Monday, June 26, 2017

June 26, 2017 Another Great Week!

Hey everyone!

It's been a good, busy week! We had a few Zone Conferences throughout the mission and it was fun going down to Woodbridge and up to Ashburn, two parts of the mission I haven't been to yet.

Life as a missionary is going great! We are trying our best to find joy and happiness in every day, pointing out things at the end of the day that made us happy.

Here's Hannah! It was so cool to see her
walking on the side of the road!

We had a cool experience the other day. We were driving on our way to a couple of appointments and along the side of the road I saw someone walking, who looked familiar. From a distance I couldn't tell who it was but right as we drove past, I recognized her. It was Hannah! She was an investigator from Sierra Leone that I taught for a few months last year in the Alexandria 2nd/Lincolnia Ward. So we quickly did a U-turn and pulled over to the side of the road. I jumped out of the car and before I said anything she recognized me and was so happy to see me! She was pretty surprised! Apparently she recently moved and is now living in this area. I couldn't believe the timing of seeing her. That was a cool tender mercy! We taught her a lot, and she attended a couple baptisms that we had, and came to church a few times, but was never baptized. She told me that she still wants to do it though! There's just been so many other things that came up in her life that stopped her from progressing. Hopefully we can start teaching her again regularly and help her come back to church.

Our church building is the only LDS chapel
with this picture. The building is only a mile or two
from George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate.

We were only able to have one lesson with Robert this week, but it went really well. He's still soaking everything up that he's learning. It's so fun to teach people who are genuinely engaged in a lesson, asking questions, with a strong desire to understand the message and how it applies to them.

We street contacted this Ghanaian guy, who once he saw us asked "were you two in Ghana 2 weeks ago? You look familiar!" He told us he was meeting with missionaries in Ghana right before coming here. That's actually happened quite a few times. Most people that we meet from Ghana have met missionaries in their country before coming here. It's cool to see how missionary work is going really strong there right now.

Another cool person we met on the streets was this young mother, whose name is actually Dada, from the Congo. We started asking her some questions, and found out she doesn't read English that well, even though she speaks it perfectly fine. We just happened to have a French Book of Mormon and French pamphlet in our car, so we went and grabbed it for her. When we were introducing it to her, she was fascinated and said "where can I buy one of these?" We then told her that was hers to keep, for free, and she was just so happy! It feels good to bring joy to people like that, in such simple ways.

If everything works out, I'll be going back to the Lincolnia Ward is Saturday for the baptism of Desmond, another person Elder Judkins and I taught for a while. So I'm excited for that!

This transfer, each Pday, Elder Ure and I will be at the mission home for Zone activities that are happening this transfer. It's fun to be here with all the missionaries! I love you all! Hope you all have a great week!

Elder Jeremy Duvall
Washington DC South Mission


Monday, June 19, 2017

June 19, 2017 HAPPY FATHERS DAY!

Hey everyone!

First and foremost, Happy Father's Day to the best Dad in the world! I'm so grateful to have been raised by two incredible parents, and to have an amazing father. I love you tons Dadio! I am also grateful for my Grandpa Duvall, his example and for the legacy he left behind. And I am grateful for Papa Smith, for raising the most incredible mother in the world. I am grateful for all of the other father-figures I have had throughout my life. I have had so many great examples to look to!
I really like the following excerpt from the Teachings of the Presidents, Ezra Taft Benson manual. It says"Fathers, yours is an eternal calling from which you are never released. Callings in the Church, as important as they are, by their very nature are only for a period of time, and then an appropriate release takes place. But a father’s calling is eternal, and its importance transcends time. It is a calling for both time and eternity.
Our pattern, or model, for fatherhood is our Heavenly Father."
There is no better calling than that of a Father! We can hold different callings and positions in the church, or in the world, but nothing is better than being a father. I am grateful for you Dad, for being a good example to me and showing your unconditional love to our whole family.

This was a super busy transfer week! I'm glad that it is over and we can finally catch our breath. We've been going nonstop this week with a lot going on in the mission and in our area. I'm amazed how much work we are able to accomplish in our proselyting area, while still attending numerous meetings and getting a bunch of other stuff accomplished involving the start of a new transfer.

 Elder Ure and I with President and Sister Huntsman
at the temple.

I got to attend the temple again with the departing missionaries. It was great to be there with them and President and Sister Huntsman! Sleeping at the mission home later that night, and then waking up at 3am to take them to the airport takes its toll though. It's weird to have a night that throws off our daily sleep schedule we follow every single day.

My first week with Elder Ure has been great! I feel so blessed to have had awesome companions throughout my mission.

