Monday, July 27, 2015

More photos and some videos

1) We were pretty done with weekly planning

 2) Gaaaaaaahhhhhhhh..... Weekly planning...... :P


3) Featuring (from left to right): my new guitar (!!), my pants (because we were weekly planning and who needs pants anyway), and Elder Merrill's guitar.

Videos:
1) I have never seen it rain this hard before in my life. It was awesome. (Apparently there was even a tornado in Crossville, which is pretty close by haha)
video

2) This kid is the funniest two year old ever.
video

3) More dizzy Lincoln.
video

Mawwage

Hey folks!

I can't even believe how fast the weeks go out here. It's nuts.

This week was kind of lopsided. We only saw 4 investigators, but we saw 7 less active members. We had a lot of appointments and things fall through, and our backup plans were usually to try to visit a less active, so that's what happened.

But it was still a good week. :)

Ronnie is progressing very slowly as usual. Teaching him is kind of like teaching a child in an adult body. He's just on a different brain wavelength than everyone else. So we're taking it principle by principle, and using the Book of Mormon a lot, and he seems to be making subtle progress. As we've been using the BOM more it really invites the Spirit, which seems to help him be more likely to open up about his actual concerns and understand what we are trying to teach.

We tried to text him every day this past week to remind him to read from the Book of Mormon (usually he forgets) and he actually did read most days! Only problem was, he was just Googling "mormon bible" and opening one of the weird links that came up. We're not really sure what he was reading (and honestly I doubt he even knows what he read) but we did our best to encourage and praise him anyway (and keep a straight face while doing it). Hey, at least he was reading something. We did put a shortcut to the actual Book of Mormon on his phone this time, so hopefully this week'll be different.

We also saw Raymond and Tammy, finally. They're really hard to see, they cancel a lot and they're clear out in Spring City so we're only even in the area once or twice a week. But we saw them! They are super open still, and they really like the idea of a modern prophet (Raymond kept saying "well ah, that'd just tickle me to death" when we asked what they thought about it). They want to know if it's true. They agreed to pray about getting baptized on September 19. So that's cool. :) We're excited. They used to be on date awhile back, but then we weren't able to see them for a few weeks and the date just passed on by. But we think this time they're more motivated to see us and learn more. Hopefully.

Don't know if I mentioned this, of all our investigators, Raymond is the hardest to understand. He's smoked since he was 6 years old, and his accent is thick, and he mumbles, and his train of thought never makes sense... I think I remember silently praying for the gift of tongues the first time we visited them. It tickles me to death to listen to him ;)

On Wednesday we had two dinner appointments, one with Sister Madden and Phil Warren, and one with the Jennings. Both of them are excellent cooks (especially Sister Jennings, oh my goodness), and both of them like to feed us a lot of food. We survived, barely. ;)

Oh, also: PHIL PROPOSED!!! AAAAH!!!! :D

You've got to understand, Phil Warren is the most cantankerous, stubborn, cranky, hard headed person I have ever met. He has a big old white beard, he served in the military, he was a truck driver for years, he's loudly Southern, loudly politically conservative... I will say though, once you see past the hard shell, he's secretly a teddy bear. He's got these shining eyes, and this super contagious laugh, and I love him to pieces. But you can't tell this man what to do. If he feels like he's being pushed, at all, he'll go the other way.

Missionaries have been trying to get him to marry Sister Madden and get baptized for ages. He knows it's true, he just won't admit it to us. He'll tell the high priests, he'll tell his home teacher, but he won't admit it to us. He's more active than half the ward. He just won't budge. We've stopped teaching him the standard lessons (for the umpteenth time) and started just sharing easy, less in-his-face, subtly family-strengthening messages like prayer and scripture study and committing them to pray and study together every day.

ANd FINALLY he seems to be making progress!! I guess he'd been feeling prompted for a week or two that he needed to marry Sister Madden on September 9th. The thought wouldn't leave him alone. So finally, on Thursday I believe, he proposed. :D That's literally all that stood in the way of him getting baptized. Hopefully he'll decide to get baptized while I'm still here. :) I have no doubt that he will eventually though.

