Tuesday, January 31, 2017

BIG CHANGES and Optimism! - Jan 3, 2017

SO yeah, being a zone leader is madness. This week we have been striving super hard as a mission to find all the people prepared to be baptized in the month of January and help them to do so. AS a result, I have in this week been on exchanges with all but 4 areas in the zone (those 4 being the 2 sister areas and 2 areas in a campo 3 hours away). It has been MADNESS, but I LOVE IT! I feel like I am seeing things get done on a bigger scale, and I am SO grateful that the Lord has given me this opportunity. I feel that it is FAR easier to maintain a positive attitude when it's not just your area you're worrying about. 

To answer questions before anything else:

DAD--(Brad asked him a list of questions...)
What brand of toothpaste are you currently using?~I use Colgate Total Clean Mint (a classic)
Name the best tasting Dominican breakfast food?~Empanada de Huevo (an egg deep-fried from within a folded sheet of flour dough)
When you have a few minutes of relaxation time on p-day what is your preferred activity?~SLEEP (I haven't had time to sleep on a P-Day in months)
In what area are you seeing the most growth in yourself?~Villa Esfuerzo (3 months of power companions and 3 months of intensive, training-induced self-analysis)
Did anything surpise you about how any of us had changed when we had our conversation on Christmas?~Elijah's voice is dropping and his hair is going brown
What is the latest most impressive thing your mission president has either counseled you or talked about? ~Actually it is about what Mom is talking about- (We had Ward Conference last Sunday and I shared with him some of the talks...both Bishop and the Stake President talked about thoughts.  How to banish the bad and replace with good.  How thoughts proceed actions.  How outside influences and thoughts can color our experiences.  Satan wants to fill our minds with doubts and destructive thoughts that chip away at our foundations.  Our Stake President talked about how our minds are much like the temple.  The temple has a portico (a place to meet others and take off coats etc.)  Then we enter another set of doors and arrive at the recommend desk.  Our mind is similar.  If we are able to stop improper thoughts at the portico they are quickly swept away and do not defile the inner temple.  I feel like I am not doing the talk justice...  Basically bad thoughts aren't just thoughts about doing "bad" things.  Bad thoughts also are destructive, hurtful, demeaning thoughts (often directed at ourselves.) )--the power of IMAGINATION (see Alma 5 verses 14-19). Basically, that one of the steps to the exceptional faith that leads to salvation is imagination (v. 16). It's part of why we go to the temple--to develop that faith as we imagine the future. I can't remember exactly where the scripture is, but there is a scripture where Christ talks about not letting any bad thoughts or sins into our HEARTS, but he doesn't say into our heads. In other words, Satan can throw as many thoughts of his as he wants into our heads, but so long as we don't dwell on them they don't enter into our hearts and become desires or actions. Without meditation, there is no sin (save it be by ignorance). It's the same portico and inner doors thing. Perhaps a thought entering into our heads is not a sin because we can't always control it; however, any thought up there that we ponder or dwell on then becomes sin as it enters our hearts. The good thing is that Satan can't read our minds--those are only open unto God. 
Would you share a brief testimony with us?~I know that God lives and loves us. I know that Jesus Christ is His Son, our Savior and Redeemer, and I know that Christ's Atonement is all-encompassing, can heal any wound, and can even remove spiritual scars with time. I know that God is merciful unto all His children who will believe in Him and have faith sufficient to follow in the footsteps of the Savior. I know that God has again restored to the earth the fulness of His divine Gospel and truth by calling a prophet, Joseph Smith, to do so. I know that he was an instrument in the hands of the Lord in bringing about that restoration and in bringing forth the Book of Mormon. I know that the Book of Mormon is true--I know it! I know that it testifies of Christ and of Christ alone, and that its simplicity and directness are edifying unto all who read and pray sincerely, doing both with the real intent to know is it is true. I know that our Heavenly Father has a plan of salvation for us, and that one day we can become like Him. I testify of these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen. (y así sea)

~Life is really good right now. I feel exhausted, I got a stress cold this week, but it feels GREAT to be stressed helping others to reach their goals and strive to be more obedient. I just need to remember to be more obedient myself. Because of all the exchanges and changes of plans this week we still haven't had weekly planning, and due to lots of nightly reports and stuff there have been few nights we've gotten to bed on time. There have been days where we almost haven't proselyted because of information we've had to obtain for the zone or because of other meetings and stuff. One of the things that has amazed me most about being a zone leader, though, is the fact that the more time we sacrifice to help other areas, the less we have to spend with our investigators to help them progress. It has been a test of my faith, but it has really been interesting to trust more in the Lord and His knowledge that sometimes we just don't have time to visit as many people as we'd like. However, this week is going to be a lot more normal. Also, I feel great because I am typing from a chiclet keyboard--oh, how I miss chiclet keyboards! I feel like I can type so fast! XD
~One of the things that has helped me most in the down times is to keep thinking that if someone doesn't do something (keep a commitment, progress, go to church, get baptized, etc.) after repeated efforts on our part to help them to do so, then the Lord is trying to tell me that He has someone else out there for me who WILL do those things. I then proceed to look for that potential among former investigators and new contacts until I find that person, and all the while I feel super grateful that the Lord is thus guiding me.