Our most progressing investigator that we have right now is probably Robert. I haven't written in any of my emails about him yet. We met him just about 2 weeks ago, but have already taught him four times or so. He is 57 years old and is a former marine. We met him checking on his brother who we met outside on the streets a few days earlier. His brother wasn't home when we knocked on his door, but he invited us right on inside after meeting him. He then began telling us a little bit about himself and his life. He explained how after he left the military he was a truck driver for many years, and how he drove through and stopped in Salt Lake City multiple times. While there, he said he was amazed with how kind and friendly people were to him. In our lessons with him he has said numerous times something like "there's just something different about you guys, you all have a light to you that I don't see much in other people" and has also said "that's something I want." He has really enjoyed and understood everything we taught him. He is such a humble man. He constantly says "I don't know everything, but I know that this is all good. It feels right, and that's enough for me to build upon." I love his perspective on learning about the gospel. We just need to take things one step at a time, little by little. None of us are ever going to truly understand and comprehend everything there is to know, but we can always continue to learn and progress in the gospel and in life. He's the best! He reads everything we leave with him, and then writes down questions and comments to discuss each time we come back. He grew up Baptist, but is super open to everything we have taught him. We had one lesson with a member, Brother Vance, who is a convert that was also raised Southern Baptist. It was cool to see how much they had in common. Robert remembers feeling good when he used to have religion in his life, but has been far from it for many years. He told us that the day when we knocked on his door, he had been feeling like he needed to "get back in touch with the Lord," and that it was no coincidence we met him that day. I'm excited to continue teaching him.

At the airport at 4 in the morning with
13 departing missionaries who I will miss!

Every week we have experiences where I feel like we were just put in the right place at the right time. For example, in the Aldi parking lot, we bumped into this guy Jacob from Ghana, who we've been trying to schedule a time to teach him, but haven't seen him for about a month. I didn't even see him at first, but as we were getting in our car he was sitting in his car parked right next to us and was smiling at us and then we realized it was him, so we were able to schedule a time to go and see him. Things that like seem to happen all the time. I love seeing the Lord guide us to certain places so we can run into people like that.

Elder Leishman and Elder Hansen. These are two of my good friends here in the mission. It was sad saying bye to Elder Leishman last week, but I'll see him back at BYU.

One of my favorite pages in Preach My Gospel is the First Presidency message at the beginning. Part of it says"We challenge you to rise to a new sense of commitment to assist our Father in Heaven in His glorious work. Every missionary has an important role in helping “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).
The Lord will reward and richly bless you as you humbly and prayerfully serve Him. More happiness awaits you than you have ever experienced as you labor among His children."

I love what it says about happiness. In chapter 6 of a Preach My Gospel, it talks all about different Christlike attributes. This transfer, our mission is focusing on the Christlike attribute of joy and happiness. Joy and happiness actually isn't one of the Christlike attributes listed in PMG, but I think it definitely qualifies as one. Christ is the greatest source of joy and happiness and he exemplified it throughout his life.

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

Elder Jeremy Duvall
Washington DC South Mission

Monday, June 12, 2017

June 12, 2017 Another transfer in Ft. Belvoir, Alexandria!

Hey everyone!

Elder Yang and I with the Taggart's!
They are moving, but they're an awesome family.
Brother Taggart is getting deployed to Afghanistan,
and sister Taggart and their children are moving
back to Rancho Cucamonga, CA.
 They made us their homemade rendition of
In-N-Out cheeseburgers, that were delicious!

We have a new transfer starting tomorrow and I am getting a new companion! Elder Yang is needed back in the Chinese program, so he'll be spending his last transfer serving in the Chinese branch before going home. His new companion will be Elder Chu, who I trained over a year ago! They'll do great together.

Elder Ure and I had to sit around and watch
all this luggage at the airport for a while,
as we waited for a couple other missionaries
to arrive from Mexico, and for the office elders
to bring their truck to put it in

My new companion is Elder Ure, from Logan, Utah. He started his mission in the Richmond, VA mission, but got moved into this mission last summer when we got the Woodbridge Zone added to our mission. He's been with us for the past couple of days, for the transition period as we show him the ropes on how some of the things work that we do.

So today we are at the airport picking up 13 new missionaries from the MTC, and will be going tonight to the mission home. Starting last night, I got to start driving the 15-passenger van, which we will drive multiple times over the next couple days, picking up new missionaries, and taking the departing missionaries to the temple and to the airport. It's a pretty big car to drive, especially on the super busy beltway, but it'll be fun! can't believe it was already 6 weeks ago that I got transferred here! Odds are I will be with Elder Ure for the next few months, but you never truly know what President Huntsman will end up doing.