Austin is doing well. We're trying to figure out with President Griffin when he can be baptized. He came to church with his dad on Sunday and that went well. If you don't mind, though, please kep praying for him and his family. They need it!
Saturday there was a fun activity at the Church (that we went to only after literally all our appointments and plans fell through... ugh) for Pioneer Day. And Sunday we went to the Qualls' for lunch/dinner after church, which is like an all-afternoon event because of how far out they live. We love going there though, it's super serene where they live, and they're great old people. I love hearing Brother Qualls tell stories from his life.

My thought for the week is about fear. In his weekly letter to all the missionaries, President Griffin shared the following thought. As you read, think of where you are in life right now. Think how fear may be holding you back -- from being who and where you want to be, from being happy, from being and becoming who the Lord wants you to become. You may not be a full-time missionary, but you are a child of God, and you do have a purpose. Apply this to yourself and your situation.

I will be brief in today's email. I have been thinking about the word "FEAR" and how it affects each of us differently. I have listed below several of my favorite quotes about "FEAR". Please read and ponder. Consider if "FEAR" is keeping you from being a effective missionary.
The acronym for 'FEAR'..... False Evidence Appearing Real

"Fear is the devil's first and chief tool." (John A. Widtsoe)

"Most fears in the end are fears of oneself and can be conquered by bringing in the Lord as an ally." (Arthur Henry King)

"So long as men are under the law of God, they have no fears." (Joseph Smith)

"What a tragedy it is in our lives when we are afraid to try, afraid to make decisions, afraid to trust the Lord... Fear...can be conquered if we will but have faith and move forward with purpose." (Marvin J. Ashton)

"Have faith in your purpose as a missionary. Do not fear failure. Do not fear yourself. Have faith in your prophetic call as a missionary. Fear not. Doubt not."
I invite you to follow this counsel. Have faith in the Lord. He loves you and has a plan for you, and if you follow Him and faithfully and humbly strive to bring your life in line with His teachings, He will lead you. His whole purpose is your happiness. You may find you will be required to make uncomfortable changes, but I promise you that as you follow the Lord, no matter what sacrifices you have to make, heeding His words and the words of His prophets both ancient and modern, and move forward with faith, doubting not and fearing not, it will work out for your good - both now and in eternity. Follow Him, and heed the words of His prophets. I promise He will not let you down. Remember the words of the hymn:

"The wind and the waves [still] obey [His] will... Whether the wrath of the storm-tossed sea, or demons or men or whatever it be, no waters can swallow the ship where lies the Master of ocean and earth and skies. They all shall sweetly obey [His] will: ...Peace, peace, be still" --Master, the Tempest is Raging
I love you all!

Love,
Elder Swindler

Fotos

1) Another shot of the view from the drive to the Jennings (I can't quite seem to do it justice, it's seriously stunning)

2) So at the appointment before Sis Madden and Phil, Elder Merrill sat in some dog pee (the dog must have peed on the couch where he sat and the owner hadn't noticed yet) and didn't realize it until he was soaked. It was pretty gross. So Sister Madden took pity on him and gave him some of Phil's lounge pants to wear while she washed his pants for him. I thought it was pretty funny.

3) Curb appeal. 'Nuff said. (Our neighbors)

4) A potential investigator's house. People here in the South are very picky about their curb appeal. Everything has to be juuust right. Gotta impress the neighbors, right?

Monday, July 20, 2015

Jesus Take the Wheel

Hey all!

