Monday, January 30, 2017

January 30, 2017 Service & Fatima's family

Hello, hello!

Chopped a whole bunch of wood on Saturday, 

makes for some sore forearms.

It's been a good week out here in Warrenton! We had a couple of really nice days around 50 degrees this week and a couple of much colder, windy days. This winter hasn't been nearly as bad as last year so far. But it snowed a lot last night and it's a beautiful day today!

A beautiful site to wake up to this morning! This is in the backyard of our house.

"Spiderman Sippert"

A video of our morning with the Sippert's.

 German pancakes, snowball fight, and swinging around!

We had a snowball fight with Blake and the Sippert's. He's their little boy (the awesome members that we live with). He's in kindergarten, and is such a fun kid! Then we went with Brother Sippert to go play some racquetball. Now we are at the church building playing basketball with a group of nonmembers that come play at the church every week!

We had a worldwide Missionary broadcast last week where we were able to hear from a few different leaders of the church and the missionary department. They had a lot of great counsel! Many of the things they discussed were similar to last year’s worldwide broadcast but it was good nonetheless. One thing they discussed were some changes regarding our daily missionary schedule, which is going to take some getting used to, but we're excited for it.

This was at lunch with Brother and Sister North 

after we worked at the community food bank. 

He is our Stake patriarch and he just turned 90 years old!

 They are such a great couple!

The last couple of weeks we have been able to do a lot of service in the community. We have volunteered at a few different local food banks and food distribution centers where we help hand out food to people in need. We were also able to volunteer at the United Methodist Church here in Warrenton that does a monthly food distribution to families in the area that aren't currently making enough to provide for the entire family. It's always fun to do some interfaith service and seeing people come together to help those in need.

This picture was with Fatima, her husband Solomon,
and her son Nelson. Jackie wasn't in the room for the picture.
And then Christian, the Member in our ward joined us for the lesson.

A week or two ago we were tracting (in one of the only set of townhomes in our huge ward) and we met a kind Hispanic woman, named Fatima. We were able to schedule a lesson with Fatima, and her two kids, Jackie (8) and Nelson (9) for this past Friday night! She is from El Salvador, but she speaks English pretty well. We taught her a lesson on the Restoration of the gospel and they loved every bit of it. Christian, a member of our ward from Peru came along with us and was able to bear his testimony in Spanish to Fatima, and clarify a couple points in our lesson in Spanish, which was awesome! Her two kids absolutely loved having us there to teach them. They loved reading through some if the pamphlet with us and had a lot of great questions and some funny comments to make. Before we left she gave us some hot chocolate from El Salvador that was pretty good! Her husband was able to join us towards the end of our visit as well, he's from Mexico. The two kids were so excited when we invited them to come to church. They weren't able to make it this past week, but hopefully we can help them to come soon!

Elder Gerrit W. Gong, who is in the presidency of the Seventy, visited our mission a couple weeks ago. So I decided to read through some of his previous conference talks. He gave a great conference talk last year about always remembering the Savior. In his talk there is a portion that really stuck out to me. He said "To be worthy does not mean to be perfect. Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness invites us to be humbly at peace on our life’s journey to someday become perfected in Christ, not constantly worried, frustrated, or unhappy in our imperfections today. Remember, He knows all the things we don’t want anyone else to know about us--and loves us still."

Sometimes I think we naturally tend to dwell too much on our imperfections and inadequacies, taking us to the point where we feel like if we aren't perfect, we aren't good enough. I find comfort in this quote in knowing that to be worthy really means that we are constantly striving to improve. We will always fall short and make mistakes, but nothing we do will ever take us beyond the reach of the Savior's atonement. Now obviously that doesn't mean we can rationalize our sin, knowing we will always be forgiven, but it does mean that we will one day be perfected in Christ.

I love you all! Hope you have an amazing week! :)

Elder Jeremy Duvall
Washington DC South Mission

And this is in the small town The Plains, population 382. Our ward covers a few different small towns. From here I'm 2,585 miles from Los Angeles!

Monday, January 23, 2017

January 23, 2017 Great week in Warrenton!

Hey everyone! 

