Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Week of Weeks!

My poor bike
Hello everyone! So this week has still been pretty not normal you could say. First things first though this week is TRANSFERS. And I will be TRANSFERRING to the area of CYPRESS CREEK ENGLISH in the CORAL SPRINGS ZONE. My new companion will be ELDER MARSHALL. All the other elders here will be staying, and Elder Blood will be training! Definitely didn't expect this one, It'll be a lot different serving as just an English missionary, but the Lord needs me there for some reason so I'll just have to figure it out I guess. I haven't heard anything about the area other than apparently the ward meets in an old baptist church so that'll be interesting.

The weirdness of the week started off last p-day when we got in a crash! We were finally on our way "home" from the chapel and Elder Anderson was driving, and because of the hurricane there are traffic lights out. Well there was this one light that wasn't really a light because it was just for a school and is never on anyways, but a Mercedes 2 cars ahead of us decides to slam on his brakes to stop at it, which caused the mini cooper behind him to slam on his brakes, which caused Elder Anderson to slam on our brakes. And since we had all our stuff along with 4 guys in the car, we couldn't stop fast enough and we hit the back of the mini cooper. Everyone was fine, but our car got bashed pretty bad. Elder Anderson didn't get faulted either so that was good haha.

Our poor car
So then we didn't have a car, and we were living up with the cypress grove elders, Elder Wride and Elder Petersen, because our house still didn't have power. So the next day we tried biking down to do stuff in our area and I got the first flat tire of my mission! A 3 inch rusty screw went straight through my tire. So then I was out of a bike and we stuck with the other elders for the rest of the day.

The next day was Zone Conference, and President showed us his portfolio of pictures he took before his mission. He's an amazing photographer, really cool stuff. He's done photo shoots for some pretty big companies too. Even Disney! We also got a new car after zone conference so that was awesome. And I ate at steak and shake for the first time, which is kinda like the in-n-out of the east coast. Pretty good, not as good as in-n-out though.

We were finally able to go back to our house on Saturday. We have power, but the AC comes in and out still. Better than camping out in a chapel and living outside our area though. This weekend we also did more Mormon Helping Hands. We got in a work crew with the L.......s, the same family that took care of us during the hurricane. That was fun, they're an awesome family. But so many trees. After all this is over I will never need to touch another stick haha. It's exhausting work and there's so much to be done, but I'm glad to be able to help out these people. They're always so grateful for our help.

​Gotta get those yellow shirts!​




​Working in the rain!​
​Working hard or hardly working?


Speaking of that, this weekend is General Conference. However, the General Authorities have asked that we forego watching conference to do more Helping Hands. Kind of a bummer since I was kinda looking forward to a break, and General Conference is like super bowl weekend for missionaries haha. But, since I'll be transferring back to the east coast there's a good chance that I'll be camping (like, ACTUAL camping with TENTS) down in the KEYS to help clean up down there. The Keys got pretty wrecked so this isn't going to be much of a vacation but it'll be an interesting experience all the same. Somehow among all this I am still going to be doing missionary work, I'm expecting a bit of a rough transition at first but we'll see how it all pans out.

So as you can tell, things are really shaking up around here. Things will probably never be the same after this, but it's been a huge growing experience for me which I can really appreciate. Heavenly Father is really putting me, and putting all of us for that matter, to the test and I'm just going to keep making myself do those things that I don't want to do because I know there's a good reason for all of it. Just know that things are working out and are going to keep working out, and I just might be an even better person because of it hahaha. I love you all, thank you for your continued prayers and support!

Lanmou,

Eldè Stevenson

Monday, September 18, 2017

What a "Birthday" Present

Hello everyone! Yes, I am back online (barely haha). So obviously it's been pretty crazy around here. I can't possibly hope to capture any fraction of everything that's happened these past 2 weeks, but I'll try my best. Here we go!