I hope you had a great week. Mine was kind of mixed. We had a lot of appointments fall through so we didn't teach very many people this week. But I did get a package from home (thanks guys :-) ), and we had a good zone conference on Thursday, and we had a good lesson with Brad and Martha. We had dinner with the Reanos, and the Woods, and the Jennings. And today I got a guitar, finally. So it wasn't so bad. :)

We had a really good lesson with Ronnie. He's slowly progressing. He's actually reading a little bit from the Book of Mormon, he is less opposed to the idea of praying (we still haven't gotten him to do it yet, although he did "say" a silent one at the end of a lesson one time haha), and he's starting to ask some real good questions. I'm learning that the Book of Mormon is really powerful. One of his questions was about weakness - why God doesn't always take away our weaknesses when we pray and ask him to. We turned him to Ether 12:27, and he seemed like he really liked it. He read it like 3 times and sat there thinking about it for a bit. It was really cool, I've never seen him do that before, usually he's just kind of out of it. The Book of Mormon invites the Spirit, changes hearts, teaches truths simply, and is a powerful witness of the Savior. As Preach My Gospel puts it, "The Book of Mormon, combined with the Spirit, is your most powerful resource in conversion." I'm starting to learn that for myself. :)

We've had a similar experience with Brad. As he's starting to read the BoM for himself, he's really beginning to open up. He still won't pray about it though, I think he's still a little afraid of the answer he'll get. But he's been reading on his own and he likes it so far.

We had another lesson with Bro Jennings' mom Patricia. She's very non-denominational Christian, which is both nice and frustrating. She doesn't have a problem with us and thinks we're a good church, but doesn't like the idea of there being only one true church. She committed to read from the BoM on her own this week though (we've read with her a few times but she still hasn't read much of it, if any, on her own) so hopefully that'll start to change things. Bro Jennings says he thinks she's feeling the Spirit, she's just too stubborn to admit it to herself, much less anyone else. (I can relate)

Things are going better with Austin again. There was some crazy drama with him, his parents, and the branch last Sunday and Monday (mostly his parents though) but it seems to be cooling off. We felt like we needed to visit them again yesterday and it went really well. They said they'll start coming back to Church next week. Which is great. :) Thank you all so much for your prayers!

Rockwood Branch became a ward yesterday! :) Everyone was really excited. They've been working and praying really hard for this for a long time. It's cool to see how the Lord works - they were praying for new families to move in, and they have. It was actually one of the new guys who was called as the new Bishop. The stake president was talking about how people often ask him how and when he decides to call a new bishop. He told us that it's not him that decides when or why or who, it's the Lord. This church is truly led by inspiration from God.

Story from this week: we shared a message with the Reanos (they're the family from Idaho with 9 kids) about faith, and challenged them to think of a problem or challenge they are facing and turn to the Lord about it. About 20 minutes after we left, Bro Reano gave us a call and told us that our message worked. He'd been thinking about their van, which he's been trying to fix since before I got here, and right after we left he thought to call a certain friend about it, who suggested he try looking at this one particular thing. He looked at the thing, and it was broken, and he fixed it in about 15 minutes. The van works fine now. It was crazy. It seems a little Southern Baptist to me to turn to Jesus to fix a car, but I guess if He can build the Earth He can fix a car. :)

My message for this week: I challenge you to make an effort to pray and study the scriptures every day, as individuals and as families. Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve taught "Family prayer should be a nonnegotiable priority in your daily life," and also "Don’t yield to Satan’s lie that you don’t have time to study the scriptures. Choose to take time to study them. Feasting on the word of God each day is more important than sleep, school, work, television shows, video games, or social media. You may need to reorganize your priorities to provide time for the study of the word of God. If so, do it!"

For extra credit, I challenge each of you to study Richard G. Scott's "Make the Exercise of Faith Your First Priority" from the October 2014 General Conference (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/10/make-the-exercise-of-faith-your-first-priority?lang=eng) and apply the four tools he lists. It's a fantastic talk, you won't regret it. :) I leave you with his closing remarks:


"Remember our Savior is the Prince of Peace. Peace in this mortal life comes from His atoning sacrifice. When we are consistently praying morning and night, studying our scriptures daily, having weekly family home evening, and attending the temple regularly, we are actively responding to His invitation to 'come unto Him.' The more we develop these habits, the more anxious is Satan to harm us but the less is his ability to do so. Through the use of these tools, we exercise our agency to accept the full gifts of His atoning sacrifice.