The Washington DC South Mission, joined by Elder Ballard and Elder Rasband, and other General authorities of the church! See if you can find me! :)

The Sister Training Leaders for our zone made this flag thing and had everyone in the zone sign it after our Zone Training that we had this last week. We have one of the smaller zones in the mission with only 18 missionaries.

Well, we now have a new President! Apparently there's been a lot of crazy things going on this last week, but we are completely oblivious to it all. It's kind of nice to be honest, not having to be in the loop with the news and the political world, being able to solely focus on the work we are doing here. 

One cool fact about this area at I've forgotten to mention the past couple weeks. Robert Duvall, the famous actor, lives within our ward! Geographically, this is the biggest ward in the mission, so he lives about 30 minutes away from where we live. Since the day I got here in the ward, a ton of people have been mentioning that he lives out here, but nobody could say exactly where he lives. Last night though we were checking on a few less active members of the ward on the list, and we got to one member of the ward who saw my name and she asked if I was related to Robert Duvall (which is a question I've gotten so many times in the past few weeks here). Then she told us that he lives right down the road from where we were! She described to us which house was his, but we were in the middle of forests of trees and it was late so we couldn't see hardly anything, but we drove right past his property on our way back at the end of the night! One of these days I'm going to have to go and try and knock on his door and see what happens. Im sure we have some common ancestor somewhere down the line..

We have an old couple that has been meeting with missionaries for quite some time that we've been able to teach a couple times recently. Their names are Art and Joanne Depuy, probably in their early to mid 70's. They are definitely a pretty unique situation that I didn't ever think I would encounter on my mission. They are firm members of the Community of Christ church (formerly known as the RLDS church) and have been for most of their lives. The closest Community of Christ congregation is about an hour away though, so they don't attend church services there often, since they moved out here to Warrenton. They have a few things that have kept them from wanting to join the church, but they do enjoy coming to church with us! And they know quite a few of the members of the ward. After not coming to our church for a while, they came each of the last two weeks!  Tonight, they will be having dinner and a lesson with us and the Manwarings. Brother Manwaring is a former mission President, who served as president for the Frankfort, Germany mission a little over 10 years ago. Also, fun fact about the Bro Manwaring is that we have a common ancestor a few generations back in our family tree! We're excited to join with them all there tonight. 

Elder Shelley, who I was companions with for a few months last spring, is currently serving as an assistant. The zone leaders go on an exchange with them once a transfer, so we went out to their area this week. I was with Elder Shelley for the day and it was awesome! We were able to teach a few lessons and find a lot of awesome people! There are a lot of sweet Africans in their area being taught, so it was fun to interact with some of them again! However... after finding two new investigators, on our way back to the car we realized that our car had gotten towed. Apparently the "visitors" parking spot in that complex still needed a parking permit from the complex. So we had to get the other missionaries to pick us up and drive us to the tow-yard, where we had to fork out some cash to get it back. I got towed a few months ago in Alexandria, which made me pretty sad. But I remember the last time I got towed I thought to myself "If I ever get towed again, I'm just going to laugh it off and choose to be happy" so that's exactly what I did! Money is just money. With this situation and any situation, we choose how to respond. We can either choose to let it bother us and be sad, or we can just accept it as it is, do what needs to be done, and move forward. We were able to move on the rest of the day and had some cool experiences that evening! 

Last week I wrote a bit about Jimmy and James Mitchell. James attends scouts every week and recently we've been able to teach him more about the church, and what most of the scouts in his troop believe. Jimmy wanted to take a step back from learning, but is still open to having us teach his son. James said he would love to come to church sometime soon! (contingent on permission from his mother.) Jimmy, the father, even though he said he'd like to remain where he's at religiously, still spent over an hour watching videos and learning more about the church, which I think is pretty sweet! I hope we can continue to help out their family! 

We saw a lot of deer this week. They jump out into the streets all the time on some of the windy country roads we drive on. I'm nervous that I'll accidentally hit one one day. I hope that doesn't happen! 

