Monday, December 26, 2016

December 26,2016 Merry Christmas! Leaving Alexandria and some Exciting news!!

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you all had a great day yesterday! I enjoyed doing a 7-way Skype call with my family Yesterday! It was fun seeing everyone and getting to talk to you all!

 We set up a free hot chocolate stand in Old Town Alexandria a couple nights before Christmas.
We met a lot of cool people and helped warm up a cold night with some hot chocolate!

Tall Christmas tree in Old Town

Last picture with the Alexandria zone!
We're missing a couple missionaries in our zone in this picture.
We're going to miss our zone here!

We had a great week leading up to Christmas!


At the temple with Edgardo and Julio for the Festival of Lights!

We were able to go up to the temple for the Festival of Lights two more times this week! The first time we went up with Edgardo and Julio. Edgardo had a blast! He loved seeing the temple and looking at all of the different displays in the visitors center.

At the temple with Hawa.

 The second time we went up this week was with an investigator named a Hawa from Sierra Leone who we've taught a few times over the last 6 months and she really wanted to go up there, so we arranged for a member to take us all. She loved it as well!

On Christmas Eve we were asked by our bishop to join him in going to the hospital to give a priesthood blessing to a sick baby, the son of a mother in the ward. There's nowhere else I would've rather been on Christmas Eve than there helping that little child! There was such a tender spirit in that hospital room and it was incredible to see the young mother manage to stay smiling and happy amidst such a rough time on Christmas Eve. I felt really grateful for all of the people working at the hospital on Christmas Eve, sacrificing time away from their families to be there to help the people.

We started teaching Edgardo this week about some of the different commandments. He is so humble and willing to change! At the end of one of our lessons, he said the closing prayer. In his prayer he said something along the lines of "I'm very sad that my missionaries are leaving. I love them a lot. They've helped me to change and I'm going to miss them..." It was nice to hear how much he's appreciated us. He said this prayer after finding out that we are both getting transferred to new areas this next week. Edgardo came to church on Christmas and brought his brother-in-laws father, who is a member of the church, with him! His brother in laws father is also from Peru, but doesn't speak any English. It was the perfect Sunday though, because our ward and the Spanish ward combined for Christmas Day service! So half of the the songs and talks and prayers were in Spanish and the other half were in Enlgish. It was a fun Christmas Sunday at church! Edgardo will be getting baptized sometime in the middle of January.
Michael also blessed the sacrament for the first time on Christmas and is starting to be able to use his priesthood! He did great and was super excited about being able to do it.

We found out a few days ago that we will both be getting transferred out of our ward! They will be bringing two new elders in to "white wash" our area! They are lucky missionaries both coming into an awesome ward with a lot of work to do! We were surprised to find this out, but I guess we are both needed elsewhere! We thought the sisters in the ward will be taking all of our investigators, but now the elders coming in will have some good work to do! It has been an amazing 4 transfers (6 months) here in Alexandria and I'm going to miss this area and the people here a ton! These past four transfers have gone by so much quicker than my first four, I can't believe it's almost been a year since I got here. Elder Judkins and I have been able to be part of some incredible miracles and have had a lot of fun serving here. This ward is awesome! The bishop is great, the members are supportive, and we've met many people that are prepared and interested in learning about the restored gospel. I've learned a lot serving here and I look forward to the new lessons I'll learn with different challenges that may come in my next area. I won't find out until tomorrow night where I will be headed.

We got some REALLY exciting news last night! Our mission had a goal to have 300 baptisms as a mission this year, and on Christmas Eve we hit 300! Obviously the work we do is not about numbers, it's about blessing the lives of individual people. This goal helped us to stay focused and work hard throughout the year. The theme we've based this year on is from the scripture Alma 37:6-7 which talks about how the Lord uses small means to bring about the salvation of many souls. Throughout the year we've focused on different simple things we can do to become better missionaries each day, that'll help us to help others. We did a mission-wide conference call last night where they announced that we hit 300 baptisms. After that announcement there was some more amazing news! On January 14th, we will be having TWO members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles visit our mission!! Elder M. Russell Ballard and Elder Ronald A. Rasband are coming here in just a couple weeks! They will be joined by Elder Gong of the Quorum of the Seventy. We will be having a mission-wide conference with them all! President Huntsman said that it is extremely rare to have 2 Apostles visit a mission together at the same time, so we're pretty lucky. They are planning to come here for some other meetings and fireside they're doing, but Elder Gong talked with President Huntsman and asked him if it would be okay for them to meet with our mission while they are here, so of course President Huntsman accepted! I'm excited to get to shake both of their hands and learn from their counsel that we will receive!