This week was pretty good! I got an exciting message from the Elders serving in the Lincolnia Ward, where I served for 6 months, the second half of last year. They told me that Desmond Whitfield is getting baptized in a few weeks! He was someone that Elder Judkins and I taught many times over the course of our six months together. Desmond came to another baptism that we had in that ward, but he never made it to church while we taught him. But the missionaries that came after us were persistent in continuing to teach him, and he started coming to church finally! He reached out specifically asking for Elder Judkins and I to attend his baptism! It is coming up in a few weeks. I talked with Elder Judkins on the phone about it, and we were both just astounded that he finally made it. We were honestly both a little surprised when we got the news, but we are so excited for him! He's the person that we visited at the I.C.U. back in September (see letter from 9/19/16). It'll be fun to go back and visit that ward again for his baptism

We taught Bouma and Frank again this week. They are the ones from Burkina Faso that speak French but are learning to speak English currently, and are doing a pretty good job. We had a really solid lesson with them, where we brought some Restoration pamphlets and a Book of Mormon in French. We identified different important things to read from the pamphlet in French, then we would have them describe in English what they understand, and they understand it all really well. It's amazing how we are able to communicate our message to them, and to see how good they feel as they begin to understand it.

We found a new investigator named Peter Kamara from Sierra Leone this week. He investigated in the past for a few months, and even went to church 5 or 6 times, but then he had a stroke and a bunch of other health issues, and he moved here and lost contact with the missionaries and hasn't been to church since. We were just walking out of his apartment complex, and he saw us and got a huge smile on his face and starting telling us how much he has been wanting to meet with missionaries and start coming to church again! He's truly a miracle that just crossed paths with us at the perfect time. We taught him a couple times, but then when we went to pick him up for church on Sunday with a member, he was sitting out front waiting for the ambulance to come and take him to the hospital. We didn't quite understand what was going on, but he said he was feeling really sick, so we said a prayer with him and then the ambulance got there to pick him up. It all happened so fast it was kind of crazy. He'll be okay though and will hopefully get to start coming back to church next week!

Last night we conducted the New and Returning Member Fireside, which we do at the end of every transfer. It's always a great night, listening to recent converts and members returning to activity, as they describe their conversion process and the difference that the gospel has made in their lives. While listening to all of their newly formed testimonies, I was reminded of a quote from President Uchtdorf that I used in an emailed last year "It seems to be human nature: as we become more familiar with something, even something miraculous and awe-inspiring, we lose our sense of awe and treat it as commonplace." Sometimes we get so caught up in the daily routines of life, that we begin to forget how truly amazing the gospel is. It was so refreshing to listen to all of these people testify of the miraculous change the gospel has brought into their lives, which made me reflect on how much it has blessed my life.

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

Elder Jeremy Duvall
Washington DC South Mission

Monday, June 5, 2017

June 5, 2017 The Joy in Reconnecting

Hey everyone! This week was incredible! It was probably one of my favorite weeks on the mission. 

Ami and I at the temple

So after looking back in my journal, I realized that on January 25th of 2016, a few days after arriving in Virginia, I taught one of my first actual, sit-down lessons with Ami Koroma and her kids, Kadija and Omar, in my first area in Centreville. A few weeks later, on February 13th, 2016, Ami and Kadija were baptized. And on June 2nd, 2017 (this past Friday), I was able to attend the Washington DC Temple with Ami Koroma as she received her endowment. What an amazing day that was!! It was definitely one of the highlights of my mission seeing the joy Ami felt on Friday. She was surrounded by some of the relief society members of the Centreville 1st Ward who came to support her. It was wonderful to see them all hug, embrace, and congratulate her on that special day! I have loved seeing over the past year and a half how much she has embraced and applied the gospel into her life and the life of her family! I've been lucky enough to be able to see her on multiple occasions after getting transferred out of Centreville last July. The members that were there with her were Sister Duersch (the former Bishops wife), Sister Zanotti (the current Bishops wife), Sister Neary (her visiting teacher), Sister Patten (the Relief Society President), and Sister Zilleruelo (her neighbor). Each of those individuals, along with many others have done a wonderful job helping Ami and her children continue to learn and progress in the gospel. I am so glad I was able to be there in the temple with her! I sat near Ami and her escort, and was full of joy as I congratulated her upon entering the celestial room of the temple. Ami's decision to join the church has led to many other family members and friends entering the waters of baptism, and I know it will continue to affect generations. I am grateful to have been a part of Ami's journey, and I will without doubt stay in touch with her throughout my life. The Koroma family will always have a special place in my heart!

