Monday, May 29, 2017

May 29, 2017 Super Busy Week!

Hey everyone!

It's been a crazy week! Due to other things that go on throughout the transfer, this week was our week where we needed to do 4 exchanges with different sets of zone leaders in the mission (Gainesville, McLean, Oakton, and Mt Vernon), all back to back. So for four days I was hardly with my companion, Elder Yang. It was really interesting being with a different missionary each of those four days, but we had a great week in our area! I was able to learn a lot from each of the sets of zone leaders, and I hope they were each able to at least learn one thing from me.

While on one exchange, with Elder Harding, we taught a man named David. David Galindo is from El Salvador, but has lived here most his life, and has a couple little kids. We found him my found first day here (a month ago!). We've been teaching him about once or twice a week since I've been here. He hasn't had much religious foundation in his life, so we've taught him really simply and focused a lot on the fundamental basics of the gospel. He is slowly progressing, but has been making some good changes in his life. He's never really prayed much in his life, but is now starting to pray regularly and he can feel the difference it makes. Im grateful to know that no matter how rapid or how slow our progress is, the Lord is pleased with our effort as long as we are headed in the right direction. Whenever we meet people from El Salvador, I jokingly say "Me gusta papusas!" David speaks perfect English, but his mother only speaks Spanish. I said this phrase to her a couple weeks ago, and in one of our lessons with him this week, all of the sudden she walks out of the kitchen with a plate full of fresh, homemade papusas! They were delicious. She's such a kind lady!

This kid Presley drew a sweet picture of a me! 

On another exchange I was with Elder Benard. While walking through a parking lot in an apartment complex we saw this kid walking and drawing. He had a book full of sketches. Elder Benard told him he should draw a picture of me, and so he went right ahead and did it! While he was drawing, we met a lady walking through the neighborhood who joined our church many years ago, but moved here and hasn't really been much. We were definitely out in the right place at the right time to meet her and invite her to start coming back.

This only took him about 5 minutes to draw.
He's a talented kid.

Another person we are teaching is someone named Tenisha Davall. Not Duvall, but Davall. So close to the same last name! She's pretty cool, she got a cousin who's a member of the church and is interested in learning more. We've only taught her twice so far, but she seems pretty solid.

We also teach a man named Rob. He's about 50 and suffered a stroke and other health struggles years ago causing the right half of his body to become partially paralyzed. Over the past years he has regained much of his strength and mobility, which is cool to see. He is still confined to a wheelchair but is able to move most of his body. We've taught him a few times as well, and it's so humbling to see how strong his faith is in God. He's got such a great outlook on everything we taught and really enjoys learning, and is excited to come see what church is like.

We have a long list of investigators and people we are teaching, and we keep finding a lot of new people every week. We want to focus on helping them all attend church so that they can begin to progress further and enjoy the blessings of worshipping with us. I always tell people they can sit and talk to us all they want, but they will never truly be able to experience it all in action unless they "come and see" what it's like! (John 1:39).

I gave a talk at church yesterday about the importance daily scripture study and about remembering our baptismal covenants, and how those two things give us spiritual power. I was asked the day before to replace the youth speaker and prepare a brief 5-minute talk, but then on Sunday morning they told me one of the other speakers had to cancel, so I had to quickly put together a longer 15 minute talk. I think it turned out well though! I'm grateful for the opportunity I had to speak.

One thing I shared about scripture study was what Preach My Gospel states about it. It says that "We show our faith by studying, believing, and obeying God’s revealed word. We diligently search the scriptures to understand the truth. We feast upon them because they open the door to revelation and show us what we need to do and become. We search the scriptures to learn about Jesus Christ and His gospel. Faith in Jesus Christ is a gift from God and comes through studying and living His word and His gospel."
I talked about how studying the scriptures on a consistent basis shows our humility- the fact that we set apart time to search the scriptures sends God a sign that we love and appreciate him, and that we want to learn. As we humbly search the scriptures we will be in a better position to receive revelation from God. That revelation may come directly through the words we read, or it will come through the thoughts, impressions, and feelings we get as we read.