In just a few days I will be in a new area! I'm sad to leave, but excited for the changes ahead! I love you all and I hope you have a great last week of 2016!

Elder Jeremy Duvall
Washington DC South Mission

We helped volunteer at a senior center this week,
playing games with and interacting with a bunch of old people.
I love the elderly!

We are going to miss Bishop Leavitt and his family!

Christmas Sunday with our Ward Mission Leader,
Brother Adam Boone. He's the coolest guy! And he's helped us out a ton!

Thanks for all of the Christmas gifts Mom and others!

Monday, December 19, 2016

18 December 2016 - Twas the Week Before Christmas

Hey everyone!

This next week is the last full week of the transfer, I can't believe how fast this transfer is flying by. Transfers are on the 29th!

This past week was full of more great experiences! At the beginning of the week we had one final visit saying goodbye to Isha and her kids. Due to the ward boundary changes, she's no longer in our ward, but we were able to have one last lesson with her and give her a Christmas card we made. I'm grateful for the time we have been able to spend over the last several months teaching and helping Isha! In the background of the picture you can see that she has her baptismal certificate framed on her wall, along with a picture of us all together on the day of her baptism. She was sad to have to say bye to us, but she's in great hands! There's some awesome members in the other ward that are going to take great care of her. I'm grateful to have been involved with her conversion every step of the way.

We're going to miss Isha and her kids!
We had an exchange this week with one of the district leaders in our zone and his companion. I got to be with Elder Chu for a day again! It's always fun to spend a day with a previous companion. I found out this week that Katie and Jackson, a single mother and her son that I taught in Centreville are likely going to be getting baptized in a couple weeks! (Refer to letter back on May 9th) finding them was a miracle! Katie and her kids made it up to the temple yesterday night and made a nice post on Facebook thanking all of the missionaries who have helped her along the way. Elder Shelley and I were the ones that originally found her over seven months ago. I'm grateful for the other missionaries who've helped her along the way! I had no doubt that she would eventually make it to this point! I hope to be able to make it out to Centreville for her baptism!

Edgardo came to watch a baptism that we had in our ward this week of a woman named Najwan. She is from Egypt! The missionaries in another ward had been teaching Najwan, and due to the boundary changes she was baptized into our ward last week. Edgardo enjoyed the baptismal service! Following the baptism we had a lesson with him, to help him understand more about baptism and why it's important. He came to church for the second time on Sunday and is enjoying getting to know more members of the ward! He will most likely be getting baptized within the next few weeks!

Recent convert Chris Ricks came out with us this week to teach a few different people.
One of them was to Bernadette a woman we met a couple months ago and have a taught a few times.
Chris Ricks and Michael Heaney both got received the Aaronic Priesthood yesterday and were ordained priests. Elder Judkins ordained Chris, and then I was able to ordain Michael. We're so excited for them to be able to exercise their priesthood and bless the lives of others through their service!

Group of us with Michael after the New and Returning Member Fireside.
Julio in the middle is now our assistant Ward mission leader.
Michael spoke last night at the New and Returning Member Fireside and did a great job! These are my absolute favorite events to go to. I haven't been to one in the last 6 months or so, but they're great! There's nothing better than listening to the conversion stories of all kinds of people, hearing how the gospel has changed their lives for the better. When Michael spoke he talked a lot about the atonement. Growing up, he was taught about the atonement, but never fully understood it. He always thought Jesus Christ's atonement was something that was just there, and he didn't quite know how to personally access it and what that would mean if he could. But after learning about and accepting the restored gospel, he finally came to understand that the atonement fully applies to him individually. He now knows that Jesus Christ did die for him personally, and that He loves him unconditionally. He compared the love that Jesus Christ has for each of us to the love a mother has for a newborn child. As a mother holds her newborn baby, she looks down upon it thinking that she would do anything in the world for that child, to ensure they grow up happily. This is the same way Christ feels about each of us! He would do anything for us to help us make it back to him. In fact, he already has done everything for us! We just need to have the courage and humility to allow him to help us. It was great listening to Michael and other recent converts speak about their experiences.

