Monday, December 28, 2015

Goodbye 2015

Hey folks!

I hope you all had a great Christmas! I know I did. We had our Christmas zone conference and played dodgeball and watched Big Hero 6. We also got to Skype our families, which was my favorite part of Christmas. We also ate a lot of food.

Had a lesson this week with an older lady named Anna. She's been meeting with missionaries for about 3 years. She's really sweet but also very stubborn. She has been taught basically everything, and she reads the Book of Mormon but she doesn't want to pray about it, I think because she knows what the answer will be and she's not ready to change yet. She's been going to the same church for like 50 years so it's hard for her. But I'm convinced deep down she believes it's true, and that the best way for us to help her will be to keep from making her feel pushed and help her come to the point where she desires for herself to change. Tricky task though. Prayers would be appreciated. She's our main investigator, even the mission president knows her and asks about her a lot. She's so close...

Also met with a less-active old guy named Ricky. He joined the Church about 10 years ago and doesn't remember much of anything about what he was taught. I had a cool experience in our first lesson with him (we saw him twice), I was having a really hard time focusing and listening to him because the TV was on right next to him (this was before we asked him to turn it off), and so I really wasn't into it, and I think Elder Hoff was struggling too, but there was a point for me where the Spirit just sort of took over. I don't even remember what I said but the Spirit must have spoken through me because whatever it was it got him talking about how he doesn't believe that there are prophets today, but he would like to and it would mean a lot to him if he did know. Long story short we taught him part of the Restoration and helped him understand that if he comes to know through prayer that the Book of Mormon is true, he will also know that there are prophets living today. His eyesight is really really bad, so we're coming over now once or twice a week to read the Book of Mormon to him. The first time was this week, and it was neat. We talked about how to recognize the Spirit, and after we read 1 Ne 1 he told us it "rang true" to him. He prayed about it at the end. I'm pretty excited about him. :)

Message for the week:

I had a moment last night when I was flipping through old journal entries from the beginning of my mission, and something I wrote stood out to me. I'd written that I felt like I was struggling with really listening to and loving the people I was teaching. Just a few hours before that, I'd read a note from one of my last companions, who told me that two things he admired in me were my ability to listen to and to love the people we taught. It was a testimony to me of how much the Lord has helped me to grow.

I know I probably share this verse a lot, but in Ether 12 Moroni teaches us a powerful lesson about weakness and faith. Moroni writes first that "faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith." Moroni then goes on to relate an exchange he had with the Lord where he disputes the Lord's promise to bring forth the record Moroni was abridging to the remnant of his people in the last days through the Gentiles, believing that the Gentiles would mock their writings because of their weakness in writing. The Lord responds, "...if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them."

Comforted, Moroni chose to exercise faith to trust in the Lord's promises and rely on His grace. Knowing his weaknesses, he humbly trusted the Lord's ability to "make weak things become strong" and acted, believing in the Lord's promises, though they were "things hoped for and not seen." And now today, because of the humble faith of many weak people in the Lord's promises and grace, including Moroni and also Joseph Smith, we have the Book of Mormon, a powerful witness of Jesus Christ and a powerful force for change in each of our lives.

And for me, as I have humbly trusted in the Lord and tried my best to do HIs work, He has made my weaknesses into strengths. :)

I invite all of you to consider your own weaknesses, and also the things the Lord would have you do. I invite all of you to turn to Him, take His arm, trust Him, and face the future with faith and hope. He knows what He's doing and He will lead you to greater and higher places than you ever dreamed you'd achieve. I promise. :) In the name of Jesus Christ, amen!


I love you all. Happy New Year. :)

Elder Swindler
 
Pictures:

So much about the South can be summed up by this picture:
 
 
 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas!!

Hey folks!

Crazy week this week. Like I mentioned, I got transferred on Wednesday. Monday and Tuesday were spent saying goodbyes to people in Knoxville and packing and cleaning. Wednesday was transfer meeting. We had a crazy mess in the morning when the member who was supposed to pick us up and take us to transfers completely forgot and we had to scramble at the last minute to find a ride. But it all worked out! One awesome member happened to be home and available and he came and got us with some of our stuff, and we had the zone leaders come and pick up the rest before he got there.

Elder Castleberry gave his departing testimony at transfer meeting, as did Elder Livingston and the others who were going home this transfer. It's a little weird that two of my past four companions are home now. It makes a mission seem awfully short. But it was great to hear their testimonies, and I'm sure they are living it up at home right now. :) It lined up really well that they got to go home for Christmas.