I love these scriptures from the Book of Mormon of Alma counseling his son Helaman.  He is talking about the Liahona and how it guides them according to their faith. (Alma 37:40-41, 46-47)

"It did work for them according to their faith in God; therefore, if they had faith to believe that God could cause that those spindles should point the way they should go, behold, it was done; therefore they had this miracle, and also many other miracles wrought by the power of God, day by day. Nevertheless, because those miracles were worked by small means it did show unto them marvelous works. They were slothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey;
O my son, do not let us be slothful because of the easiness of the way; for so was it with our fathers; for so was it prepared for them, that if they would look they might live; even so it is with us. The way is prepared, and if we will look we may live forever.
And now, my son, see that ye take care of these sacred things, yea, see that ye look to God and live. Go unto this people and declare the word, and be sober. My son, farewell."

If you want to stay firm in your testimony and conversion to the gospel, it comes down to doing those simple things that are of utmost importance. The small things make the biggest difference in our lives. Likewise, neglecting to do the small things can make the biggest difference for the worse. So remember to pray everyday, keep the Savior and His atonement in your mind throughout the week, and study the scriptures frequently. Do those things and you'll be much more likely to stay firm in the faith! 

I'm grateful to be here! Love you all! Have a great week! 

Elder Jeremy Duvall
Washington DC South Mission

Monday, January 16, 2017

January 16, 2017 Elder Ballard & Elder Rasband! Edgardo's baptism!

Just an average sunset in Warrenton

Hey everybody! This week was incredible.

We had the wonderful opportunity to attend a joint-mission conference for the Washington DC North and Washington DC South missions, with Elder Ballard and Elder Rasband, as well as numerous members of the Quorum of the Seventy (Elder Gong, Elder Bennett, Elder Perkins, Elder Muers, and other area seventies). It was incredible to shake their hands and learn from them. I remember back about 5 years ago or so when Elder Ballard came to our Stake conference in Temecula, CA. I remember having the opportunity to shake Elder Ballard's hand back then and had a really brief conversation. I remember the exact words-

Elder Ballard said:
"Hello young man...what's your name?"
I responded, "Jeremy."
He then asked "Jeremy, are you planning on serving a mission?"
I said "Yes, of course!"
He responded "Prepare yourself well!"
I said "Will do!"
And then walked away and he continued to shake hands with members of the Temecula Stake.

It was cool to shake his hand again and have him look me in the eyes! This time I wasn't able to say anything more than "Good morning," because he had a few hundred missionary hands to shake. But in my mind I remembered his counsel to me years ago to "prepare yourself well."

Well... here I am! I know that there is definitely more that I could have done to 'prepare well.' But I am grateful to have been prepared to serve! I'm grateful for the wonderful examples of my parents, brothers and sisters, friends and extended family that've played an important role in my conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Something else exciting- President Huntsman asked me to be the conductor for the hymns that we sung at the conference, and Elder Jones to play the piano. So we were able to sit up on the stand right behind our mission presidents and all of the visiting authorities. That was a pretty neat sight, sitting up their looking out into a chapel full of over 400 full-time missionaries listening intently to what the apostles had to say. Also a little nervous conducting with 2 apostles sitting right behind me, but it was definitely a say I will always remember!

I am so grateful for modern day prophets and apostles that receive revelation from God on how to guide His kingdom on the earth! I have no doubt that Elder Ballard and Elder Rasband are called of God to be special witnesses of Jesus Christ to all the world, along with all of the other apostles.

This week was definitely one to remember! Starting back on Tuesday, we had Zone Conference. This is my 5th transfer as a zone leader, and Elder Jones' first. It was great. President Huntsman also took about an hour to give us some new mission goals for 2017 (365 baptisms for the year, last year the goal was 300 and we got 303!) and let us know how we can accomplish it. We will be focusing on different Christlike attributes throughout the year, a separate one for each transfer (this transfer is focused on Faith). As we become more Christlike, we'll be more effective instruments in the Lords hands- "We cannot convert people past our own conversion."
He also went over several rule changes or policy clarifications that we will be starting to apply. Some of he changes are pretty big, like we aren't allowed to go up to DC any more on Pdays, we also can't take investigators to the Temple visitors center, both because they are out of our mission boundary. I've been able to do each of those a lot in the past year, so I'm at least grateful that I had those opportunities. We will still be able to attend if a recent convert is going through for the first time, and we'll still get to go once every 6 months for a session. There were several other little rule changes that I don't need to mention, but I know they're just more opportunities to test our obedience and will allow for even more blessings and miracles!