I am excited for Christmas! We've got some great plans with different families next weekend. Yesterday at church, I ran into my cousin David Phillips in the hallway! He's in the Annandale Ward, which meets in the same church building as our ward. It was fun to talk with him for a few minutes and I will likely be seeing him again this weekend.

With my cousin, David Phillips!

This is going to be a great week! Hope you all have a merry Christmas! Love you all!

Merry Christmas from the White House and National Christmas Tree!
Elder Jeremy Duvall
Washington DC South Mission

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

December 13, 2016 Christmas joy & Randall K Bennett

Trying to stay warm with a scarf. :)

Hey everyone! Happy Tuesday! We switched our Pday again this week because of a half-mission conference we had yesterday with Elder Randall K. Bennett of the Quorum of the Seventy, which was awesome!
This past week was great! We were able to go up to the temple on two different days. The first night we went up with the entire Penedo family. They absolutely loved it! It was pretty cold outside, but we all enjoyed the beautiful lights and the beauty of the temple grounds. Roberto, who was baptized in November, enjoyed being there with his wife and daughters. His wife Natalia is not a member of the church, but has become more interested in learning since her husband and daughter were baptized. She is from Ukraine, so the sisters at the Visitors Center gave her a Russian Book of Mormon and taught her a bit about it. She is being taught by the sister missionaries in our ward, and we are going over weekly to teach the new member lessons to Roberto and Angelica. Every night of December there is a musical performance from different local groups and the family enjoyed hearing all of the Christmas songs, especially Natalia! They also had a room with nativities from all around the world that were fun for them to see.

The Penedo family is awesome!
Natalia, from Russia, loved being at the temple!
 The sisters at the visitors center gave her a Russian Book of Mormon
 and Natalia is so close to deciding to be baptized
to join with the rest of her family!
Natalia and Roberto's daughters had a blast!

Natalia, Roberto, Julio, Angelica and Ivanka with us
by the Christus Statue that is shining abnormally bright due to the lighting.

Vibrant lights at the temple

Julio loved being there with us and his family!
He his Roberto's brother.

Saturday night, we were able to go up to the temple with Micheal. He's been baptized for just over one week now, but if you first meet him you would think he's been a member for years! The entire drive to and from the temple, he was asking us really good questions about so many different doctrines and beliefs of the church. It's cool to see his desire to learn! He is super excited to get more involved in family history, to eventually participate in temple work for his family.  He wants to know so much, so quickly! And it's incredible how well he is able to retain everything. Often times he has quoted different scriptures he has read, or lyrics of hymns he has sung, in order to explain a point. This time up at the temple, the concert at the visitors center was the Mormon Choir of a Washington DC. It's basically a mini-Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and includes members of the church from many stakes in Virginia and Maryland. They were really good! A few members from my last ward in Centreville were in the choir so it was fun to see them.

 Our second night going up to the TVC and Festival of Lights. Thanks for the matching ties Mom!

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without Christmas music! On Sunday night, about 40 missionaries sang at a Stake musical fireside, called "Christmas at Mt. Vernon." We were the opening number. I enjoyed singing! This week was full of a lot of great music! I'm grateful for the special spirit music brings into our lives!

Our lesson with Edgardo, 

that Michael joined in on prior to going up to the temple with us.

Another highlight from the week would be the progress of Edgardo! He's doing great! Michael joined us in our second lesson with Edgardo. It was the most ideal teaching environment there, to have a man baptized just a week ago help us teach someone else that's preparing for baptism. It was good for Michael to not only hear the lessons again that he was taught before baptism, but to participate in the teaching. He gave a great, humble testimony to Edgardo. Edgardo came to church on Sunday and had a great time! He connected well with so many of the members, specifically those that served Spanish speaking missions, and he looks forward to coming back again next Sunday and learning more.