This morning we had a Memorial Day breakfast in the ward. Our chapel is located just a mile or two down the street from George Washington’s Mt Vernon estate, right along the Potomac River. It was a beautiful morning to celebrate Memorial Day!

I love you all and hope you have an amazing week and great Memorial Day!

Elder Jeremy Duvall
Washington DC South Mission

This is "Grandma."
She's a member who joined the church about 4 years ago, and is from Liberia.
She loves the missionaries, and calls us her sons.
We went and home taught her with Brother Kibby.

Monday, May 22, 2017

May 22, 2017- Romans 5:19

Hey everyone!

We had two more Zone Conferences this week- one for the Annandale and Woodbridge zones, and another for the Centreville and Gainesville zones. They seemed to get better each time, even though we taught the same things at each conference. I love seeing all of the missionaries throughout the mission, hearing their experiences and learning from them.

Aside from the Zone Conferences, we've been busy teaching many, many people. We've taught so many lessons in the past three weeks, it's awesome! We are going to try and focus on helping our investigators attend church, because we've been able to find and teach a ton of people. But we'd like to have more of them attend church and enjoy the blessings of worshipping with us on the sabbath day. I wish I could have time to talk about everyone were teaching, because we have some pretty great people! I still write in my journal every day, so I don't feel that bad not writing home about everyone.

Lasts week I mentioned one of our investigators named Isha. So it turns out her name is actually Isatu, but she sometimes goes by Isha because she says it's easier to say. We went to a lesson at her house this week and when we got there she was packing up tons of clothes in huge boxes to ship to Africa. The people we meet from Sierra Leone and Ghana here all work so hard to provide for themselves. They don't have much, yet they're willing to collect so much and send a lot of what they do have back home to their extended families and friends who are in need. She told us they need all this much more than we do. Isatu is a great example of pure charity. So we helped her box up some clothes to clear some space in the tiny apartment so we could all sit down and have another lesson. She understands the gospel so well, it's great! She'll be leaving in a week to go back to Africa for a month, so we will miss her while she's gone, but she's excited to come back and start coming to church.

We had two, back-to-back exchanges this week with two different sets of Zone Leaders. That means I wasn't really with my companion for two days in a row. This week we have exchanges with four sets of zone leaders, all back-to-back, which means I'll pretty much have a different companion four days in a row, but we will still be in our ward each day and have them come to our area. With our schedule throughout the transfer, it's necessary to do a lot this week, or we wouldn't be able to do them all. It'll be pretty crazy and busy, but I'm excited!

This is Logan, Elder Valdez, and I
with the Boachewaa family. Amma, and 5 out of her 6 kids

I love all of the zone leaders. Many of them I've gotten to know quite a bit since I've been here. It's fun to learn from each other as we spend a day together. For one of the exchanges we did his week, I was with Elder Valdez and we had a really cool experience! We had a priest (Logan) come out with us to visit and teach a few different people. He was supposed to meet us in this certain apartment complex, but we got there a few minutes before him, so I decided to stop by a potential investigator we met last week, named Amma. She's from Ghana, and other than that, I didn't know anything about her. But we knocked on the door and she invited us right in. She then began to gather all SIX of her kids together to sit come sit down and listen to our message. It was one of the best first lessons I've ever taught. We had the undivided attention of 7 people! (Her husband was around the corner, pretending not to listen, but we know he was.) Her kids are Isaac (25), Derek (20), Grace (19), Jesse (12), Derek Jr. (11) and another little one that wasn't really engaged in the lesson. I was impressed how on a Friday night, all of her kids (a few of which are young adults) were all willing to sit down and meet with us for about 45 minutes! They all asked great questions and were curious to learn more! I hope that we can continue teaching them!

I got an email this week with the coolest news!! Amy Koroma, who we taught and was baptized last year in February, a little over a month into my mission, is going to the temple in a couple weeks for her endowment! I sent a message to her a while back, around her year mark, encouraging her to start taking temple-preparation classes. And she reached out this week telling me the news, inviting me to attend! I love her family so much! I am so glad that she has stayed strong in the gospel over the past year and a half! Her son Omar (I miss that kid!) will also be getting baptized in October when he turns 8. I'm so glad I've been able to see the process of this family learning about, accepting, and embracing the gospel! I know that generations will be affected from this family.