"I am not suggesting that all of life’s struggles will disappear as you do these things. We came to mortal life precisely to grow from trials and testing. Challenges help us become more like our Father in Heaven, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ makes it possible to endure those challenges. I testify that as we actively come unto Him, we can endure every temptation, every heartache, every challenge we face, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen."

Love,
Elder Swindler

Monday, July 13, 2015

Welcome to The Far Side

Hey folks!

This week was weird. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday we did a whole lot of not very much. A lot of people weren't home, and we only had a couple of lessons. Friday was district meeting, which was really good, and we ate at La Lupitas afterwards (it's a Mexican restaurant in Louden that's super delicious, I don't know if I already mentioned it. It's the most authentic Mexican restaurant I've ever eaten at. The Spanish-speaking elders and sisters have to help everyone order because you have to order in Spanish). We ate with a family in the branch named the Balls (yes, jokes were plentiful). They are pretty normal people, they just look a little Southern, live out in the middle of nowhere, and have like a thousand dogs. And they fed us biscuits and gravy. But other than that they're pretty normal.

I've realized that we haven't really eaten anything very southern yet. Most of the active branch members are pretty normal people, and feed us pretty normal food (like, we had lasagna on Saturday). Pretty much all the crazy Southerners are also inactive. I have yet to eat grits and I think this is a problem.

Saturday was super busy. We had a bunch of referrals (names people have given us of people who might maybe be interested in listening to us -- although names is a stretch, about half the time it's "the log house out in the field" or "that double wide trailer over on the hill there") and we decided to visit a bunch of them. We ended up getting like 4 more, and contacting 5 of the ones we had. And then we had that amazing lasagna, and then we visited the in-laws of a less-active and they were super open (although they seriously look like they just walked out of a Far Side cartoon, oh my gosh, it's hilarious). All in all we ended up with 4 new people to teach - a friendly guy in a trailer, the Far Side family, a neat old lonely guy who is hard of hearing and super poor (he breaks my heart... oh my goodness), and a guy who came up to us on the street while we were talking to the lonely guy and asked about coming to our Church.

Sunday I gave a talk, and after church we had dinner with a family named the Woods. We love them, they're really fun and cool. Mom and Sarah, Sister Woods reminds me a lot of Liz Visick.

We've had a couple lessons with Austin. He's awesome. He's preparing for baptism still, and he's super on track. We moved his date to the 25th so more people could come, a lot of the branch was going to be gone on a temple trip on his original date. We're really excited.

Today has been crazy. We went to Walmart and Elder Merrill forgot his wallet so I paid for the groceries (he'll just pay next week). Then we went home, and got our bikes, and went to Austin's. The plan was to bike with him down to the church because we can't give nonmembers rides in the car. But we'd forgotten to drop our bags off at the church, so we went and did that, then came back to Austin's. But then our helmets weren't in the car, so we went clear back home to check there, but they weren't there. So we went back to Austin's again and just walked to the Church. We found Elder Merrill's helmet at the Church, I guess he'd taken it in with him and left it, but not mine. We think it got left on the ground outside the house when we were putting bikes on our car's bike rack, and then got stolen. :(

But now we've been at the church playing basketball, and that's been fun. So I guess it's okay. At least it wasn't my iPad, or my bike.

My spiritual thought from the week is stolen from our zone leaders. They shared this at district meeting. Compare the stories of Moses, Enoch, and Nephi (in Exodus 4:10-15, Moses 6-7, and 1 Nephi 17:8-9, respectively). 

The Lord commanded Moses to prophesy; Moses responded with fear. The Lord encouraged him to have faith; Moses continued to fear. The Lord then called Aaron to speak for him. Moses didn't really grow, at least not much and not yet. 

The Lord commanded Enoch to prophesy; Enoch responded with fear. The Lord encouraged him to have faith; Enoch responded by exercising faith. He then went on to move mountains. Enoch grew from this experience.

The Lord commanded Nephi to build a ship; Nephi responded with exceedingly great faith. Nephi went on to become a great prophet and the father of an entire race. Nephi grew the most of the three. In fact, the Book of Mormon is full of examples of people like Nephi - people who exercised exceedingly great faith.

