Monday, October 31, 2016

Hey y'all

It's been another packed week! The baptism last night went really well. I was a little worried about pulling Sister Crouse back out of the water; she's a pretty big lady. I managed okay though. Elder Toki baptized Brother Crouse. He broke his leg a month or two ago (and is convinced he's healed so fast because of the priesthood blessings we gave him) so his leg is pretty stiff. The first time he went down his leg popped up and the second time too. So they had him get on his knees and elder Toki dipped him face first down and back up. Since it was right after church there was a good amount of people there to welcome them to the Ward. Now Brother Crouse really wants to the priesthood. Hopefully we'll see them in the temple a year from now.

Yes, Halloween is today here as well. We're supposed to either be at appointments or at members homes or inside this evening. I think we're going to see the Crouses and then head in. For zone activity we planned a costume party. About a month ago we announced it to everyone, and then last week President (not knowing anything about our party we planned) sent out an email regarding Halloween and the things he wants us to do and not do. One of those things was not wearing costumes for Halloween. So we had to quickly replan and now we're going to play Quidditch. Not sure how that all works, but Elder Toki's played it before and he says it's pretty fun. I'll be sure to send pictures.

On Saturday our ward had our trunk or treat and chili cook off.  As usual the missionaries were the judges. I don't even like chili. Sister Berry really had to convince me to sit down and try 28 different kinds of chili. So we're going through trying the different types (white, mild, and hot) and Elder Toki tries hot #6 brought by less active Tracy Sidden. His face instantly turns red and his eyes start tearing up. He grabs his gallon jug of water (we've doing the gallon of water a day challenge) and starts chugging. The water makes it way worse. So he gets up and runs for the kitchen, opens up the cotton pickin' refrigerator and grabs the first thing he sees: a little milk carton. He shakes it up and pops it open and milk starts spraying out likes it's carbonated soda. All over the floor and and his arms. He settles that down and takes a good swig and then proceeds to run outside and spit all the milk out. He's heaved over, half throwing up because the milk was four weeks expired. Funniest thing of my life.

Exchanges got moved to this week with Elder Blanco so stay tuned. So now I've got another very busy week to look forwards too. Hopefully we'll be blessed with some new investigators, we really need some. Oh yeah, we taught Millicent the law of chastity this week! She's gay, so that was a hard one to prepare for, but we got in there and taught it clearly and she's willing to live it! She was super intrigued by the Church's stance on same sex attraction. We watched a lot of the videos from the Mormons' and gays website to get ready for it. Really interesting page, check it out if you haven't seen it yet.

Welp, pray for me, I need it! I'm scared this packed schedule is going to render me a lunatic by the end of next transfer. Peace out homies.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Hey y'all!

Honestly I can't really remember much of last week. It went pre' fast. But I'll do my best to access my excess random memories.

On Tuesday I went on exchange to Kernersville with Elder Zesiger. He's been out two transfers now and is a really solid missionary. It wasn't the most eventful exchange; we pretty much just knocked doors the whole time and talked. We did have dinner with a super nice family though! It was pretty funny, as we were walking up to the house I mentioned to Elder Z "I hope they didn't make fish...I'm sorta allergic." Then we walked in the door and the first thing the guy said was "hope y'all like fish!" Luckily it wasn't salmon. He'd made fish tacos with tilapia, and they turned out pretty good.

Wednesday was nothing but meetings. First we had district meeting - we attended the High Point district's. Their district leader was just called so we came to see how he was doing and he was super solid. Right after that we got lunch and went to a meeting with Brother Dedios. He's in our ward, but serves on the high council and just got called to be the High Councilmen over missionary work. I was a little bummed because I REALLY wanted him to be called as our new WML, but I guess he needs to use his amazing missionary/ Ward council knowledge to influence the whole stake. Anyways, the meeting was all about this 'three month rolling goals and key indicator program' our mission president is having us roll out to our whole mission. I can't remember if I told y'all about it already, but basically it involves the Ward council setting monthly goals with the missionaries regarding three key indicators. In our mission right now the only 'numbers' that really matter and that we report are New Investigators, Sacrament Attendance, and Baptisms/Confirmations. The three month rolling goals has us set goals, with specific names to back the numbers, with the Ward council for the current month and the upcoming two. Honestly it's completely genius, and has sky rocketed our baptisms in Welcome ward. So far this ward has had 16 convert baptisms in 2016 with another two being baptized this week. If y'all are looking for ways to improve ward councils and increase missionary work (particularly member missionary work) in the stake you should really take a look at this thing dad. President Alexander came up with it with the help of Elders Zwick and Kepishka of the 70, but really it's nothing too different than what the handbook and Preach My Gospel says about Ward councils. It's just organized a certain way.  So anyways, we're trying to get the whole stake (zone) in on it. We've got a meeting next week with the stake president to report on how it's going. He's totally gun ho for it, we've just got to win the trust of the other WMLs and Bishops. After that huge, but very productive, meeting it was time for coordination and dinner at brother Davis's, our current WML. The Davis's have us over for dinner each week and then we have coordination. It's a pretty good deal.