President Huntsman shared a scripture about obedience with us last week that I really liked. It is Romans 5:19 which says "For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous."
This shows that our decisions today have eternal consequences. If we choose to be obedient, and strive to faithfully live the gospel, our future families and generations after will be affected by our influence and example. "Many will be made righteous" and enjoy the tremendous blessings that the gospel brings. On the flip side, if we choose to be disobedient and not follow Christ's teachings, generations after us will lack the blessings that they could have had, if we were obedient and faithful. Sure, they might still have decent lives, but they will miss out on so many blessings. This scripture gives me more motivation to make sure I strive to live a righteous life. There are generations of people, so many that we can't even comprehend, of which our obedience can impact.
I'm grateful for my Moms decision to join the church, 34 years ago today! Her obedience and that decision has impacted many.

I love you all so much! I pray for you, and I also feel the influence of your prayers on my behalf!  I hope you all have a fantastic week!

Elder Jeremy Duvall
Washington DC South Mission

All of this trash (including the shopping carts)
was pulled out of a small river in this neighborhood
that we go to all the time. We thought it was ridiculous
how much trash was in there every time we walked by.
This is Jason, he just turned 19 and comes out with us
every week teaching people!
He'll be getting his mission call within the next few weeks!

A picture of some yolaf rice,
a popular dish in West Africa,
especially Sierra Leone and Ghana.

I see these pretty much every day, a few different kinds of them.
It's a constant reminder of Temecula! My dad is the CFO for Channell Commercial, the company that makes these.

Monday, May 15, 2017

May 15, 2017 Happy Mother's Day!

Hey everyone!

First of all, Happy Mother's Day (yesterday) to the best Mom ever! I will proudly always be your baby boy! I'll echo the same quote that I think I sent last year on Mother's Day because it is so true. Elder Holland said "No love in mortality comes closer to approximating the pure love of Jesus Christ than the selfless love a devoted mother has for her child." Thanks Mom for giving me your selfless love, helping me to better understand the love Jesus Christ has for each of us. You're the best!

It was great to be able to Skype with you yesterday! I'm grateful for my family! I'm glad we were able to say a prayer together as a family at the end of the call!

I'm also grateful for all the mothers who have taken such good care of me here in Virginia. There's so many amazing members that take such good care of us. And Sister Huntsman is the best "mission mom" ever.

It's been a busy week! We had 2 zone Conferences for the Ashburn and Oakton zones, and the McLean and Mt. Vernon zones. It's cool seeing half of the missionaries in the mission in just two days!

We found a sweet new investigator named Chaz last week. He's from Ghana. A few days before meeting him we actually met someone else named Deborah from Burkina Faso, a country just north of Ghana. We met her out on the street and had a good conversation with her and she gave us her address and said we can come by whenever. So we came back and met Chaz. They love in a house where there's at least 5 different people living, and none of them are related, which is kind of weird but common in the area. Most of the Ghanaians we meet have really strong faith in Christ, so they'll either be really open to hearing more about him, or they'll be really closed, just depends on the person. But Chaz was pretty open minded and we had a really good lesson with him and hope to keep teaching him.

We have a couple investigators from Ethiopia- Selma and Taz. They are still learning English, so when we teach them we have to teach really simply. We also brought them some pamphlets and a Book of Mormon in Amharic. They enjoy teaching us how to speak a few phrases in Amharic, and they always feed us some sort of ethnic food when we go there. Last week they gave us some homemade bread made from some different grains and seeds from Ethiopia and they also really like injura. Injura is a sour, spongy, pancake-like thing. I think it looks super weird. They are the kindest people! And they work so hard! They actually live with Eshetu and Nestanet, another couple from Ethiopia who got baptized a couple of months ago.

