Monday, March 21, 2016

March 21, 2016 HAPPY EASTER!

This is our Zone this transfer.  Pretty similar to last transfer,
just a few changes with new companionships

Had some pretty sweet experiences this week! But I'll focus this letter on Thursday and Sunday!

So on Thursday (which was St. Patrick's Day), we decided to go tracting on a specific street in our area. We locked up our bikes and felt like we should start at the first house at the opposite end of the street from where our bikes were. So we walked to up to this first door and a lady named Luz, from Peru, answered the door. We began talking to her about the church and about what we do as missionaries. We asked her some questions about her beliefs and about her life. After talking for a few minutes, she started crying at the doorstep as she explained that she's been going through different trials in her life and she's been trying to reach out to God for help, but hasn't seen much guidance in her life or felt like she's received answers to her prayers. We taught her some of the basic doctrines of the church and promised her that whatever trials she's going through in her life, that this gospel can bless her and her family. Right as we were saying this, a little Hispanic boy starts walking up the steps towards us, and we moved off to the side assuming it was her son. This random
little boy stopped in between Elder Shelley and I, and told Luz "I just want you to know that what these missionaries are saying is true. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and I want to be a missionary just like them someday because this gospel has blessed my life and my families life." I was so confused as to where this boy came from, but we asked him to tell Luz how the gospel has blessed his life and he replied that his family has struggled financially but the Lord always prepared a way for them to make it through and that his older brother was able to go serve a mission. We thanked him for sharing his testimony and then Elder Shelley and I both bore our testimony to Luz and said that everything this little boy said was true! Then he skipped his way along back into a car that was parked nearby. Luz felt the spirit of the message and was so thankful that we were able to meet her and talk with her about God and Jesus Christ. We will be meeting with her again on Thursday! We were amazed with this whole experience with this random little boy and meeting Luz! It was super sweet!
After saying by to Luz, we went to the car from which the boy came and we met Sister Chirino! She is a member of the local Spanish ward and is from El Salvador. She said her son, Esteban, saw us missionaries at the door and told his Mom he wanted to go bear his  testimony to the lady at the door, so he did! What a brave little 10 year old! They happened to be parked waiting for the school bus to drop off a couple other of her kids. Esteban happened to be sick that day so he didn't go to school. Thankfully he was able to be there at that time, to testify simply but powerfully of the truthfulness of this gospel! Sister Chirino explained how excited Esteban is to be a missionary someday and she thanked us for being examples to his son. But we thanked her and her son for being the examples! We were glad that we decided to start at Luz's end of the street so that we were able to have this cool experience!

Then, that whole day of tracting, we didn't meet one rude or negative person! Everyone was respectful, even if they had no interest! We met another family from Peru, that didn't speak any English, but I was able to share a brief testimony in Spanish and give them a Spanish pass along card with the Spanish missionaries number. Then we met a Chinese guy that Elder Shelley was able to speak to in Mandarin a little bit. And everyone else we talked to was super nice! Even the couple agnostic or Atheist that we met were respectful, rather than the typical slammed door in the face, they gave us a few minutes of their time to talk. At our last door, before we had to head towards our Bishops house to teach Michelle, we met a man Terry who let us in his home and we taught him a brief message about the Restoration of the gospel. He was a basketball player that played at VCU. He was a kind man and has a nice family with a couple little kids and expressed small interest in learning more, but he recognized God as the source of the blessings in his life and he appreciates learning about other faiths.

Then we booked it over to our Bishops house and made it there just on time for our lesson with Michelle! This time we taught her a brief lesson about the importance of keeping the Sabbath Day holy. She has made great progress this last week with keeping the Word of Wisdom and is willing to make changes to make the Sabbath Day a more sacred day each week. Being St. Patrick's day, we felt like we had a pretty "lucky" day, but in reality it was the Lord just placing good people in our path as we worked! We've heard "Luck" defined as "when preparation meets opportunity." We believe that that's true!

Sunday was sweet! Michelle attended all 3 hours of church for the first time this week and enjoyed Sunday School and relief society. Her baptism is just a couple weeks away! We're meeting with her again tonight and having FHE with her and her daughter and the bishops family.

