Monday, December 26, 2016

Star Wars, Pole Dancing, Bedbugs, and the Savior

Hey folks!

This was a pretty eventful week for us. We taught a lady named Tiffany, who is a single mom with 3 kids. Her kids mean so much to her and she really wants the best for them. She told us she knows we are sent to her from God because we came to her door right after an unusually difficult night with her kids and she was at rock bottom. She said He must want her to hear our message.

We also had our Christmas zone conference this week which was awesome. President Griffin gave an amazing talk about the birth of the Savior, and then we had an opportunity to bear testimonies, and then we played dodgeball and watched Star Wars Episode VII (don't worry, we were with President Griffin so it was allowed). It was pretty awesome.

On Christmas Eve we went and did service for a less active sister named Rebecca who lives way, way out in the sticks. She is in her 20's and is kind of crazy. She is a really good musician, and she does gymnastic stuff like aerial silks. And she also does what she calls "pole fitness." Which is basically the nice way of saying that she does pole dancing but is not a stripper haha. She does not currently have a pole in her house, so she asked us to help her install one. So we spent our Christmas Eve afternoon attempting to install a pole-dancing pole for a less active member. Fun stuff.

And then that night we realized we have bedbugs! Yay! Elder Urry had gone on exchanges with the Spanish Elders that morning to teach an English speaking person they had found, and the lesson went well, but that night he was telling me that their house was kind of gross and that there were a bunch of little "beetle things" in the couch that were crawling up his arm. Um, what?? So we checked his coat and sure enough, we found like 3 or 4 bedbugs right off the bat. So we spent our Christmas Eve cleaning the apartment like crazy. Tomorrow we'll bring the landlord over to have it inspected. Hopefully we can get this taken care of soon. :/

And then Christmas Day we had a beautiful sacrament meeting, ate a ton of food, and got to call our families. It was a wonderful day.

I am grateful for my savior Jesus Christ. Because of Him, we do not have to be what we have been. This week at the Christmas zone conference the Spirit bore witness to me of the Savior and His Atonement, and I realized that not only do I believe in Him, but now I can look back and actually see the effects of His cleansing and enabling power in my life. I can see His hand in my life, giving me power beyond my own to be more than I am capable of being on my own. And I can see His hand in the lives of those around me. I still have many weaknesses as we all do, and He knows that because He made us that way. But His enabling power "is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before [Him];" for if we humble ourselves before Him, and have faith in Him, then will He make weak things become strong unto us. (Ether 12:27) How have you seen the hand of Jesus in your life this year? What will you do differently this next year to exercise greater faith in Him, humbly acknowledging your own weaknesses and seeking His enabling power?

I love you all!

Elder Alex Swindler

Monday, December 19, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Hey folks!

It's only been a few days, but a lot has happened. We have been working hard and have seen some successes this week. For one thing, we were able to help that part member family move his week, the one I mentioned last week that we found at the ward dinner. We were also finally able to meet with Allen Chappell, one of our investigators who wants to be baptized. He's had some crazy medical stuff going on so we had to move his baptismal date to March.

We also said goodbye to Elder Cazier this week. President Griffin did a sort of half-transfer for all the people who would be going home just after Christmas, and that included Elder Cazier. We drove to Knoxville on Friday to drop him off, and he flew home on Saturday. We were sad to see him go. He's been a good companion. Also, it's been really weird adjusting to just having the two of us. Sometimes we pretend he is still there and talk for him in the car haha.

Oh! We also saw the Nagy family again on Sunday. We love them, they are always our last stop of the week and they are the best. We are usually there for like 2 hours because they are just so awesome. Well, they are a part-member family, and they asked us to start the missionary discussions over again with them, and this Sunday we taught them the Restoration. The Spirit was so powerful as we talked and it was amazing, especially when his step-kids bore testimony to him. Plus they had a friend there that night, just by coincidence, and she stayed for the message, and she really liked it. She asked for a Book of Mormon and said she would read and pray. And both Allen and their friend accepted an invitation to be baptized! We haven't set a date with them yet but we will soon. It was awesome!!

We have something incredible in this church. This is the only true and living church on the earth. That doesn't mean that other churches don't have truth, nor does it mean that this church is perfect. It means that we are led by a living prophet of God, that we have the authority from God to act in His name, and that we have the fullness of His gospel. We are not perfect, and neither is the Church. But we are Christ's, and we can see His enabling power made manifest in our imperfect lives and throughout the history of His church. While there may be things we don't understand - perhaps facets of doctrine or events in our history or actions of church leaders or something else - there is so much we do have and that we do know that the other things become important in perspective, and we can become willing to set them aside for the time being, trusting in God that He will help us understand in time and as we exercise faith in Him and continue onward. As Christ Himself taught us in Matthew 7, the way to know is to taste the fruit: "A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. ...Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them." The fruit of the Restoration is good, and it has blessed my life. I know it will bless the lives of others. That is why I am here sharing it. How has the restored gospel blessed your life? When was the last time you tasted its fruit?

I love you all! Merry Christmas, and make yourselves a great week!

Elder Alex Swindler

All About Them Pics:

1) Goodbye to Elder Cazier. Love that guy.

2) Our ward and primary are the greatest!! They gave us and the Sisters a whole bunch of stuff for Christmas!

3) One of the Sunday school classes attempted to make us gingerbread houses. ...hey, it's the thought that counts, right?

4) I got a haircut

5) Angel with a bazooka

Video: I (sort of) attempt the cinnamon challenge. I know it was only like half a teaspoon full, but hey, it was something.
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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Burdens

Hey everyone!