Another investigator we have is named Rich. He's about 60 years old and has been meeting with missionaries for a few months. Currently, he's the only white person we are teaching, which is kind of funny, but he's awesome! He's come to church multiple times and has had all the lessons. He wants to be baptized, just not right now. He has such a strong testimony of the Book of Mormon and enjoys coming to church. The only thing holding him back are his parents, who are devout Roman Catholics. He's a grown man, he should be able to make his own decisions, but he feels like his parents are going to discipline him. We joked with him saying "you're not a teenager anymore! They can't boss you around!" We think he will come around eventually. There's probably some other concern we just haven't found out about yet that we'll need to help him through.

One of our investigators is another person named Isha, from Sierra Leone. It's such a popular name there. She is good friends with a few of the recent converts in the ward (Ramatu and Fatima) that live nearby her. They call each other cousins, even though they aren't actually related. They used to be neighbors in Sierra Leone in Freetown, so I guess that makes them "cousins." We've taught Isha twice so far and she has a super strong desire to join the church and be baptized. She's super receptive to the gospel! I've realized that people from Sierra Leone are generally more receptive than people from Ghana. However she's going to be going back to Freetown for about a month soon, so she has set a goal to be baptized in July after she gets back. I'll still be here, so we'll be able to finish the lessons with her and help her prepare for that. We hope to stay in touch with her somehow while she's gone so that she still has that desire when she returns.

So those are just a few of the many different people we have that we are teaching right now.

I wanted to share a brief portion of President Monson's conference talk about the Book of Mormon. He said
 "...once obtained, a testimony needs to be kept vital and alive through continued obedience to the commandments of God and through daily prayer and scripture study.
My dear associates in the work of the Lord, I implore each of us to prayerfully study and ponder the Book of Mormon each day. As we do so, we will be in a position to hear the voice of the Spirit, to resist temptation, to overcome doubt and fear, and to receive heaven’s help in our lives."

I love those four promised blessings at the end- As we strive to study the Book of Mormon daily 1) we'll be more in tune with the spirit, 2) we will be more capable of resisting temptation, 3) we can overcome doubts and fears that we have, 4) and we'll receive help from on high. I'm grateful for the Book of Mormon and the opportunity I have to study it each day. I know it is true!

I love you all, and hope you have a fantastic week!

Elder Jeremy Duvall
Washington DC South Mission

Last night we were invited to celebrate Mother's Day with some members of the ward from Sierra Leone. This is Fatima and Ramatu, and their mother Kadiatu (sitting down), along with their kids. Fatima and Ramatu both joined the church in the past 6 months. They had a good African feast prepared for us! Yolaf rice (super spicy) , rice aka-ra (fried banana bread balls) and fried plantains, and kasava leaf potato salad (also really spicy).

Ramatu and her Mom, Kadiatu, enjoying the food! I'm grateful for these Mothers that make sure we are well fed. They enjoyed teaching us a few more phrases in Krio.

More Pictures from our Mother's Day Skype Call:


Monday, May 8, 2017

May 8, 2017 Week 1 in Fort Belvoir

Hey everyone!

I had a great first full week in the Fort Belvoir Ward with Elder Yang. The members in the ward are great! Probably about 50% of the members move every 2-3 years because a lot of them are stationed on the Fort Belvoir military base, in the Army. We have passes to go on base, so we've been on base a few times last week to visit different members for dinner, but obviously there's no proselyting on base. There's a decent number of members that live off base as well, in other parts of the ward, and most of them either are involved with the military in some way, or they work for the government.
Where we spend most of our time proselyting are in some apartment complexes that are Section-A housing for low-income families. There's a TON of apartment complexes in our ward, with so many people out and about to talk to, it's awesome! We try our best to talk to everyone. I need to start learning some more Twi and Amharic, because we've met a tone of Ghanaians and Ethiopians last week.

I got transferred into this ward a few days prior to transfers, which were on Tuesday. Transfers are super, super busy now. It's a few day process. It starts with picking up new missionaries on Monday and taking them to the mission home for their first night. Then on Tuesday doing training meetings for them and their trainers right before the transfers actually happen at noon.

It's tradition for us and the office elders to go out
Denny's early in the morning after we drop off the
departing missionaries at the airport, before we
go back and catch up on a couple hours of sleep.