So this was our third week in Warrenton and last week we weren't able to see much success but this week was a complete different story. We were able to add 11 new investigators and a few other potentials we taught to our teaching pool! So many miracles, we were definitely led to some amazing people and given many opportunities to teach the message of the restoration. Our missions goal was to get 500 New investigators with a baptismal invitation before Elder Ballard and Elder Rasband came, and we blew past that goal, finding nearly 600 people in the first 2 weeks of the year.

One family we found I will just mention real briefly- They are the Mitchell family! The father Jimmy was in our area Book, but not much information was in his info. So we decided to stop by anyway and started talking to Jimmy and he was super nice, and then wanted us to meet his son James, who has been in our ward's scout troop for like 5 years! So they know a good amount of members, and Jimmy said he always feels he is placed around Mormons and has even considered being baptized one, but has never got taught the lessons. He also said he wants James to learn more a make a choice for himself if he would want to join. As a missionary that is music to our ears!! We went back last night and had a second lesson with Jimmy, James and Elisa, the mother. We read the first chapter in the Book of Mormon and Jimmy had a ton of awesome questions! At the end we asked Jimmy to offer the prayer, which he hasn't really given a vocal prayer ever. So we all knelt down and he gave such an awesome, humble prayer. It was such a sweet spiritual experience!!

 Elder Judkins and I with Edgardo before his baptism!

Another highlight of this week was Edgardo's baptism! One of the senior couples drove us back out to Alexandria, so that we could attend Edgardo's baptism! It was a great service! Edgardo asked me to baptize him, and probably half of the people that attended were his family members! Most of which are not members of the church, but they were all supportive of Edgardo's decision. He and his family are all from Lima, Peru. He kept telling me afterwards how happy he is and that he's going to remember this day for the rest of his life. It was fun to see other members and recent converts in my last ward! Edgardo is so humble, it's amazing to see how much he has embraced the gospel in less than two months. We met him at the end of November! He grew up in Peru, two blocks from an LDS church, but was always afraid to step foot inside one. His first time was early in December, and now he's a member! So much change is such a short time. It's amazing to see the gospel continuing to bless the lives of so many people!

Elder Judkins, myself, Edgardo Paredes, Elder Baxter, and Elder Snow. (Yes, Elder Baxter is going to be playing ball @ the Y in case you were wondering.) I'm glad Elder Snow and Elder Baxter took our place in the Lincolnia Ward. They're doing great with all of the people we were teaching.

 Hannah Bangura came to the baptism! We taught her a lot a few months ago, but then she got super busy and we weren't able to see her for a long time, but she's meeting with the missionaries again and is preparing for baptism. She was so happy to see us back there again.

This upcoming week, on January 20th, it'll mark a year since Elder Jones and I flew here from Salt Lake and arrived to D.C. at the Ronald Reagan airport. I sure hope this year doesn't fly by as quick 2016 seemed to go by, but I'm sure it will. I just need to make the most of each day!

I love you all! Hope you have a great week!

Elder Jeremy Duvall
Washington DC South Mission

 My first attempt at chopping wood...It's funny, but I'll be working
on my form.

Monday, January 9, 2017

January 9, 2017 Katie & Jackson! - Spiritual conversion

With Elder Jones, Sister Livingston, and Sister Hyer. The four of us were in the MTC together over a year ago now! We can't believe that it's been a whole year!

This has been a great week!

It has been an adjustment being out here in Warrenton compared to the city, but we're trying our best to enjoy every minute of it. We are working hard to find new investigators and clean up the records that were left behind by the previous missionaries who served here. We haven't had too many opportunities to teach this week, but we have been able to do some good service for a few different people

This past Saturday was an amazing day! Despite the freezing cold weather and a lot of snow in the morning, we were able to drive up to the temple and attend the endowment session for a recent convert, Chuck Mason. He really wanted us to attend and we got permission to get a ride up there with some of the members. There were a lot of people in the ward there to support him! It reminded me of the first time I went to the temple. I was the last one in the session to enter the celestial room, where I turned the corner and saw a lot of family and friends, smiling and all dressed in white to welcome me. Chuck was the last one to go through as well, and when he came in the room to see everyone there to support him he was overcome with joy and tears as he hugged everyone that was there. It was a neat experience. I'm glad that we were able to go up there and support him and be part of that special occasion!