Let us all try to be more like Nephi. When the Lord gives us a command, let us respond with exceedingly great faith. Fear not; remember the words of Nephi: "Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten that the Lord is able to do all things according to his will, for the children of men, if it so be that they exercise faith in him? Wherefore, let us be faithful to him." (1 Nephi 7:12)

I love you all!

Love,
Elder Swindler

P.S. Hey folks, one last thing. I need y'all to pray for the Williams family and Austin Kelly. There is some mega opposition that's come up just now... They need all the prayers they can get.

Pictures

1) A two-lane road built for wagons, not cars.


2) The Jennings have a kitten. It's my favorite.



3) Tennessee is liberal. The sign on the door of one of our less-actives and the sign in the front yard of said less-actives.



4) Gotta love the South. More liberal media on a random person's gate.


5) Just in case I forgot which side of the Mason-Dixon line we're on.


6) Monster house on a hill. The view from a ginormous house in Kingston. (It had a turret.... Seriously, this house was huge)


7) A shack we found. No one lives in it, sadly; we actually ended up talking to the owner right after we saw it and he just uses it for storage. I was disappointed, mostly because I was really excited to meet the kind of person who would live in a shack like this.


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Firework Adventures

Videos courtesy of Elder Merrill

1) Bro. Beyer's first attempt at setting off like two dozen bottle rockets at once. Note how we almost got hit by one or two. Fun fun. (Mom maybe shouldn't watch this one)

video

2) Bro Beyer's much less scary second attempt. Southern fireworks... Haha there is basically no fear of forest fires here, it's so stinking wet. There's apparently also no fear of hitting houses, or people, or one of the countless dogs and cats that inhabit every Southern neighborhood.... Yeah.

video

Monday, July 6, 2015

Happy Fourth!

Hey folkses!

I forgot to bring my journal to the library this week so I might forget a lot of the stuff we did. Sorry.

On Tuesday we had another lesson with Brad that went really well. He's starting to read the Book of Mormon, so that's good. We took a member that he's friends with, and afterwards the member was telling us that he has progressed a TON since the missionaries first started teaching him. He remembered the first lesson - I guess Brad wouldn't even talk about the Book of Mormon and the missionaries mostly just taught his wife Martha (who used to be really open, but for some reason we don't know has started hiding in the other room whenever we come over... We're not sure why yet).

We also had a lesson with Ronnie that was a little bit frustrating. He likes us coming over, and he is making very gradual progress, but he still hasn't prayed and he's barely read any of the Book of Mormon. I hope we don't have to drop him but I wonder if we may. :/

Wednesday we went on a team-up with George Fox. I think I've mentioned him before. He's less active and has a lot of emotional baggage from his wife dying. He's also super loveable, and has a really distinctive way of talking that we try to imitate all the time. We think if we get him involved in missionary work and help him feel needed he may start coming back to church. We took him to see an older lady in Spring City named Christine. The lesson went pretty well, but he accidentally fell over and broke some of her stuff, and she said it was fine but then she wouldn't look at him for the rest of the lesson. That was kind of sad. But I think it really did him good to feel loved and involved.

Thursday we did a lot of planning for the week and stuff around the apartment. We ate dinner with a family named the Reanos, which was super fun. They have 9 kids so it's always an adventure. We had Oreos and milk for dessert and watching their 2 and 1 year olds try to dunk the Oreos in the milk was hilarious. Lincoln, the 2 year old, would just drop the Oreo in the milk, have his daddy fish it out for him, take a little bite of it really fast, then hurry and drop it right back in the milk (and repeat, ad infinitum). It was so funny.
Lincoln Reano and his daddy, post-Oreos and milk. I love this kid. :) (this was right before he wiped his hand all over my pants, which was hilarious)
 

Friday we had a really good lesson with Austin, who is on track to be baptized on the 18th. We may need to move it because of administrative stuff, he will need an interview with the Mission President because he just got out of prison, but we aren't worried. We love him so much and we're so excited. He has really changed his life, but to hear him tell it, it was God, not him. I think it was both of them.