But yeah it's been pretty fun being so involved in Stake leadership. I feel like I really have a good idea of how the church is run now and I've learned so much about what makes a successful Ward council lately. Our mission president is really emphasizing the importance of Ward council and supporting our Bishops. Hopefully I'll be able to soak it all in and remember all this good stuff for any callings I have later in life.

The Lexington BBQ festival and the High Point Furniture Market were this week. Lexington is the BBQ capital of the world and High Point is the furniture capital of the world. Go figure. Elder Toki and I went down to the BBQ festival Saturday evening to get some dinner. Obviously we were thinking about getting some BBQ at the BBQ festival in the BBQ capital of the world. No BBQ. Not a single BBQ stand. Nothing. There were funnel cakes and kettle corn and hot dogs, but no BBQ. I was so mad!

Millicent and the Crouses came to church yesterday! The Crouses are getting baptized this upcoming Sunday and they've ask us to baptize them. I'm hoping we can pawn it off to someone that lives in the Ward. That's always better for retention.

Welp, that's about as much as I can remember. I think I'm going on exchange with Elder Blanco this week so get ready for some deep doctrine in my next email.


Monday, October 17, 2016

Wow, long week.

So Tuesday we went to Charlotte for MLC. The meeting was about a few different things: baptism dates, a new church tour app, mission coordinations, etc. They had Cafe Rio pork for lunch so that was nice. We rode down there with the Winston and Greensboro Zone Leaders. Elder Clarke is in Greensboro so I got to talk to him for a bit. One of the Elders forgot his suit coat so we had to make a slight detour into Concord so he could borrow another Elder's jacket.

Then on Wednesday we put Millicent on baptismal date for the 12th of November. She didn't come to church yesterday, but I'm still hoping she can make her date. Brother Crouse's flu shot over reacted and he got super sick so he wasn't able to come either.

Thursday we were back up in Winston Salem for more service at the Orphanage. We mostly worked on the farm there, getting their pumpkin patch all set up. Elder Beaulieu hung out with me for a lot of it. We had Zone Meeting the next day, which requires a lot of preparation and planning beforehand. The meeting was all about finding, inviting, and baptizing. Then we made cookies at the end.

Saturday a recent convert named Colleen put on a Cottage Meeting for us. It was basically a get together for Ward council members and less actives and recent converts and investigators. She had about 25 people show up and it was a great event. Colleen is wheelchair bound, so a lot of the setting up for the meeting fell on us. She thought there were going to be around 45 people there, which was a lot to set up for.

And yesterday in Ward council our bishop informed everyone of another trial in a long list of trials one of our less active families is going through. This family moved here a few months ago and has really been put through the refiner's fire. They got super ripped off on the house they got. First there were fleas, then flooding in the basement, then mold in the air vents, then leaking in the roof, then rodents, then the heating system wasn't working and on and on. To cap it all off, he lost his job. So, yesterday in ward council we found out some kind of animal has crawled up under the house and died and the whole house smells. Apparently the builders, along with a lot of other things they did wrong, didn't properly seal up the access point to the crawl space under the home. The family thought it was one of the local starving neighborhood cats. Anyways, the crawl space is only about 14 inches tall and the man is too large to crawl back there to get the dead animal out. Long story short, I, being the only one small enough, volunteer to crawl back there and get it for him.