So the last time I emailed we were prepping our house for Irma. Eventually we got the call that my whole zone and the Fort Myers zone would be evacuating Thursday night (the 7th) to a chapel in Bonita Springs. The next few days were spent mostly helping members put up shutters and prep the house and pack up for the hurricane. We packed our 72 hour kits and enough clothes and things to last us about 3 days. We waited in an hour long line to get gas and topped off our tank and then only used our bikes the next few days. There was lots of uncertainty in the air, and it was eerie riding around and seeing all the shutters and the worried looks on everyone's faces.

Shout out to Elder Anderson.

Eventually we all made it up to Bonita. There were 32 missionaries total living in the chapel, plus our stake president and his wife and 13 year old son. He kept an eye on the storm and would update us every once in a while and instruct us on what we were to do. It was pretty crazy once we knew that it was coming straight for us, especially since it was projected to keep it's intensity of about a cat 4-5. While in the chapel though we all had a lot of fun. We were allowed to play card games and board games, and there was also a lot of basketball and volleyball in the gym. Plus just being around other missionaries is fun so we talked a lot.






The storm ended up hitting us Sunday afternoon. Sunday morning we had a little sacrament meeting where we took the sacrament and shared some testimonies. It was a neat experience. Not too long after that was when we lost power. When the strongest part of the storm passed over us, we all gathered into a hallway to wait it out. We were definitely protected, because we were only hit by about cat 2-3 strength winds. It still caused some damage, which I'll talk about in a sec. After that we were pretty much in the clear and just waited to hear what they wanted us to do.





Monday we started cleaning up around the chapel. We mostly just cleared out trees that had fallen, there wasn't much damage to the building at all other than no power or water. Really most of what we did for the rest of the week was just a waiting game. Waiting for power, waiting for water, waiting for the all clear to leave the chapel, waiting for service to do. While we were waiting we played games and talked and really built up some good relationships with everyone there. It was like if you mixed scout camp and EFY and then threw in a hurricane haha. I'll be honest and say that I didn't really feel like a missionary, I still don't. It'll be tough getting back in the swing of things for sure.







At about this point we were told to evacuate up to Cape Coral to help out the church and people in that area. We were still pretty much on lock-down but at least we had power and water (on boil order). At this point it had been about a week when we had only planned for 3 or so days so we had no clean clothes and hadn't showered, so some members up there opened up their homes to us to let us shower and do our laundry. That was a huge blessing haha. Even though we were only up there for about 2 days, the members really took care of us, some even provided meals for all of us which was awesome. We were definitely blessed and taken care of.






After that we went back down to Bonita and from there split into 2 groups. We had some other missionaries coming from the Tampa mission as well as the Coral Springs zone to help out with cleanup through projects set up through the stake with Mormon Helping Hands. All the English missionaries stayed in Naples while the language missionaries went out to Imokalee, a little town by the everglades that got hit pretty hard. Naples and Imokalee pretty much got the worst of the storm, and it was pretty humbling going out to Imokalee and seeing the trailers that were destroyed and all the damage that was there. Everyone was still in high spirits though and ready to go out and serve.

We were out there from Saturday morning to Sunday night. We all put on our yellow t shirts and went to work all weekend long unloading semis, building wheelbarrows, chopping and hauling trees, and doing anything we could to help out the community out there. Member had come from all around Florida and were camping out to help. I think there were maybe around 200 people that came to Imokalee with us. Sunday morning at 6:00 we had a little pioneer sacrament where we gave everyone a sacrament cup, and after the prayer, came around with water bottles and filled each individual's cup. It was a pretty spiritual experience, especially being able to look up and see the stars since we're far from the cities.








That's the best summary I can do. I have lots of pictures, sorry I won't be able to caption all of them so you'll have to do some inferring. My status as of right now: Our house (in Naples) is still out of power, so as of today I'll be living with the Cypress Grove elders. (AKA Don't send mail to my home address please!) I'm not sure how long it will be, we're expecting at least until Friday probably. There are already some complications that've come up with that, but we're doing our best to handle it. Transfers are next week as well, it'll be interesting to see how they handle that. All in all, this experience has been about rolling with the punches and making the best out of what you've got. It's a learning and growing experience for everyone, and I'm sure it won't be the last. (Just pray that Maria doesn't hit us too haha). I love you all, just know that I'm safe and doing my best to help out. 

