Monday, May 21, 2018

God's Plan

We got soaked in the rain.
Elder Charles and Elder Stevenson
The most interesting thing that happened was zone conference. We had a member of the seventy, Elder Klebingat, come and speak to us. It was a long conference, took the whole day, but it was worth it. He knows the scriptures so well. He started off by explaining exactly who we were in the pre-earth life, and what that means we have to do now. Super good, here's some of my favorite quotes:

• Tell yourself "I am here to fulfill a pre-mortal covenant to gather Israel"
• The pain of discipline is always better than the pain of regret
• Once we yield to temptation, we give the adversary ammunition with a memory
• You need to be better than yourself tomorrow
• Fear, typically, is not to be overcome, but to be managed and controlled
• You are choosing today where you want to be for eternity
• Everything you do today is a reflection of the depth of your conversion
• Never make the first mistake once
• You cannot teach what you don't know, and you will not teach what you are not excited about

Lots of good stuff.
God's Plan

We also had our best lesson with Astrel and Saintana this week. We taught the plan of salvation with some little toys that my family had made for me and gave me last Christmas. It really made it all click for Astrel, he really liked the part about the spirit world and how nobody burns in hell haha. He took pictures of the final setup, each one moving the people down. I reenacted it to show you what I mean. He asked us to get some Scriptures from the Bible that talk about it so he can share it, so we went back yesterday with one for each of the major parts. They also got a car now, so hopefully Astrel  can drive them all to church. Good stuff!

We also had our first member meal appointment since coming to this area haha. We got permission to go to Lehigh to have dinner with the Knoop family, and they made us a really nice meal. Grateful.

We didn't have any investigators come to church yesterday, but Saintana was there which was great. They had the baptism of the lady that wanted to get baptized after seeing Saintana's baptism, that was pretty neat.

That was pretty much it from this week, just a couple highlights but it was a good one. It's been raining off and on all week here, which is kinda nice. We've been needing some good rain, it keeps us cool while biking haha. Anyways hope you all have a great week!

Getting chases by a dog on our bikes. haha


Vulture drying out in the sun. There are tons of vultures here.

Saintana had this on her TV last night, snagged a pic haha

Eldè Stevenson

Monday, April 30, 2018

Saintana Day

So this week was a pretty good week. Transfers happened, so now Elder Belnap is here. He's a cool guy, should be a fun transfer! There was really only one event that dominated the whole week...

Saintana got baptized! Woooooooo! It was an amazing experience and I'm so glad that I got to stay here to see it. There was the usual last minute scramble to make sure that everything happened, but in the end it worked out. Elder Charles and I stayed up till midnight the night before making cupcakes and brownies to bring to the church haha. We had the baptism during the 2nd hour of church since we have sacrament meeting last. Elder Charles did the baptism and I did the confirmation. It was an awesome experience overall. We also had the baby, Astahna, blessed during sacrament. Saintana's husband Astrel came, along with the baby's "godmother" and "godfather". We didn't have much of a chance to follow up with them afterwards but everyone seemed to enjoy it. The branch was super supportive of her, church was pretty much all about Saintana yesterday. They even had all the missionaries give their testimonies during sacrament meeting for her, which was kinda weird but whatever. (Bonus fact for those of you that have been following along, Saintana got baptized on the 1 year anniversary of when Bertina got baptized in Hollywood!)

Afterwards they threw a party at their house and had a bunch of their friends over, so we went. We ended up just sitting outside in the back, chatting and eating all the barbecue haha. There was one guy who tried bashing with us because our church teaches that God is not 3 people in 1 person, but another guy came that was pretty chill so we're gonna try to stay in contact with him. There was just a little too much alcohol to really get anything done, which was a shame.

One of the people we talked to was cutting this guy's hair
and asked Elder Charles to take over for him haha
We're still working on "fixing" the branch haha. Rumor has it that we're gonna be able to get a van, but I feel that's just a surface solution and doesn't get to the root of the problems. It's just a remedy for the symptoms without curing the disease. It'll be helpful, but is not going to be sustainable in the long term. But we'll see what happens.