I think between all those answers that about sums things up. I love you guys! Take care of yourselves, and talk to you next week!

OOH WAIT. There was a worldwide missionary broadcast on Wednesday, where the Executive Missionary Council of the Church (or something like that) reviewed last year's training broadcast and added some new insights.
As part of this years broadcast, some changes were announced in the missionary schedule and in the key indicators. Instead of the typical 11, there are now only 4 numbers that will be kept track of and reported on a daily and weekly basis: 
1) Investigators Baptized and Confirmed
2) Investigators with a Baptismal Date
3) Investigators who attended Sacrament Meeting
4) New Investigators
I feel that the reduction of the number of key indicators will boost efficiency like CRAZY. Instead of just looking for lessons or references to look good in weekly numbers or avoid a reproach from leaders for "not working hard enough," missionaries will be looking specifically for how to help people get baptized and get to sacrament meeting, and will focus more on people than on numbers. ALSO, the missionary daily schedule has been CHANGED. That's right, the good old 6:30-10:30 schedule you know and love is up for tweaking. Basically, all it means is that mission presidents will be able to set individual schedules depending on the areas they are in (for example, in Africa you might have to be home earlier, so you could study at night time and go to bed around 9:30 to get up at 5:30 the next day and be proselyting by 8. Meanwhile in Latin America, if you can be out in the street until 10pm, then you go to bed at 11 but get up at 7.) Within the new schedule, daily planning is now a MORNING activity (FINALLY--I always hated planning at night because one is always falling asleep), and mission presidents will only set windows for certain activities. In other words, Pres. Corbitt  would say, WINDOW 1 is from 6:30-9:00, and during such time you need to: exercise, study as companions 30 minutes, shower, eat, study personally 30mins-1hr, and plan 30mins for the day. The missionaries then plan what they'll do in window 1, for example: okay, exercise, then eat, then showerm then plan, then comp study, then personal study (or any combination). THat is a REALLY complex way of explaining that missionaries will now plan out their own daily study schedules (well, schedules in general) under the directional guidelines of each mission president. So yeah, if you couldn't tell I am BEYOND excited. XD

Love you guys!!
Élder Rowe

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Trial by Fire - Jan 23, 2107

I am 100% brain-dead right now. I NEVER would have though that being a zone leader would eat up so much time and take away so much from proselyting. I don't even know all the people who are going to be baptized this weekend yet! This week, my companion and I:
-received nightly reports
-planned and brought about a temple trip for missionaries and investigators in 2 days (we actually did  it Saturday)
-Did exchanges so that my companion could keep working in our area and I could do a "harvest" (divisions in another area with members) to help out the sisters in Consuelo
-Cleaned and organized the chapel
and a bunch of other stuff. Oh, and did I mention that they cut power to our house by a mistake and haven't come to fix it yet? The others in the house haven't had power for almost 2 weeks. Stupid dominican power companies XD.

Something interesting is that teaching about the Godhead is fairly easy (his sibling asked how teaching about the Godhead is received in the DR). Most people are either "catholic" (raised but not active) and willing to listen or evangelical and so confused about the nature of God and many other things that our saying anything concrete is accepted as potential truth. The nicest part of it all is that WHEREVER YOU ARE in the world, there is always one way to help people come to understand the nature of the Godhead: teach about the Restoration. If people come to know that the gospel has truly been restored, that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and that Joseph Smith was a prophet, they will understand and accept that God and Jesus Christ are two separate beings of flesh and bone and that the Holy Ghost is a third personage but of spirit.

You guys make me wish all the more that I were home to enjoy the cold! Or rather, enjoy the cold from the warmth of the house and the inability to go out and do anything. :D
(We have had another week of cold weather.  We had freezing rain that made our driveway into an ice rink.  School was cancelled for 2 days.  My husband even stayed home from work one day because the ice was so bad!)

My companion, Elder R****, is from Cuernavaca, MX.  He is super chill and has really been helping me out to figure out how all this goes down. I am super grateful for the opportunity to serve others as a zone leader, but HOLY COW you have to do a lot of stuff and sacrifice a lot of proselyting time. 

Anyhow, we also have next to no time to write because of other stuff we have to do on the computer, so I am out of time. I hope to be able to speak a little more calmly next week. Any questions about my area, my companion, my house, zone leader stuff, etc. are welcome--I have next to nothing to say about our investigators because I still don't know them hardly at all.