One last thing. I've officially been out for 1 YEAR! WOW! My mission birthday haha! Didn't do much for it, since we were hiding from a hurricane, but it's crazy to think that I've been out this long, and that now the time starts to count down to going home. Ahhh! It's going by soooo fast!

Lanmou,

Eldè Stevenson

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Surprise P Day for Hurricane Irma​

Hello everyone! So.... as I'm sure you've probably heard, Hurricane Irma is headed our way. I put most of my thoughts for this week's letter in a recording. Here are the highlights:

-Darwins got baptized.... ON THE BEACH! Yes, we got permission from president to combine our baptism with a member's baptism that were good friends with Darwins. Which means yes, we did go to the beach! And yes, I took lots of pictures and will be sending all of those as well.

-Hurricane prep. We are getting things ready, stocking up on water and food. What we know at this point is that Hurricane Irma is heading our way and is a Cat 5 storm. Exciting! We will be well taken care of by the church and by God, so don't worry about us just send your prayers for those that may not be as well prepared as we are.

-Temple trip was cancelled. Because of Hurricane. Bummer.

-If anyone has any good advice on things to have and do to prep for a hurricane, feel free to let me know haha.

-The work is going well here. I am so happy to be doing what I'm doing and to be here when I am. Next week it will official, but technically I've already hit the mark that puts me 1 year out from my return date. That's crazy, I definitely don't feel that old in the mission haha. My mission has definitely helped me to become a better person. I love the Lord and I love the Haitians and I love you all and hope that you have a great week. 

Talk to you soon! Keep up the good work!

​E Anderson and E Rock​
​Beach selfie!​


​Darwins and Pauley, the other boy being baptized​

​Jamesly, the only member in his family until now (and going on a mission)
getting to baptize his little brother 

​Me and Elder Blood​

Obligatory artsy shell pic (good wallpaper)​

Funny...​



Lanmou,

Eldè Stevenson

Monday, August 28, 2017

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Live the gospel faithfully and with compassion
 Hello everyone! So this week was good, not a whole lot to report though.

So, as you may or may not have already been aware, it's been raining a lot here. Fortunately we weren't hit with Hurricane Harvey, but as it passed by it sent a lot of storms our way. We've been doing our best to avoid being out in the heavy rain, so it hasn't been too bad. Apparently there are some streets and areas that are flooded. We have a little weather radio in our apartment, and at 2:00 this morning it woke all of us up to tell us there was a flood warning. I haven't seen much flooding myself, just some really deep puddles haha. Weirdly there hasn't been much lightning with all the storms, which is kinda a bummer.

Speaking of rain, Saturday morning we helped a family move out of their house in the driving rain. It was a ward service project so the bishop, high priest group leader, young men's leader, and one of the young men were there to help too. It was pretty fun, I was pretty much the designated umbrella holder as we moved stuff in and out of the truck haha.

Yesterday I gave a talk in sacrament meeting, my first one on my mission! I went pretty much a whole year without being asked, that's gotta be a record. It was just a 7 minute talk about the Holy Ghost. I based most of the talk around an analogy with bees (thanks mom). Much like how bees are able to see UV light, and thus distinguish many different pigments in flowers, when we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost it allows us to see in another "spiritual" light. 

Moving service
Taking the analogy further, UV light can reveal hidden messages (think secret ink), cleanse and purify (think camping water bottle filters), and strengthen and solidify (think cementing on braces). In the same way the Holy Ghost is a Revealer, and Purifier, and a Strengthener. And just like any form of light, even though you cannot see it directly you know it is there by observing the things it touches. I could take the analogy further, but I'll let you think about it for yourselves haha.