That's pretty much it from this week. Not much happened, but a lot happened. The end of this month means that I only have 4 months left. Pretty crazy, I just want to make this time count. Hope you all have a great week!


Eldè Stevenson

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Another One

Elders Charles, Mendoza, Seal, Stevenson
on Lake Trafford pier
Well, of course we'll start with the big news. This week is transfers, and I will be STAYING in Immokalee! Elder Charles will also be STAYING! Elder Seal is staying and Elder Mendoza is transferring to Homestead as a new DL! I honestly wasn't expecting to stay, especially with Elder Charles for another one, and people think I'm disappointed, but honestly I'm so happy! Especially because it means that we'll both be here for Saintanna's baptism! And it's not very common that you get to stay with your trainee for another transfer. Not only that, but our entire branch stayed the same. All 6 of us stayed right where we are for the 3rd transfer in a row! That's pretty unusual. Looks like we've got some more work ahead of us!

This past week was a good one. On Pday we had a fun little district activity where we played some basketball and some volleyball and some "chair soccer". Chair soccer is where each person has a chair they protect and you try to hit it with the ball to get them out. It was fun but I was so sore for the next couple days haha.

Then the next day we had a zone wide exchange! I went to the ZLs area and spent the day with Elder Poulter. He's known for being a "perfect" missionary haha. It was a great time, even though we ended up waiting in a hospital for 2 hours for one of their investigators, and then she kept getting pulled away by doctors and [...] so we ended up staying in that hospital for a total of four and a half hours! Yikes! It was a critical lesson though so hopefully it was worth it. We went hard after that though, knocking early the next morning to try to meet our goals.

We get our groceries every week from a custom ice food pantry that we do service for, and this week they had gotten a large donation of Easter candy, so on top of our other food we took home a full bag of candy.

Yesterday we went back to the Brown's to do some more service, but also to give Mr Brown a blessing. Early that morning he was on his dirt bike on his way home from work and out of nowhere took a tumble. He wasn't wearing a helmet, and he hit the road head first. Apparently no bones were broken, except for a hairline fracture in his eye socket, but his face did get pretty torn up. I'll put a picture of us with him, just know that it might be a little graphic. He was still pretty positive, and still had his usual sense of humor and his "No big deal, I'm still going to work" attitude. It was kinda shocking to see him like that though after we had just seen him about a week ago working hard and laughing, I can't imagine if something like that had happened to my family what I would've been like.

Other than that things were pretty normal, Saintanna came to church and had a good time as usual. She's going to be baptized this Sunday! We're working on getting the last of the lessons done and interview scheduled and program filled. It'll be a great day, their baby is also going to be blessed that day. They've invited some friends and family and the husband, Astrel, is going to be doing a big barbecue afterwards! This will be another one of those rare occasions where I was there when the person was found, and for the whole teaching process, and when they get baptized. So exciting!

We also had another good week of finding, so once Saintanna gets baptized hopefully we'll have some more people to take her place. The rides will be an increasing issue though, we have more people getting baptized and less people wanting to pick them up. The Lord will provide.

That's pretty much it. It's hard to believe that I'm on my 3rd to last transfer now. This is also my first time being with the same companion for 3 transfers, but I can't think of anyone better than Elder Charles to be with. Another fun fact, this transfer ends on my birthday! Crazy stuff around the corner, it'll be a great one! I'm including in the pictures some highlights of Immokalee from the other Elders. Hope you all have a great week!

The other day we biked to Lake Trafford for morning exercise and got some cool pictures!

A nice pic of the sunrise with the birds

Sunrise on Lake Trafford
Group pic on the pier

Another pier picture

Biking home from lake Trafford
photo by Elder Charles another day

A baby alligator we saw in a pond by our house

Doing service last night. I borrowed a hat from Elder Mendoza haha

Us with Mr Brown, daughter Jackie and dog Jenny
Burning leaves we raked and Elder Charles trying to remember some songs on the uke.
I remembered some chords and Jackie showed us how to do a little bit of the Stranger Things theme song haha

Our candy haul from Guadalupe's haha

From the first time doing service at the Brown's

Eldè Stevenson

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