Elder Rowe

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

So I Became a Zone Leader... - Jan 16, 2017

Yeah. That happened.

Transfers have arrived, and I am headed off to Primavera, in San Pedro de Macoris, to be a zone leader with Elder R****, a mexican from Cuernavaca who I already know fairly well--we've been in the same zones a few times. I am yet again nervous. It's going to be a lot of work. Also, I've never gone out to the campo (country) before (I'm going to be between 1.5 and 2 hours from the city, and that's talking open freeway and no traffic). I've been told that San Pedro is a pretty big city, and that I won't feel like I'm in a campo. Also, San Pedro is a district, so President Corbitt will be out there all the time (District President) and I'll get to work more closely with him. I am SUPER EXCITED. It makes me sad that he won't be the mission president to give me my final interview and send me home.

I REALLLY wish I was there to enjoy the cold. (We have had record breaking snow this year along with crazy cold temps.  Our kids have only been in school for 4 1/2 days since before Christmas.  It has been unprecedented.) I miss being cold. Dry cold, I should say. Here at night with a fan on I get cold sometimes, but it's just a passing chill. I presume the other chilluns have been enjoying the lack of school, but that is indeed worrying. Being late on stuff like that means that finals are going to be weird, and that all those poor AP kids are going to be BEHIND when May rolls around.

To answer Jessica's question,  (she asked:  How teaching about/from the Book of Mormon has strengthened his testimony in the gospel.)  it has made ALL the difference. The Book of Mormon is the center, the keystone, of everything in the gospel and everything that has to do with testimony. I have had my testimony fortified tenfold by reading in the Book of Mormon on my own and in focusing my teaching around it. Everything is just so much clearer there. There are some good things that the Bible says--a lot of good things--but you have to dig to understand them. The Book of Mormon is just so...direct. To my mind come flooding the various Nephi quotes about how he delights in plainness and glories in directness. One thing in which I have come to confide is the promise that to ANYONE who reads it with sincere intent and prays about it the Spirit will testify of its truthfulness. I have seen it over and over again. Even if people don't get baptized, or long before that point, they know that the Book of Mormon is full of good things, or they know specifically that it is true. The cultural difficulty here is the link between that and the commitment to baptism. Commitment is hard for people here sometimes. However, the process is GREATLY helped along by members and fellowshipping efforts. Members who pass by from time to time just to chat, who give them follow-up about their reading in the Book of Mormon are 5-STAR members. 

My head is spinning a bit with the assignment as zone leader--I'm going to be in charge of helping, inspiring, exciting, and exhorting 20-something missionaries and helping them to, in unity, fulfil their goals and be diligent. I know that the Lord will be there to help out--I just hope I don't have to struggle for too long. Funny enough, patience has come up in personal study 3 times this week by pure chance, and it was one of the prime topics at church Sunday. We had a Caribbean Area Regional Conference by satelite transmission on Sunday with Elder J. Devn Cornish of the 70, Hna. Linda K. Burton (RS General President), Elder Craig C. Christensen of the Presidency of the 70, and Elder Neil L. Anderson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. It was super edifying. The focus of the talks were discipleship and its requirements: faith, diligence, and patience. As we nurture our faith and strive to be better disciples with all diligence, we need a LOT of patience. Things are going to happen on the Lord's time, and we need to be ready to hold out like the people of Alma under Amulon's rule.

Anyhow, LOVE YOU GUYS! Best of luck this week--I hope that all that snow and stuff doesn't hold back the studies and successes. 

Have a great one!
Élder Rowe

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Adversity - Jan 9, 2017

Okay. Hi there. So you're aware: an elder in my district (and house) has been passing through some personal stuff which has WRECKED all of us mentally. I won't give any details, but it has been a long week. All is now well, as it would seem, but...I don't know. Pray for us. We need all the spiritual support we can get.

The area hasn't been the best this week, either. A couple of investigators who had had baptismal dates before expressed a lack of testimony (or a lack of desire to obtain one, although they didn't confess that openly). Please, PLEASE always keep your priorities straight. I have seen FAR too many people say no to coming to church or other commitments because "I am in debt and need to work" or "my business will go under if I close for three hours" or "I had other stuff to do." It is a step of faith, but put the Lord first. If He asks something, DO IT. I haven't been doing so this week, and perhaps that is why stuff has headed downhill. Our mission president has promised us that we will reach our goals (in particular, to help 300+ people enter the waters of baptism this month) if we do 6 things: 

1. Keep all our covenants
2. Be obedient with exactness
3. Repent sincerely
4. Talk to everyone and ask everyone for references
5. Exercise exceptional faith (as explained in Revelation ch. 12 and the Book of Mormon)
6. Strive to meet the goals of the members