At the temple after attending an endowment session with recent convert Chuck Mason, and members of the ward. The temple looks so beautiful with all the snow!

On the way back from the temple, I was able to stop in Centreville for Katie Hubbard's and her son Jackson's baptism! Elder Shelley and I found Katie the first week of May last year at the end of the night. If you go back to the letter from May 9th of last year it's the story of when we met them. There is no doubt we were guided by the spirit that evening where we were led to Jackson. I was able to teach Katie and Jackson for a couple months, and Katie slowly but surely began making changes in her life. Some of the changes were difficult and took some time, but at the end of the day everything she's done has helped her become happier! Joining the church seemed intimidating and overwhelming for her at first, but with patience and loving persistence by the missionaries that've taught her over the last 8 months or so, they were able to help her and Jackson make it to this point. Im so grateful to have been a part of their life! I know this decision has blessed her family tremendously and will bless them for the rest of eternity.Katie asked if I would bear my testimony at her baptism, so I was happy to do that or her as well! She is such a strong woman, with a lot of faith that has helped her overcome A LOT of trials she's had in her life. I know she's going to do a great job raising her three children in the gospel. I have no doubt she'll be well taken care of by the members in Centreville!

All of these elders, and a couple others, have served in the Centreville 1st Ward after I left and we were all able to come back for Katie and Jackson's baptism. What a special day it was for their family! Some of Katie's extended family who were not members of the church also came to support her. I'm so glad I was able to go!

Two incredible people making an incredible decision to follow Jesus Christ!

We did some District finding in another companionships area this week that was super successful! Within 45 minutes, 3 companionships were able to teach a total of 8 lessons to people who have never been taught before. That was a pretty cool miracle!

It has started to get pretty cold here. It's been between 10 and 30 degrees for most of the week! And we've had a little bit of snow. This morning we had breakfast at a members house that live way out in the middle of the ward about 20 miles away in a huge house on a lake. The lake was frozen over solid, so we timidly walked on top of it for a minute or two. That was my first time ever seeing a large body of water frozen over like that so it was pretty exciting!

Trying our best to stay warm as we go out to find people!

This upcoming week is going to be awesome! This Saturday we will be having a joint mission conference with the Washington DC North and South missions, with Elder Ballard and Elder Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Elders Gong, Muers, Bennett, and Perkins of the Seventy. Later that day will be Edgardo's baptism in Alexandria! I'm super excited for him and excited to visit that ward again. It's cool that within a weeks worth of time I will have been able to go back to both of my previous areas for a baptism. Now we just need to get to work here and find the elect out here in Warrenton that are searching for the truth!

I recently read an article with some good thoughts about conversion. The author writes "Spiritual conversion, like fighting cancer, does not happen quickly or all at once. As Elder Bednar has explained: 'Conversion is an ongoing process. … Gradually and almost imperceptibly, our motives, our thoughts, our words, and our deeds become aligned with the will of God. Conversion unto the Lord requires both persistence and patience.... Consistently being true to the gospel is the essence of conversion. We should know the gospel is true and be true to the gospel.' "

I love that last part. We can know the gospel is true, through prayer and through the fruits of the spirit. Once we know it's true, we need to be true to the gospel, always striving to become more like Christ and aligning our will with the Fathers will.

This past week was my year mark of being a missionary! I know that I have become more converted to the gospel this past year, and I hope that throughout 2017 I can continue to strengthen my testimony as I strive to love and serve the people here. I love you all! Hope you all have a great week!

Elder Jeremy Duvall
Washington DC South Mission

Got to see the Koroma family, Kadija and Omar and their Mom at Katie's baptism in Centreville. Every time I'm able to go back and visit that ward it feels like I'm going home. Both of the other wards I've served in have felt like family by the time I left.

Elder and Sister Browne, an awesome senior couple in our mission! They sent us this picture recently. They've been in our mission for about 6 months, and Elder Judkins and I were the only companionship that was still together from the time they arrived until the end of the year.

