first time in weeks so that's fun. Anyways hope you all had a great holidays!

We went bowling with a member after Christmas, and I caught the moment where his 4 year old son stuck his head in the ball return waiting for his ball haha!​

My Christmas present to myself haha, thank you Walmart clearance isle!


Eldè Stevenson

Monday, December 4, 2017

Yay for Carl!

Christmas in Florida!
Hey everyone! So this week was a very good week for us. I forgot to bring my planner with me so I'm going off of memory, so here we go!

This week we were pretty busy, which is great. We got lots of referrals from other missionaries and got to teach a few of them. We were able to exceed in pretty much every category compared to last week, and even exceeded a couple of the goals we had set, so that was awesome!

This week we started the #LightTheWorld campaign. It's pretty cool, similar to last year on there's a new scripture and video every day about how to serve others in little ways. Check it out!

The highlight of this week was probably Carl. Can't remember if I mentioned him before, but he was a referral from another set of missionaries. We got to teach him once before, but after that he vanished. This week, we randomly stopped by one night and he was there! He was so happy to see us again. He said he lost contact because he left the house after some problems [...], but he decided to come back. He had even read a little bit from the Book of Mormon and wanted to know more. We read through the introduction with him and then taught him the Plan of Salvation. After that we asked if he would be baptized on the 23rd of this month and he said yes! He even came to church this Sunday and loved it! He said he's been talking to his wife and friends about everything he's learning and is excited to be baptized. He asks thoughtful questions, and takes notes on the reading assignments that we leave him. So elect, he'll be baptized, I just hope I'm here to see it. 

Honestly that's pretty much it, just lots of visiting people this week. It's been nice teaching lessons instead of knocking doors though haha.

Some last items of business though. My next pday will not be until Wednesday because of a special zone conference. And the next 3 weeks after that pday will be on Tuesday because of transfers and Christmas and new years. Oh, speaking of transfers, transfers are soon so please send mail to the mission office instead of my house in case I leave. The address is 7951 SW 6th St Ste 110, Ft Lauderdale FL 33324. Thank you!

I'll leave you with a thought that I love from this last general conference. It's [from] Stephen W. Owen and is called Repentance Is Always Positive. I've taken some editorial liberties to splice parts of it together to make my point:

"When we speak of repentance, we aren’t just talking about self-improvement efforts. True repentance is more than that. True repentance inspires us to make our obedience a commitment—a covenant, beginning with baptism and renewed each week at the Lord’s Supper, the sacrament. The joy of repentance is more than the joy of living a decent life. It’s the joy of forgiveness, of being clean again, and of drawing closer to God. Once you’ve experienced that joy, no lesser substitute will do."

Hope you all have a great week!


Eldè Stevenson