That is then followed by gathering all of the departing missionaries and taking them to the temple. We then have a departing dinner and testimony meeting at the mission home, and then take them to the airport early the next morning. And by early, I mean3am! It was fun though, waking up in the middle of the night to drive a group of Elders and sisters to the airport with President and Sister Huntsman. We were able to catch up on a little bit of sleep, but still managed to get out the door that morning at10am!

It's a treat to be able to go with the departing missionaries to the temple (especially since the expectation coming on the mission was that I'd only go once every 6 months). It was sweet to be there at the mission home as well as they bore their testimonies of major lessons they learned on the mission, how they grew,

At the mission home with a few of the departing
missionaries on their last night in Virginia.

and what their plans are moving forward. My testimony grew listening to them testify of what their missions meant to them. It enhanced my appreciation for this experience. While dropping them off at the airport and watching them say goodbye to the Huntsman's, I felt extremely grateful to still have 7 or 8 months left on my mission! I don't want that moment to come too soon. It was a relatively small group of missionaries that came in from the MTC and left this transfer, but the next couple transfers the groups are going to be much larger.

We had a busy week with an MLC meeting on Thursday, discussing the upcoming Zone conferences. Elder Yang and I will travel around the mission to all of the zone conferences over the next two weeks. I'm excited to be able to see every one of the missionaries throughout the mission! We also conducted the Return and Report meeting last week, which is a meeting for missionaries that just finished their first transfer. That's one of my favorite meetings! It's fun hearing about experiences new missionaries and their trainers are having, and hearing from what they learned from each other in their first 6 weeks.

This is Eshetu from Ethiopia,
who got baptized a couple of months ago,
and came out with us teaching.

Eshetu, a recent convert in the ward from Ethiopia, came out with us to teach people this week. He joined the church just a couple of months ago, but has such a strong testimony that this is the true church. There's nothing better than having a recent convert join us in teaching lessons to other investigators (especially when they're both African, they connect super well.)
We also had another convert named Maxwell, from Ghana, join us in teaching a couple Ghanaian people. In one lesson, with an investigator named Kwasi, Maxwell said the closing prayer in Twi. It was pretty cool feeling the spirit, even though I had no idea what he was saying in the prayer!

There's also a few young men in the ward that like coming out with us on a regular basis, getting ready to go on their missions. It's great having so much support in helping us teach! We've been able to teach quite a few people this week! I'll send more details about some of the people we've been able to teach in my email next week.

This is Esther, a little Ghanaian girl in the ward.
When we biked on the car fast day,
she insisted on trying on our helmets

One quick thought that stuck out to me this week comes from Elder Gary B. Sabin' conference talk last month titled "Stand Up Inside and Be All In." He said "Brothers and sisters, no one has sinned tomorrow. May we recalculate our route if need be and look forward with great hope and faith. May we “stand up inside” by being valiant and “all in.” May we be pure and courageous in defending our Heavenly Father’s plan and the mission of His Son, our Savior."
I love that statement that "no one has sinned tomorrow." Each of us can make the decision now to decide who we want be tomorrow. We may have sinned yesterday, but we haven't sinned tomorrow, and we can each resolve to be valiant and try our best to be obedient, relying upon the Savior.

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

Elder Jeremy Duvall
Washington DC South Mission

At the mission home with a few of the departing missionaries on their last night in Virginia.

Monday, May 1, 2017

May 1, 2017 Surprise Transfer & New Assignment

Hey everyone! 
I had a pretty big change happen this week! 

Elder Yang and Burleson and I
. It was fun being with them in a trio with them
 for the past few days. Tomorrow Elder Burleson
 will be transferred out to a new area.

Elder Ostendorf and I were discussing the upcoming transfers. We were guessing that I'd probably serve in the Tysons Ward for 3 or 4 transfers, up to six months. Just a couple hours after this conversation, we got a call at the end of the night from President Huntsman. He totally caught me off guard. We thought Elder Ostendorf would be getting transferred, and that I would take his spot as the district leader, or maybe train a new missionary in the Tysons ward.  Instead, President Huntsman asked me if I would be willing to be transferred to the Fort Belvoir Ward and serve as one of his assistants! Didn't expect that! So I was transferred on Friday night to the new area! I spent the past few days with Elders Burleson and Yang, as they "showed me the ropes" and taught me about different things I'll be responsible for in this new assignment. 