**WARNING: Graphic and really disgusting story to follow...**

So we showed up and he's cut the porch up a bit to make it easy to get to the crawl space. The stench is strongest in the bathroom so he's pretty sure it's in that general area. He had a big tyvec suit, and mask, and some gloves for me to use. I got all suited up and crawled back there with a flashlight. The closer I got to the bathroom the stronger the smell got; it was bad. Well, turns out there's a barrier blocking me off from that portion of the house, but there are air ducts running through the barrier that have been pretty torn up by something. There wasn't an access point to the crawl space past the barrier so the next thing we tried was going through the floor down there. The flooring wasn't completely finished and part of it was still plywood so he got his saw and cut a square out. Btw, this thing had been dead in there since Thursday and the kids had to pretty much spend the whole day outside because it was making them sick. Anyways, the plywood came up to reveal insulation, and under that was solid concrete. There isn't even a crawl space under that portion of the home. That was really disappointing. This man's wife was at her breaking point, as you can image, so we REALLY wanted to find that dead animal.

Our next guess was that it could be in the air ducts that run under that portion of the home. I couldn't fit down those, so we got my camera, selfie stick, flashlight, and duct tape and a long wooden pole to look back in there and see what we could find. That took about an hour or so to figure out. The big long pole wasn't easy to maneuver under there and the footage kept coming back bad. Finally we came to the conclusion the dead animal wasn't in there, but we felt pretty positive it had to be near the duct line because we could smell it in the air vents. So we took one last shot and cut a hole in the bathroom right along where the air vent ran. When we pulled up the plywood the stench hit us really hard so we knew we were close. Under the boards were a bunch of leaves and plastic bags and torn up insulation - it was a nest of some kind. As I pulled the nest material out and into a trash bag we discovered four or five baby possum carcasses. Nasty. The thing was the carcasses had been dead for a long time, and what we were smelling had to be fresh. So we peeked around a bit with the flashlight and figured whatever was dead, had to be close. We cut back a bit further in the ply wood, up along the shower. I was pretty scared it was going to be under the shower, that would have been really hard to get to. Elder Toki was squatting down with the flashlight and spotted something furry. I got down low to the floor and saw what was causing the stench: a big o'l dead possum. That sucker was fat and fresh and rancid. Dang Gina, I about threw up. It was too far back for me to reach, so I used a crow bar to pull it closer to the opening we'd made. Elder Toki got a five gallon bucket while I debated how to pick it up. The less active had a full on gas mask on and I had a paper mask on and Elder Toki had his suit pants on. So I just went for it and ended up pulling up a chunk of fur and possibly skin. I really didn't want to grab that thing, but I was the only one with gloves on so I ended up just wrapping my hand around the back end of it and lifting it up by what felt like a spinal chord. When I removed that thing from the concrete all hell broke loose. The scent was amplified 10 fold and maggots came crawling out everywhere. I picked up a freakin dead possum! Even with the mask I was gagging and coughing. It was a struggle to put it into the bucket without throwing up. I plopped it in the bucket and Elder Toki, who was holding the bucket and not wearing any form of mask, got a really nice whiff of it. He dropped the bucket and started coughing and gagging and his eyes got all watery. Then he ran out of the bathroom to get some air outside to breathe. He told me afterwards that as I dropped it in, it broke in half and the smell of the guts and maggots went right into his face. It sounds terrible, but all in all it was actually pretty fun. It was a huge burden lifted for the man and his family, too. So after this whole ordeal we get in our car to go home. We'd showed up sometime around 6:30 thinking it'd take less than an hour. It's 11:30. Curfew is 9:30 and lights out is 10:30. I was like, oh crap. We'd completely lost track of time. The office staff called this morning wondering why our cars tiwi was going off at 11 last night, but we explained the whole thing and our mission vehicle coordinator was like, well at least now you have a skill to pay your way through college! Yeah, no thanks....

So that was my week!

Love ya!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Hey Y'all,

It's been a wonderful week! The Crouses came to church yesterday and enjoyed it! They're an older couple that haven't been to church in A LONG time. Like so long, their paper records were never transferred over to the computer and they need to get baptized again. Sister Crouse gave up coffee this week too. She gave us her coffee maker and I took it home. I was on exchanges with Elder Beaulieu so I wanted to save the coffee maker to show Elder Toki because we were pretty pumped. When I got up the next morning I found a cockroach on my desk. After a B-line sprint to the toilet paper I examined the scene. I was pretty confused because I haven't seen any roaches in this apartment. Then I realized they were all coming from the coffee maker. Dang it. So now I'm finding an occasional cockroach here and there, pretty lame. But at least she gave up coffee!

As I mentioned, I went on exchange with Elder Beaulieu. He's 4 and a half feet tall and is a really funny guy. His family goes to 'little people' conventions and he says they're crazy.