I have been failing in #4 this week (and, by correlation, #5). While I have been striving to talk to everyone in the street as we pass by, talking to people on trips in busses and cars makes me afraid; thus, I make excuses and keep my mouth shut. This fear is merely an absence of faith, and I know that with my head--I need to know it more with my heart. I have fallen into a pit I've fallen into before--I do everything from the head, but not everything from the heart. I have been striving to pray more sincerely about that. I am not enjoying my mission as much as I should, but it is not because I am overworking myself; rather, I am doing less than fulfilling my potential, and am thus uncomfortable. Every time I have to give a report on the progress of the area and our goals, all is low, and instead of being inspired to work harder I work less and look for excuses to take it easy. However, I am going to fix it. I am going to throw myself at my wall if fears until I or it breaks. These first few days are going to be rough, but... here we go.

Not all has been bad this week, though. I did indeed see tender mercies (and plenty). For example, this week we found probably the most receptive family ever near our house, and they may just be our miracle so that we can reach our part of the mission's goal. Even though they had family visiting from afar, they asked us to come in and share anyway. I had to reject some hugs :). We are beyond excited to continue visiting with them.

This week has been hard on the mission. A lot of opposition. As far as I am aware (there may be more), this week 3 missionaries went home early. One for knee problems, one for personal problems, and one for a combination of the former, the latter, and personal preference. With the problems (personal and otherwise) in both the elder houses in our zone (we live in a house of 4 and the rest live in a house of 6) (Elder H*****, my ex-companion, got something like chicken pox and couldn't leave the house the entire week, for one example), the ánimo is a bit low. However, we had a great zone activity today where we had a domino tournament and watched "Ephraim's Rescue" (parallel to 17 Miracles; if you haven't seen it, get it and watch it together ASAP--it is just as good as 17 Miracles). We are all feeling a bit better. I have come to see the mission as a real battleground. People fall wounded or fall out left and right. 3 of the missionaries from my MTC group of 14 have gone home already, and a lot of missionaries that I have known here. Satan really wants to stop the work of the Lord, and it can be despairing at times. However, the Lord knows what He is doing, and He will support us in all things. I hope to have great things to tell you by next week (along with my transfer info--I CANNOT BELIEVE that this transfer is already over (almost).

It sounds like you guys have been having quite the experience over there in TC. Sheesh. I wish I was there for it. XD (We have had record breaking snow fall and school has been cancelled or delayed more than we have ever experienced in the 8+ years we have lived here.)

His sister asked him what he thought his biggest inner strength was... I think the biggest inner strength in me is my desire to be happy and to see others happy. I have been feeling a lot of pain this week seeing other missionaries pass through hard times, but that desire has been a motivator. Basically, the easiest way to get me to do something here in the mission has been "if you do this (usually a combination of keep the commandments and be diligent, in one form or another) you will be happy and you will lift others up with you." As a missionary, while happiness is still a decision as ever, it is quite profoundly tied to your obedience and diligence. If you are not being as diligent or focused as you could or should be, it is nigh on impossible to be happy for more than brief moments. Unfortunately, that is something I have only come to realize in the latter half of my mission. I wish I had done so before; I would've enjoyed the mission so much more up to this point. In all honesty, my motivation to stay in the mission field and to keep working was "to make the time pass faster" for a good while. More than 6 months, I think. I hope that I can eventually completely repent of that. 

I think I have exhausted my thought pool for now. My fingers are certainly exhausted. I love you guys so much. I am actually starting to miss you more than just when I write home. It's hard! I appreciate as always all your prayers. Have a great one!

Élder Rowe

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

He is tired! - Jan 2, 2017

I am EXHAUSTED this week. We are working a lot harder on talking to everyone as Preach My Gospel, and we are working on asking for references from everyone since we almost never get any. We are already seeing results. We found a super prepared guy named J*** S***** this week, and in our second visit with him he accepted a baptismal date for the 28th of January. He has a miraculous healing story with an invasive hip surgery he had recently that is already almost completely healed. He is super interested in finding a church where he FEELS the truth, and not where people tell him what he has to believe. That is the coolest thing about the restored gospel: as a missionary I have taken the habit of telling people to not believe a word I say, and I can do so with confidence because I know that if they pray the Spirit will tell them the truth. It is so great to know that the Spirit can teach for me.

Other than that, the week has gone kind of slow. Every person we have found has asked us to visit them later or another time, and their references have been out of town or have said the same. We had a training meeting with president Corbitt to make sure that this month is the best yet by our best efforts. It was super good. We also played monopoly on New Year's Eve between the four of us, and that was alright. We finished all the Christmas snacks and candy, finally. 

I hope to have some special experiences from this week--Elder C***** and I have big plans and high hopes. Love you guys!

Élder Rowe