With Elder Yang and Elder Burleson at
 the Ronald Reagan Airport.

We help out a lot with transfers, and will be presenting training at all of the Zone Conferences throughout the mission and at the Mission Leadership Council meeting, and do an exchange with each set of zone leaders during the transfer, and do a bunch of other stuff. But at the end of the day, we're still assigned to serve in the Fort Belvoir Ward and will be spending a lot of time proselyting in our area. 
I am super excited for the opportunity I will have to serve more closely with President Huntsman, and continue to serve the other missionaries in this mission. Thankfully, President Huntsman strongly believes that even though we are his assistants, we should still prioritize proselyting in our area as much as possible. So we will occasionally go into the office to fulfill certain responsibilities and accomplish different tasks with training other missionaries, but we still proselyte a lot!

This lady is a member of the Fort Belvoir Ward
 from Africa. This is a common sight
walking around talking to people!
 It's so cool how they do it so easily

I'm super happy to serve in this ward, I was able to go on exchanges there multiple times when I was a zone leader and it's a great area to serve in. I loved serving in Alexandria for 6 months before, and now I'll be covering a different part of Alexandria. The ward has a lot of military families that live on base at Fort Belvoir, and then the demographics of the communities nearby the Fort are tons of Africans- Ghanaians, Ethiopians, Sierra Leoneans, etc. We have a lot of different people we're teaching right now and I'm excited to help them all!

I'm replacing Elder Burleson, and Elder Yang is my new companion. He's awesome! I'm super excited to serve with him as an assistant. He's a couple years older than me and is a convert to the church from China, joined when he was 18. He spent a couple years at school at UC San Diego. 

Before getting taken out of Tysons. Elder Ostendorf and I got to go to the temple with Michael last week to do baptisms for the dead with him. Elder Ostendorf and I both taught him prior to his baptism. He stood proxy for 15 of his ancestors and I was able to perform the baptisms. It was such a great experience! He has been super into family history. That's actually one of the things that initially perked his interest in the church. I'm grateful for the relationships I've made on my mission with people like Michael, who I know I will stay connected with through the years. Michael is looking forward to going to the temple in December at the year mark of his baptism, so I'm super excited that I will be there for that, right before the end of my mission. 

At Kristina's baptism! Elders Smith, Ostendorf, and Harding
 and I with Kristina. She has a twin sister who has been
skeptical of Kristina learning about the church,
 but she came and supported her at the baptism!

Also, Kristina had her baptism on Saturday! I was transferred the night before, but was still able to go back and attend it. She asked me to give a talk about the Holy Ghost at the baptism and Elder Ostendorf performed the baptism. Kristina's been on a long journey to get to this point! There's was a lot of members and missionary's there to support her. Kristina's a great example and I'm excited to see what lies ahead for her in the future. It was a good experience being able to teach her and help her prepare for baptism! 

Today we are spending the day picking up the new missionaries from the airport and taking them to the mission home for a dinner, interviews, and some brief orientation stuff. We are currently at the airport waiting for them to arrive! I'm excited to welcome them to the mission! It feels like just yesterday that I was getting off that plane! I'm excited to have a new perspective as we pick them up! Then tomorrow right after transfers we will be taking the departing missionaries to the temple which will be super fun as well! There's a lot of missionaries I love a ton going home the next couple of transfers, so I'll be able to go to the temple with them on their last day. 

I'm going to be pretty busy the next few transfers! It's going to be fun. I hope that I can do a good job of loving and serving the missionaries throughout the mission, and be a good support to President Huntsman. 

I love you all! Hope you have a great first week of May!  

Elder Jeremy Duvall
Washington DC South Mission

With Brother Williams, my ward mission leader
 in the Tysons Ward. It was sad saying bye to him,
 he's great!

At the airport waiting for the new missionaries!
 You can see the Capital building in the distance.