Different lesson with just Michael.

Our half-mission conference yesterday with Elder Bennett was great. He started at 8 in the morning with a small meeting with all of the zone leaders and sister training leaders, before the rest of the missionaries arrived. It was great to interact with him and help him understand what the missionaries in our mission could be improving on. He focused most of his training with the mission on the topic of obedience, which seems to be talked about all the time, but it is so important. The conference lasted until about 5pm, and included so much training on how we can be better at finding, teaching, and loving our investigators. Something that stood out to me was a scripture he shared. D&C 123:15-16 says "Let no man count them as small things; for there is much which lieth in futurity, pertaining to the saints, which depends upon these things. You know, brethren, that a very large ship is benefited very much by a very small helm in the time of a storm. . ." We will be given so much more power from in high as we focus on the so-called "small things" because obedience to the little things is what will ultimately bring the miracles. We can't expect miracles to happen in our lives if we aren't striving to be obedient to the small and simple things the Lord asks us to do. For me, it's easy to be obedient to the big things. Often times, it's more of a struggle for us to submit our will to the Lords will when it comes down to the small things. I love the analogy that a large ship depends so much on the very small helm when a storm comes. The same is true in our lives! When the "storms" of life happen, if we are in control of the "helm" (the small things" then we can have confidence that we will make it through.

I'm grateful for the opportunity we had to be taught be a general authority this week and I look forward to applying the many lessons we learned from him! He shared a lot of stories he's had from when he served as a mission president in Russia, and while serving alongside members of the Quorum of the Twelve, and First Presidency. Tomorrow we will have another opportunity to meet with him as a mission leadership council to discuss some goals for the coming year, so we're excited about that as well!

T-minus 12 days till Christmas! I'm excited! I hope you all have an amazing week! Love you all!

Elder Jeremy Duvall
Washington DC South Mission

Twelve days of Christmas package for Elder Duvall and Elder Judkins.  Each package had a label attached with a scripture reference to look up. They were to read the scripture and guess what's inside prior to opening each package..

12+ days of Christmas

Scriptures attached to look up and
try to guess what is in each package

I have enjoyed guessing the gifts based off the scriptures! So far, I’ve been able to get a lot of them! You are so clever Mom! Thanks for sending all of these! It has been fun! We enjoy having this little Christmas tree in our apartment as well :) 🎄 I actually grabbed it from my old apartment in Centreville a couple weeks ago when we were out there for transfer day driving other missionaries.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

December 7, 2016 - Temple, Refugees, & Michaels Baptism

Hey family & friends!
We switched our Pday this week to Wednesday in order to attend the temple this morning.

Merry Christmas
from the Temple Visitors Center!

I always love going to the temple! We went with Paul Heffron, he's a 65 year old man originally from Boston. He joined the church about a year and a half ago. This was only his second time attending the temple for an endowment session, and he loved it! It was a great experience! The spirit is always so strong at the temple. There is nowhere else I would've rather been this morning! After leaving the temple, I always feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the eternal perspective that the temple brings to me in regards to our mortal existence. There is so much greatness in store for us, so much joy and glory awaiting us. I believe that the joy we feel during our highest moments on earth will be so small compared to the joy we will feel in the life to come!
Tonight we are actually going up to the temple again tonight with the Penedo family for the Festival of Lights that goes on every night, for the whole month of December! Thousands of Christmas lights and nightly Christmas concerts from local groups from around the world
We've had a lot happen in the past week and a half! We have both been feeling a bit under the weather this past week with headaches and colds and whatnot, but have still seen many miracles. I'll just touch on a few of them.
One day last week, we helped deliver furniture to refugees from war-torn countries in the Middle East. Many of them have come here within the last month and they have an apartment, but nothing inside of it. We helped out a Stake Relief Society President deliver furniture to a few different families. They were all extremely grateful! It was interesting talking to them and hearing their thoughts about being here in the U.S. They explained how weird it felt at first to be able to just walk around outside whenever and wherever they want and feel completely safe. But they are all happy to start adjusting to the culture here. Such humble, happy people! Some of the happiest people I know in life often tend to be strong in the attribute of humility. It was cool to be able to serve in this way last week, especially since recently hearing the church leaders talk about helping refugees, this was the first time I've witnessed it first hand (see "I Was A Stranger" by Linda K Burton from April 2016 General Conference).