I don't know if I've mentioned Megan at all in any of my emails yet! Megan is 18 years old and about to graduate high school in a couple months and is best friends with another girl in the ward. She has been waking up and going to seminary every morning with her friend for the past few months! She's been going to church and attending mutual as well. She's enjoyed learning every morning about the gospel, but has been hesitant and nervous to meet with us. I met Megan my first Sunday in the ward at the end of January, and she finally agreed to meet with us at her friends house to have a lesson with the Wilkinson family! Even though we are set apart as missionaries, we're still normal people that are basically her same age, and I think she finally realizes that. Last night, we taught Megan and her mother at the Wilkinsons home. It was a great discussion and Megan thanked us for "helping her feel the spirit more and recognize the blessings in her life." She accepted the invitation to be baptized! She was super prepared and is excited to make this step in her life! I know that this is a crucial time for her as she's about to graduate and go off to school, and I know that nothing will give her more guidance, direction, peace, and happiness into her life than this true gospel! Her friends have been great examples to her and have helped her out a lot in her life! Her mother was open and receptive, but is not on the same spiritual level as her daughter at this point. But she's supportive of her daughter and is interested in learning as her daughter continues to learn! We look forward to working with them both over the next few weeks!

Given that Easter is this week, I thought I would share a portion of Jeffrey R. Hollands talk "None Were With Him" from April 2009. In describing the final moments of the Saviors life, Jeffrey R. Holland stated:
"With all the conviction of my soul I testify that He did please His Father perfectly and that a perfect Father did not forsake His Son in that hour. Indeed, it is my personal belief that in all of Christ’s mortal ministry the Father may never have been closer to His Son than in these agonizing final moments of suffering. Nevertheless, that the supreme sacrifice of His Son might be as complete as it was voluntary and solitary, the Father briefly withdrew from Jesus the comfort of His Spirit, the support of His personal presence. It was required, indeed it was central to the significance of the Atonement, that this perfect Son who had never spoken ill nor done wrong nor touched an unclean thing had to know how the rest of humankind--us, all of us--would feel when we did commit such sins. For His Atonement to be infinite and eternal, He had to feel what it was like to die not only physically but spiritually, to sense what it was like to have the divine Spirit withdraw, leaving one feeling totally, abjectly, hopelessly alone. But Jesus held on. He pressed on. The goodness in Him allowed faith to triumph even in a state of complete anguish. The trust He lived by told Him in spite of His feelings that divine compassion is never absent, that God is always faithful, that He never flees nor fails us. When the uttermost farthing had then been paid, when Christ’s determination to be faithful was as obvious as it was utterly invincible, finally and mercifully, it was “finished.” Against all odds and with none to help or uphold Him, Jesus... restored physical life where death had held sway and brought joyful, spiritual redemption out of sin, hellish darkness, and despair. With faith in the God He knew was there, He could say in triumph, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” 
"...because Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to do so. His solitary journey brought great company for our little version of that path--the merciful care of our Father in Heaven, the unfailing companionship of this Beloved Son, the consummate gift of the Holy Ghost, angels in heaven, family members on both sides of the veil, prophets and apostles, teachers, leaders, friends. All of these and more have been given as companions for our mortal journey because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the Restoration of His gospel. Trumpeted from the summit of Calvary is the truth that we will never be left alone nor unaided, even if sometimes we may feel that we are. Truly the Redeemer of us all said: “I will not leave you comfortless: [My Father and] I will come to you [and abide with you]"... 
"As we approach this Holy Week... may we declare ourselves to be more fully disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, not in word only and not only in the flush of comfortable times but in deed and in courage and in faith, including when the path is lonely and when our cross is difficult to bear. This Easter week and always, may we stand by Jesus Christ “at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in, even until death,” for surely that is how He stood by us when it was unto death and when He had to stand entirely and utterly alone. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen." 

This is a great talk! I know that Jesus Christ truly died and suffered for each one of us individually. I know that he was resurrected and that He is risen! I know that He lives and that we can feel His influence in our lives as we strive to be like Him. I'm so grateful for His atonement and resurrection and the opportunity we have to overcome sin and death because of Him! May we all remember Him, not only during Easter season, but throughout the year! We are never alone! I find so much comfort in that and hope you all can too!

I hope you all have a great week and a wonderful Easter! Love you all!

Elder Duvall

We started to find some pretty sweet bike trails this week that cut through some different neighborhoods.
Had to cross this little stream on our way!

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