Nancy is slowly slipping off the boat. She still wants to come to church every week, but she doesn't want to live the word of wisdom. Hopefully time will work on her and she'll be baptized eventually. I found out someone I worked with in Providence for a long time got baptized this week! His name is Ryan and he was ten, mom's a member stepdad isn't. Hopefully the dad will get baptized soon!

We also have this great new investigator named Millicent here in Lexington. She's been reading the Book of Mormon and loves it! I'm really excited for her to come to church next week.

Oh I got the card you sent! I lost our mail key last week and didn't find it till this week so I'm not sure if it got there on Friday, but I really appreciated it and the card made me laugh. We enjoyed some tasty Chinese this afternoon.

Tomorrow I'm going down to Charlotte, I'll get to see Elder Galvin and Elder Blanco. Elder Blanco wants me to room with him at BYU with Elder Brown, that could be fun. Guess what I found out this week? I only have 9 months left on my mission!!!!! Isn't that crazy? I kinda stopped keeping track after I hit 6 months..

Elder Earnest

Salisbury district missionaries:

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Email received on October 6, 2016 from the mission president:

Dear Families of Missionaries in the North Carolina Charlotte Mission,

As you may have heard, Hurricane Matthew is currently impacting the eastern seaboard. Here in North Carolina the local forecasters are anticipating rain but we are not likely to experience the severe storms that the coastal areas are.

Our missionaries have been reminded to use caution and keep water and food on hand and gas in their cars. Local ward and branch leaders are ready to assist them if necessary.  Today the sun is shining and we are all busy moving forward with the Lord's work.

We established a communication system that allows us to have contact with all our missionaries by communicating with our District Leaders, Sister Training Leaders and Zone Leaders.   All of our missionaries are accounted for and doing well.

We love and appreciate these wonderful Elders and Sisters and appreciate their dedication and hard work.  They are remarkable.

With our love,

Allen B Alexander
President, North Carolina Charlotte Mission
“Mission of Miracles”

Email received on October 9, 2016 from the mission president:

Dear Families of the North Carolina Charlotte missionaries,

Hurricane Matthew has come and gone.  Thanks so much for your prayers in our behalf.  Although we experienced a lot of wind and rain, all is well, all is well.  Our missionaries are all doing fine and are all accounted for.  We look forward to some opportunities for service here as the cleanup begins.

With our love,

Allen B Alexander
President, North Carolina Charlotte Mission
“Mission of Miracles”

Monday, October 3, 2016

It was a pretty okay week. General conference was fun.  We  stayed with the High Point Elders for the weekend to save some miles. (The church is in High Point and is a 40 mile round trip from our apartment). I thought President Monson's talk in priesthood was an interesting topic. My favorite talk was probably Elder Bednar's, it answered a few questions I've had lately about my patriarchal blessing.  I also enjoyed the one about the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon.  [Side note from Sam's mom:  We believe there is a prophet on the earth just as there was in Old Testament times.  Twice a year our church leaders speak to us for 6 2-hour sessions. That sounds like a long time but we're taught about doctrine and principles that are pertinent to our day and time and I always learn something or find answers to my questions. If you're interested in listening to or reading any of the talks, here's the link...]  

The Sisters had a baptism this week. One of the people being baptized ask me to baptize him. His name is Jordan and he's a year younger than me. I got in the font and said the prayer wrong. I didn't think I said it wrong, and when the guy told me what I said he confused the heck out of me and I stumbled through it and then got it right and put him under the water. His toe popped up. Finally I got it right, but I was pretty disappointed in myself. I'm still not sure what happened. Speaking of transfers, I'll be staying another transfer with Elder Toki, he goes home next transfer which means I'm locked in for at least another 3 months (happy faces..). Also fun news, remember Elder Snyder? He's coming to the High Point zone!

So about Nancy, we went back over. The anti-Mormon information she was given was WEAK. I mean all anti is weak, but this stuff wasn't even doctirnal. We talked to her about the Book of Mormon and the experiences she had reading it. She said she felt peace while she read, then we asked how she felt as she watches the video. She said she felt confused and angry. We told her God is never confusing and His gospel is simple. The Spirit was pretty strong and she began to cry. We pushed her date back a few weeks, but she's on track now. She came to general conference yesterday too! I think the reason she's been a bit confused lately is because she lives with a Baptist and a Muslim and she's trying to be Mormon, so pray for her!