 Elders Hall, Ostendorf, and Burleson are in a trio, and they taught Michael a lot before the boundaries of the ward changed and he came into our ward. We are grateful to be able to continue to help him along the path! His baptism was an amazing service.

 Michael had his baptism on Saturday afternoon! It was right before our ward Christmas party, and there was great support from the ward there. He was so happy the entire day. He even got to the church super early with us to be able to watch the font fill up. He chose to have Bishop Leavitt baptize him, and was proud to be the first baptism in the brand new Lincolnia Ward. He bore his testimony at the baptism, at church on Sunday during sacrament meeting, and during Sunday school in the Gospel Principles class that Elder Judkins and I taught. Every time he bore his testimony he talked about Romans chapter 6 verse 4 which reads "Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." He talked about how he truly feels like he has been born again and raised up to a new life, excited for the journey which lies ahead. He mentioned how he has prayed more in the last 6 weeks than he has in the past 6 years! And each time he talked about his conversion process and how he has felt like he has a greater desire to treat others kindly, and how he has felt so much happier now than ever before. His testimony is so strong! It's hard to believe he's barely been introduced to the church, he could easily be mistaken for a longtime member. Especially after seeing him at the ward Christmas party, interacting with everyone as if he has known them for years. I'm grateful for the small role we've been able to play in his conversion, but in reality, Michael was just prepared and the Lord has blessed him with understanding eyes and ears, ready to receive the truth. We are excited to prepare him to receive the priesthood, wherein he will be given greater responsibility and opportunity to serve the Lord and those around him! 

 Us at the ward Christmas party! Everyone liked our matching ties!

This was after Edgardo's lesson! (Julio is the one with the sweater on)

On Monday night we were able to teach this man Edgardo. He's from Peru, and has been in and out of different churches throughout his life, mainly Catholicism. His father-in-law in Peru was a member of the church and always told him he should check it out, and this week and took a leap of faith and reached out to us! His first time in our church building was Monday night, where he met us for a lesson. He was really receptive to the first lesson and curious to learn. After we testified of the Restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith, he initially questioned it and said "You guys really believe this?" We simply responded "Yes! And it has blessed our lives eternally! And it can bless yours as well." When we teach people we always explain that we are not here to convince them. But our desire is simply to invite them to pray about the things we've taught and ask God if they are true, because he's the ultimate source of truth! Julio Penedo, a recent convert, joined us for the lesson and bore his testimony to Edgardo in Spanish. It was powerful! Edgardo is excited to come to church this Sunday and learn more! He wants to be taught by us instead of the Spanish elders because he wants to keep improving his English. He speaks it pretty well and understands everything we've taught, so we are excited to help him progress in the gospel! 
I saw a short quote today that I really liked. "It is in the stillness that we come to know God...and ourselves." I think that's profound. We can't truly come to know God if we are constantly hustling around from place to place, letting our lives become consumed by things going on around us. Sometimes we need to take a step back and take some time to ponder in the "still" moments of life. During those moments we can also come to know ourselves, particularly the potential that we have of becoming something greater.
I'm grateful to be here! I'm excited for the week ahead! I love you all tons! Hope you all have a great week!
Elder Jeremy Duvall
Washington DC South Mission

**Also, by the way, my Pday is going to be switched to Tuesday next week due to a mission conference we are having on Monday with a general authority that's coming to the mission.

This is us at church this past Sunday with two of our investigators David, and Fatmata. We weren't sure if they were coming, but they both showed up! This was David's second time at church, and Fatmata's first time in any church since she moved to the U.S. from Sierra Leone. Fatmata cooked us this African soup full of fish and other stuff and it was not appealing by smell or taste. Despite that, she enjoyed coming to church last week!

Next door neighbor Carl. He invites us over every now and then to help him finish off his desserts. This time it was his pumpkin cheesecake that was delicious! A great example of "loving thy neighbor" haha. He loves having missionaries live next door, and we love having him as our neighbor!