Knox West became a Sisters area, like I figured. They should do great, that area is awesome right now as far as having a lot of work, and the members in Knox 1st are awesome and very missionary-minded. And I got transferred to Bristol, TN/VA! It's a small town right on the Tennessee / Virginia border (not quite as small as Rockwood though). It's a good area with good members and there's a lot of potential people for us to work with right now. We just have to find them. :) I'm glad I learned a lot from Elder Castleberry about finding during this last transfer. Prayers for help finding people who have been prepared to receive the restored gospel would be greatly appreciated!

My new companion's name is Elder Hoff. He's pretty cool and we've been getting along pretty well so far. He's a good teacher, and teaching is something I've been wanting to improve on, so this should be a good learning experience for me. Also, he plays guitar. He was pretty excited when he saw my guitar at transfers because he doesn't have one and he's been wanting to play.

Something I've been thinking about today - and throughout this week - is how much God loves each one of us. I was pondering on my mission so far, and I realized that the experiences and areas and companions I have had have been exactly what I have needed. It's been so perfectly what I've needed to grow and develop in the ways He knows I need to. And I couldn't always see that in the moment, but looking back this week, I was able to see it at least a little. It gave me hope for the future and helped me move forward into this transfer with faith and trust in God. It hasn't been easy, but it's been wonderful and totally worth it. I now know even more that God really does know each one of us intimately, and He loves us more than we can comprehend. He knows exactly what we need, and He gives us the experiences that will help us grow and progress and become everything He knows we can be. All He asks is that we move through the experiences leaning on His arm, trusting Him and going where He leads us. He loves us and He won't lead us astray.

I hope you are all excited for Christmas this week! I know I am! Christmas is an opportunity to remember, and be grateful for, and give our time to the things that matter most. Most of all it is an opportunity to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. The greatest evidence of God's love for each of us and all of us is the gift of His only Begotten Son. Because Christ lived - and lives - we have a Savior. With His help we can overcome the effects of our sins and bad choices, and we can have His guidance and strength to help us climb the mountains in our lives - and become better in the process. I promise you that as you turn to Him through study and prayer, following the promptings of the Holy Ghost, making the changes you need to make, and striving to stay close to Him and follow Him throughout your life, He will lead you through experiences tailor-made for your growth and benefit to heights you never even imagined you would reach. Please take time this Christmas season to ponder the significance and meaning of the birth of the Savior in your life. Why is He important to you? If you don't know, or even if you do, please take the time to figure it out. Pray and ask Heavenly Father! He'll help you discover why. He'll help you see His hand in your life, and He'll help you to take it today, and tomorrow. The joy and peace and comfort and growth He has to offer is beyond comparison. I know this for myself now and I'm learning it more and more every day. I hope you will all take the time to find Him and come to know Him better this Christmas season. I testify that His hand is in your life and that you can come to see it and appreciate it and follow it! He loves you! I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen. :)

I love you all! Make yourselves a wonderful Christmas!! And remember to share #ASaviorisBorn! Let's all share with others why His birth is important to each of us.

Love,

Elder Alex Swindler
#ASaviorisBorn


Pictures:
1) Sierra, Elder Castleberry, Destiny, and me before the baptism
 
 
2) Same group, plus Roger and Mayetta (the girls' grandparents)
 
 
3) Elder Castleberry studying Lehi's Dream
 
4-6) Goodbye to the McKellars 


 
 
7-8) Goodbye to Austin


9-10) The Websters 

 
 
11) The Smiths
 
 
The video: So there's this Thai coconut soup at Pete's restaurant in Knoxville that is AMAZING. Elder Castleberry couldn't help himself. ;)
video
 
 
12) Joe 
 
 
13) The Harris's 
 
 
14) The Reyes's 
 
 
15) Pete 
 
 
16) The waitress photobombed Elder Castleberry's picture with Pete :) 
 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Baptism!! ...and transfers??

Hey folks!

Crazy week this week.  Destiny and Sierra got baptized on Saturday, which was awesome. I got to baptize Destiny! And I played an arrangement of When I Am Baptized on the guitar at the baptismal service. Elder Castleberry baptized Sierra and confirmed them both.

We had a tri-zone conference on Friday with Elder Zwick of the Seventy and his wife, which was awesome. The conference was focused on simplifying and intensifying - and exemplifying - the things we teach. It was really powerful.

Saturday and Sunday we had stake conference, again with Elder Zwick. Our investigator Joe came to the Saturday night adult session, which was awesome. It was my favorite session. It seemed to be pretty focused on faith, the Atonement, and its powerful healing and enabling power that is available to us every day of our lives if we will exercise the faith to access it. Joe even gave an 'amen' in the middle of Sis Zwick's talk.