We've found a lot of success this week working with Jamesly's nonmember family. He's a Haitian young man that has his papers in to serve a mission and he's the only member in his family. Right now we're working to have his little brother Darwins baptized this Saturday. There's a couple more logistics we need to work out, but if we can swing it for this week that'd be awesome. Our next step is to work on the mom, Lucy. She seems pretty open to the message, it's just hard to meet with her or get her to come to church because she works all the time. One thing our mission president encouraged us to do with her is set up a fast with her so that she can get work off to come to church. We're going to meet with them all tonight, so hopefully we can get this worked out.


That's pretty much all I've got to talk about for this week. It'll be a bit longer until my next email, next Friday is when I get to go to the temple! I'm going to print off some family names that I found to take with me. That should be super cool! It'll be interesting to see how it works out, since I'm a 2 hour drive from the temple. We need to have a member take us, and we also have to do all our other p-day things like shop and email still, but we'll see I guess haha. 


Hope all is going well with you! Keep up the good work!

Lanmou,

Eldè Stevenson
A poorly taken photo of the eclipse
The District
​Elder Rock resting peacefully

Monday, August 21, 2017

No Clue...

​Our new group​
Hello everyone! This week was good, definitely different though.

Wednesday we had transfers, and it was kinda crazy getting everything worked out. The good thing is that we got to carpool with the zone leaders so we saved ourselves the, about, 200 miles it takes for us to get there and back. Now I'm living with Elder Blood, Elder Anderson, and his "sprout" Elder Rock. They're all good guys, it's definitely a different feel from last transfer and will take some adjustment for everybody I think. Now I'm the one that gets asked all the questions about the area, and quite frankly I still feel like I have no clue what I'm doing haha...

We had our English class and Georvensky (that's how he said it's spelled) came! It was pretty fun, we got to answer his questions and then got into a conversation about the church and Joseph Smith. He's kinda the type that says "I don't see why it matters what church I go to if they all talk about Jesus Christ." That concern can either be really easy or really hard to overcome. Later in the week we came by and ended up sharing about the Plan of Salvation with him, and he seemed to really like that. Unfortunately he didn't come to church like he said he would and didn't answer his phone, so we're gonna have to figure out what happened there. Our other person committed to church didn't come either, he said that either him or a family member was sick and he couldn't come. We'll be going by tonight for another lesson and to give him a baptismal date, so hopefully all goes well!

Open House for missionary 
Saturday was probably one of the biggest, if not the biggest, bike days I've had so far. A conservative estimate from my GPS says it was about 30 miles. We were able to meet with a recent convert, Jamesly, who has his mission papers in! He's the only member in his family, but he wants his mom and little brother to get baptized before he goes. We'll be working more closely with him to help him with everything for that. Then in the evening we biked down to the bottom of our area to stop by a part-member family only to find that they had moved, so we spent the rest of the night biking back home. It was a pretty long day haha...

Yesterday was a really fun day though, there is a young woman in our ward going on a mission to Long Beach California, and she gave a great farewell talk. Her sister and her dad also sang a song together that was really good. Then after church we got to go to the open house, which was basically right on the beach! You couldn't see it from their house though, otherwise I would've gotten some awesome pictures. It was an interesting experience, this is the second missionary farewell I've witnessed while on my mission. It's weird to think that I'm old enough in the mission now that I'll get back home 6 months before her!

That's pretty much all the news from this week, I'm gonna try to go out and see the eclipse that's going on! We had someone we knocked into last night tell us that it's a sign that the world is ending  haha, we'll see about that I guess. Interviews with President are already this week, and we also got our date for going to the temple, which will be Sept. 8th! Just a head's up, for that week that Friday will be my p-day, so just be aware that I didn't forget to email haha. Anyways hope all is going well with you! Keep up the good work!

​My new district, the "Salt Life" district​


Lanmou,

Eldè Stevenson

PS (Answers for Dad)
Naples is definitely a little tougher to find people than my other areas, definitely more biking, and even though the ward is more like a twig than a branch the people that do come are solid. Elder Blood is great. I use my creole a lot just talking to people, saying prayers, and doing things for the ward members.