We also had a lesson with Robert, our conspiracy theorist, who dropped us. Instead of reading the Book of Mormon for himself he decided to research it by reading stuff online from anti-Mormons.... I love him, but he's an idiot. We explained all the lies he read and put in context the things that were taken out of context, and helped him understand what we really believe. And he was glad to learn that we aren't crazy and we are in fact Christians... But then later he called us and dropped us. So that was dumb. He's just not quite ready yet, I think. He says he wants to finish the bible and be familiar with it before he starts reading other stuff, and I can understand that. He didn't really have real intent when he read the little bit that he did with us. I think he may be ready in the future though.

Random story I forgot to tell. This is from a few weeks ago when I went on an exchange with the District Leader, Elder Larson. We ate dinner with a family named the Cruises (spelling?), and they mentioned this super spicy hot sauce that they like to have the missionaries try, and I was like, hey, I like spicy stuff! So they got all excited and got it out. It had pictures of bombs and stuff on the label, but it was pretty old, and I opened it and smelled it and it didn't smell like much of anything, so I figured it couldn't be that spicy. And I think they said something about how most of the missionaries had just put a little dab on their fork and then quickly decided it was really really hot and that they didn't want anything more to do with it, but I wasn't really listening. So I put two big drops on the remainder of my scrambled eggs and took a bite. I realized pretty quickly that things were about to get hot, so I hurried and and finished all of the eggs as fast as I could before the heat wave fully hit and I could change my mind. Then about 3 seconds later the heat wave did hit. It was so hot my lips and the roof of my mouth went numb for a good 45 minutes. I was sweating and drinking everything I could reach... It was insane. Haha I guess I hold the record now for the most sauce any missionary has ever eaten. So that's cool. :)
Anyway.

Saturday was Independence Day. We didn't get to see a lot of people, but we did bring cookies to some of our older less-actives who weren't doing anything fun and didn't have company. That evening we went over to the Beyer's (a family in the branch) and ate delicious burgers that he made (he wants to open a restaurant, and he totally could) and watched them light fireworks (which was kind of scary sometimes - especially with little kids around - but whatever, it's the South I guess).

Sunday was good too. We had another lesson with Austin. And it was a good week in general. It seems like it was just barely P-day. The days start to blend together out here... It's crazy that I've already been out two months today.

Something I learned this week: faith is proactive. I see this countless times throughout the scriptures. Gordon B. Hinckley is quoted as saying “I don’t know how to get anything done except getting on my knees and pleading for help and then getting on my feet and going to work” (Ensign, Nov. 1997, 16). Moroni is a great example of this: And now it came to pass that Moroni did not stop making preparations for war, or to defend his people against the Lamanites..." (Alma 50:1). So is Nephi: "And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying: Thou shalt construct a ship, after the manner which I shall show thee, that I may carry thy people across these waters. And I said: Lord, whither shall I go that I may find ore to molten, that I may make tools to construct the ship after the manner which thou hast shown unto me?" (1 Ne 17:8-9) So is the Brother of Jared: "...but behold these things which I have molten out of the rock. And I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man; therefore touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness..." (Ether 3:3-4; see also 2:22-23). And we learn from the Lord in the Doctrine and Covenants that "Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me. But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right..." (D&C 9:7-8)

If you are praying for help with something, I invite you to follow the pattern we learn from these examples: get on your knees and ask for help, then get on your feet and go to work. Do your best to come up with your own solutions and ideas; put forth your own best effort; and then bring those solutions and efforts to the feet of God and ask Him in faith to make it work. He may send you back to try again, or to try something else. Don't be frustrated; just keep trying. He'll help you, and He'll magnify your efforts. You just have to give Him something to work with, because He won't change you or help you to become something more than you are against your will.

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

Love,
Elder Swindler

Pictures:

1) A view from the mountainside (I'll send another one on a clearer day)

 2) The Urban's barn and yard
3) A "two-lane" Tennessee road
4) There's this Japanase vine called cutzoo or something like that that's taken over everything here in Tennessee. It grows like a foot or two a day... Seriously
5) Bathroom graffiti in the South