Monday, January 2, 2017

January 2, 2017 I Can See the Stars

Last picture in Alexandria! Founding elders of the Lincolnia Ward.

Happy New Year everyone! I can't believe it's already 2017! I started my journal on January 1st 2016 (the day that I was set apart as a missionary) and I have written in it everyday since then, so starting now for the entire next year, I can look back in my journal and see exactly what I did a year ago from each day. I'm excited to be able to do that! I hope and I can keep up the consistency this year.

The title of this email is "I can see the stars," because I got transferred this week to Warrenton, VA. It's on the far opposite side of my mission from where Alexandria is and it's easily the countryside part of our mission. I can actually look up at night and see the stars really well now, so that's pretty cool. I am now in the Warrenton 1st Ward, which is the largest ward in our mission! It is WAYYY larger than my last ward, geographically. The ward consists of a ton of farms and homes that are spread way apart from another. Some of our appointments take anywhere from 15-45 minutes  apart from each other, driving. Whereas in Alexandria everything is within just a few miles of each other.

A taste of the country out here! Lot of long dirt roads and people spread far apart!

My new companions is Elder Ethan Jones! We started our missions together in the MTC on January 6th of last year, so we will be hitting our year mark together this week! He was one of my favorite missionaries that was in my MTC group, so we were super excited to become companions and have had a great first few days together here in Warrenton!

With my new companion, Elder Jones! This was today during basketball.

I should also probably mention that we are "whitewashing" this ward. Both of the missionaries that were here before us went home last week, so we both came in to take their place. It has been quite the adventure the past few days trying to find our way around out here. Sometimes we feel like we're in the middle of nowehere, but thank goodness for a GPS! The GPS has been a life saver, however it doesn't warn us of the frequent deer that often cross the streets out here. Or chickens. There's all kinds of random wildlife around here.

There has been a lot of boundary realignments and new wards created in Northern Virginia over the past month or so and we are actually in a brand new stake. Just a couple weeks ago the Gainesville Stake was created. Consequently, a new zone in our mission was also created to align with the stake, so Elder Jones and I were assigned to be the Zone Leaders here in the Gainesville Stake. This will be my 5th transfer as a zone leader and his 1st, were both excited for it!

The members here are awesome! We've been able to meet and get to know a lot of them the past few days. There wasn't much work going on here as far as teaching investigators are concerned, but we're trying our best to work with what has been going on, and improving and expanding our teaching pool. It's a much different feel out here for both of us when it comes to finding investigators. Elder Jones is coming to Warrenton from Arlington, and I'm coming from Alexandria, so we've become accustomed to the city where there is a person to talk to every 10 feet.

Also, we don't live in an apartment complex, like most of the other missionaries in the mission, we live in the basement of a members home! Their names are Rachel and Steven Sippert, and they have a little boy that's full of energy. They have had missionaries living in their basement for almost 3 years now! They're an awesome couple, they even host a monthly "donut night" at their house, where anyone is welcome to come and enjoy fresh homemade donuts! They did it last night and we were able to go and meet more of the members of the ward there. Well try to bring some nonmembers to it next time it happens.
This ward has some great recent converts that have been baptized in the past year, so we look forward to working with them as well.

It's defiantly an adjustment being here. Coming from Alexandria, where taught numerous lessons every day and people were so open to learn, to a place where it's going to be much more difficult getting into people's homes. But our main goal as a companionship is to find joy in this journey and try our best to stay optimistic and positive through the opposition.

On a side note, one thing I was worried about was all of the people we were leaving behind in Alexandria, that some of them would fall through the cracks with all of the change, because that ward is being white washed as well. But I'm so relieved that they've got a great set of Elders there now! They're all in good hands!

I am going to miss the place I felt like was home in Alexandria, but I am excited to be here in Warrenton! Change is a good thing, although it can be quite uncomfortable I know we're going to have some great experiences here and learn a lot! I am grateful for this new year of 2017! I can't wait to see what wonderful memories and lessons lie ahead! I hope you all have a great week and a great year this year! Love you all so much!

Elder Jeremy Duvall
Washington DC South Mission