I also got to see a bunch of friends from Rockwood! The Jennings, the Woods, Austin... Bro Jennings bore his testimony in the adult session and it was incredible. He's come so far! He asked me to stay afterwards so I could stand in the circle to ordain him to the Melchizedek Priesthood!! That was really cool. :)

But then Saturday night we found out that, guess what, I'm getting transferred. :/ We didn't expect that at all. It's because they're putting sister missionaries in. And they should be good for the area, it's just a little sad to be leaving right when I was settling in and things were starting to happen. Joe is progressing super super well, and Glynn and Brissa too, and Sierra and Destiny just got baptized... But it feels right. I don't fully understand why yet but it feels right and I think I will eventually.

But. As a result of transfers... We are insanely busy today. I have zero time left. Pictures will have to wait till next week. And as for a message... Go study Mosiah 4:6-12 and liken it unto yourself!

I love you all!!

Elder Swindler

Picture from mission blog. Can you find Elder Swindler?

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Smokies! (and Weakness)

Hey folks!

We had a crazy busy week this week and I wish I had more time to tell you all about it. But I don't, because we had a pretty crazy P-day today. We went with a member in our ward up to the great smoky mountains, and it was awesome! But it also took up a lot of the day, which is why I'm short on time. I will try to send some pictures in the next few weeks. Even at this time of year when the leaves are all dead, it's a stunningly beautiful place.

We've been meeting with Sierra and Destiny, the two girls that are getting baptized this Saturday (Roger and Mayetta's grandkids), a lot this past week. The best preparation for them though seems to be coming to church and establishing relationships with the girls their age. And they feel the Spirit there. When they meet with us it's usually pretty crazy, they don't focus very well and they both have a little bit of a crush on us so teaching anything can be pretty hard. They could use your prayers, if that's okay.

We also have another investigator preparing for baptism! Glynn, Brissa's husband. Which is surprising, Brissa was the super legit investigator and he was a little shaky when we first started seeing them, but we haven't been able to see her much lately because of scheduling conflicts, and he's become pretty interested. He's scheduled for Jan 9 and he really seems to want to be baptized. He's studying the Book of Mormon a lot, which is awesome. And we're helping him learn to pray more, and more effectively, and learn to listen for answers. We taught him the Word of Wisdom on Saturday and he's willing to start trying to live it, he could use your prayers too.

Also. Mayetta has been struggling again with the Word of Wisdom. She could also use your prayers, while I'm at it.

Forgot to mention I talked in sacrament meeting last week. It went well. I talked about the Sacrament and the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

Had a cool experience tracting this week when we were waiting for an appointment. I felt like we needed to knock on a door, and nobody answered, and then I felt like we needed to try the house next door - and it wasn't a loud feeling, it was very subtle and I wasn't really sure about it but I figured, hey, why not - and we tried it, and the guy who answered was super open to talking to us. We shared a little message with him on his porch, and he told us how his faith in Christ has helped him through his father's passing away a few months ago. Our return appt with him is tomorrow, so hopefully he's there! We were pretty excited about all of that.

Played guitar at the ward Christmas party. And our investigator Joe came, which was great.

Message for the week!

While I was at church on Sunday, during the sacrament, I was feeling a little overwhelmed with all the responsibilities on my plate right now. And in the midst of all the craziness of the night before and that morning, I forgot it was fast Sunday. And I was feeling a little inadequate. But as I sat there I felt the Spirit comforting me. The feeling was sort of like "Your Father in Heaven knows you're not perfect, and He forgives you. It's time you forgave yourself."

Heavenly Father loves us so much. And He knows we're not perfect! That's nothing new to Him. As Elder Holland once put it, imperfect people are all He has ever had to work with. He sent and sacrificed His Son for us so that we can overcome our weakness and imperfection and sins, over process of time, and become like Him. In fact, He's the one who gave us our weaknesses. Ether 12:27 teaches us:

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

We're not meant to be perfect in this life. And that's okay! We're meant to learn, and to grow. We've got to learn to humble ourselves, and trust in God, and exercise the faith to live day by day, asking daily for His help and moving forward even if we aren't sure how it will work out. And I can testify that He does fulfill His promise to "make weak things become strong." I'm definitely a weak thing. He makes sure to remind me of that whenever I forget it. But it's really neat to be in a lesson with somebody and feel the Spirit working through us to change their life - and be changed myself in the process.

Hope that makes sense. I'm super super tired right now... I love you all! Make yourselves a great week! And remember to share A Savior is Born!!

Love,
Elder Swindler

Fotos
1) Sunset


2) Last district selfie (minus Elder Bateman)


3) Cops at a doughnut shop. The stereotype is real.


4) the greatest chocolate milk on the face of this planet. Seriously, y'all've gotta try this stuff.


5) Selfie with Ali who is leaving for the Redlands CA mission and her brother Preston




6-7) Do these guys look familiar? ;-)