Some of the members of the Centreville 1st Ward
Relief Society with Ami Karoma and I at the temple,
after her endowment.

Elder Yang and I 


Elder and Sister Allen, the senior couple
who drove us up to the temple to be there for Ami.
I'm grateful for the amazing senior couples we have in our mission!

A Beautiful day at the temple!
Yesterday at church I was able to reconnect with another person who I have missed! I was able to see Isha Sesay again! She now lives in a ward that meets in the same building as ours for church. While waiting for Ward Council, I saw brother Erickson, who was my ward mission leader in the Alexandria 2nd Ward (whose also from Murrieta) and talked to him for a few minutes. He then introduced me to Isha's Mom, who was walking through the hallway. It was so great to meet her! Her mother, Fatmata was baptized about a month and a half ago. Minutes later Isha came walking down the hallway, and once she saw me she got this huge smile on her face and ran up to me and threw her arms around me and gave me a big hug. (Yes, I know we're not supposed to do that, but there's really nothing I could've done to stop it). I'm so glad I was able to talk with her for a few minutes! Just like Ami, she is still going strong in the gospel as well! She's been coming to church every week, and now her sister is finally taking the missionary lessons and will likely be getting baptized soon as well. Its a really cool rippling effect that all started with Ami Koroma, who eventually referred Isha to us, who is now helping her family and friends all enjoy the blessings of the gospel.

Just these few interactions this week with people I taught in my previous areas made me so happy! I'm grateful that our mission is so small geographically that we have opportunities to run into people again. I am incredibly grateful for the eternal friendships I have made in Virginia. I know I may not be able to see many people I've grown to love after I leave Virginia, but I will always remember the incredible individuals I've interacted with. Members and nonmembers, investigators and converts, everyone.

Elder Yang and I taught the sharing time in primary yesterday, which was pretty funny. Elder Yang has never attended a primary before, so he had no idea what to expect. He was like a deer in headlights once he saw what the primary was like, it was pretty funny. He's not really a fan of kids, but I love 'em. We had a fun time teaching them though.

We found some sweet new investigators this week. We met these two young guys named Frank and Bouma. They're from Burkina Faso (in West Africa), and speak French. They just moved here from the New York City, the Bronx, just a few weeks ago and have been looking for a church to start going to. We had a good lesson with them and are excited to keep teaching them.

We taught Rob again this week. He's our investigator that is wheelchair bound, and has slowly been regaining his mobility and strength. He's awesome! He hasn't made it out to church yet, but we've taught him a few times and he really likes the idea that we have a prophet on the earth today, and that we believe our church has the oringinal priesthood authority that Jesus Christ held. He constantly brings up baptism In lessons with him, we don't even have to bring it up, but he's got it in his mind that that's something he wants to do eventually.

We decided to start learning how to sing some Ghanaian songs in Twi. They're all pretty short, but fun to sing. Sometimes Ghanaian people won't want to listen to our message, so then we just say "well, can we sing to you in Twi?" And then they make a confused face and say sure... then we start singing, and without fail, they will always smile and start singing and clapping with us. It's the best. And it will usually soften their heart to at least let us share a brief message. We're trying to find some creative ways like that to better interact with the people.

We have transfers coming up next week on Tuesday! This transfer has flown by, but it's been great.

I'll just close with a brief quote from President Monson. He said "As you serve, you will build rich eternal memories and friendships. I know of no field which produces a more bounteous harvest of happiness than the mission field... The world needs the gospel of Jesus Christ. May the Lord bless all of His Saints--regardless of where we serve--with a missionary heart."
It is true! If you want to find more joy and fulfillment in life, no matter what stage of life you're in, find a way to serve others. Whether it be through sharing the gospel, or just showing love, I know that as we serve others we can "build rich eternal memories and friendships" and receive a "harvest of happiness!"

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

Elder Jeremy Duvall
Washington DC South Mission
 This is Maxwell Appiah, a member of our ward from Ghana. He took us to this Ghanaian  restaurant last week called Rahama. We were the only two people in the entire restaurant not from Africa. Whenever someone walked through the front door, they immediately looked surprised and walked up to us and asked how we enjoyed the food. I guess a lot of people aren't fans of their food, but Elder Yang and I enjoyed it. I just got the jollaf rice, with goat meet, Elder Yang and Maxwell got the FouFou soup with the Banku (which is a bitter ball of dough made  from corn meal and water, that you use your fingers to dip into the FouFou). I've had that before, but I like the jollaf rice better.

Texas Sheet cake from some members,
the Taggart's, who are moving back to CA this week.

Just some kids in one of our investigators homes.