We had a half mission conference on Monday with Elder Nielsen of the 70, so our prep day got moved to today. Which is why I'm emailing a couple days late. And we had an extra crazy p day, which is why I'm emailing so late in the day and why this will probably be pretty short.

This week we worked really hard to find people to teach. And we actually had some good success! One of my favorite parts was finding a part member family at a church social (the Bishop introduced us) who are awesome, and want us to come and meet with them. We are helping them move tomorrow. Another favorite part was going tracting in Carthage, TN on Sunday. We had been fasting and praying for people to teach, and we knocked on one door, and the guy who answered was nice but uninterested. But he said we might want to try the people across the street. So we did, and a young newlywed couple popped right out. They watched the Light the World video and then stood in the freezing cold for like 5-10 minutes and talked to us. And they asked us to come back next week, and then told us they wanted to give us something for our church because of how impressed they were with us, and then before we realized what they were doing, they handed us a $100 bill and shut the door. So we went home with our mouths dragging on the ground. Haha that doesn't happen in real life. We'll give the money to the ward this weekend.

My message this week is something I learned at the half mission conference. There is so much I learned there, especially that God answers my prayers and the Holy Ghost is real, because I got a lot of answers there to things I've been struggling with. But one of my favorites is the concept that was shared by Elder Bednar a couple conferences ago: our burdens and loads are really blessings from our loving Heavenly Father. He used an analogy of a friend who got his truck stuck in snow, and it wasn't until he had filled the back with the wood he had come to chop down that he was able to get the traction he needed to get out. We are the same way. Happiness is not necessarily the absence of a burden. Oftentimes we pray for our burdens to be removed from us, but that is often counterproductive to our Heavenly Father's purposes. Much of the time, it would be more appropriate for us to pray for the strength to change our own circumstances. It is in changing our own circumstances and bearing our own burdens alongside the Savior that we are able to change and grow. He desires to help us and to bear our burdens with us, and He will give us strength beyond our own through the enabling power of His Atonement. We access that strength by accepting His will and becoming as a child (see Mosiah 3:19). I have been struggling lately because it can feel like our efforts have been getting us nowhere, especially our efforts to find people to teach who will progress. But this has got me thinking about how I can use this burden to get traction, so to speak, and what God wants me to learn from this experience. What burdens are you carrying that you could reexamine? How are you approaching the Lord about the burdens He has given you?

I love you all! Make yourselves a great week!

Elder Alex Swindler
#LIGHTtheWORLD

Some Pics for Youns and Some Videos:
1) Just chillin in my shades

2) New Christmas sweater

3) Huge burger

4-6) District pics. Elder Cazier is "dying" (going home) this weekend.

7) Crazy Christmas lights

8) Found Elder Milne at the half mission conference! I haven't seen him in ages!

9-10) A lot of the reason for the crazy p day. Elder Lambert got permission and came up from his home in Nashville to spend the day with us. It was awesome. :) I miss that guy.

Video) We tried to scare Elder Urry but it didn't work very well
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Other video) I breathed fire!!
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Monday, December 5, 2016

Hey, It's Kinda Short This Time

Hey folks!

We had a bit of a crazy week. We've been pounding the pavement trying to share the Christmas initiative with as many people as we can. I actually have to make this pretty short because we have to get up super early tomorrow morning to drive to Knoxville, so we'll see how this goes.

We finally saw Fabian, our investigator, again! We had a good lesson with him about real intent. He opened up a little about how he has mostly been investigating for his wife's sake (she's an active member of the church), not really for himself. We helped him to see that that might be why he hasn't received much of an answer from the Lord about the truth of the gospel. He has to do it for himself, out of his own love for the Lord.

We also tracted into a Jehovah's Witness guy. We had a great lesson on his porch and yet he still wouldn't accept a Book of Mormon or even a pass-along card. That was kinda frustrating. But it was still good, because we had a member named Ammon with us who we have been trying to encourage to go on a mission, and it was really good to have him there. Even though the guy didn't accept, Ammon still got to bear his testimony and it was good.

Today at the store Elder Urry struck up a conversation with a legit lady named Alexandria! He's already turning out to be a great missionary.

Well I'm out of time. I'd like to encourage you to study the example of the Brother of Jared. He is mentioned as an example of one who had great faith. What made his faith so great? I think there are a number of instances where his incredible faith is really shown, especially in Ether 3 when he sees the Savior. Another instance is in Ether 2, when he comes to the Lord and says:

"18 And it came to pass that the brother of Jared cried unto the Lord, saying: O Lord, I have performed the work which thou hast commanded me, and I have made the barges according as thou hast directed me.

"19 And behold, O Lord, in them there is no light; whither shall we steer? And also we shall perish, for in them we cannot breathe, save it is the air which is in them; therefore we shall perish."

The Brother of Jared saw a problem and had some concerns. But he didn't stop building the boats because of that. He trusted that the Lord knew what He was doing and he kept working until he had done all he could, and THEN he turned to the Lord. I think in his shoes I might have stopped working as soon as I saw the problems, and gone to the Lord and said, "um, excuse me, but I found a possible problem with your plan..." But not him. He kept working.

D&C 123:17 says: "Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed."

Let's all strive to increase and exercise our faith in the Lord by striving to do His work and trusting in Him. I love you all! The gospel is true!

Elder Alex Swindler
#LIGHTtheWORLD

Monday, November 28, 2016

Carolina Reaper

Hey folks!

This week was pretty crazy. We picked up a third companion and ate tons of food and did a lot of tracting and all in all had a pretty good time.

On Tuesday we got together as a district and did a hot pepper challenge. We all ate jalapeños and white habaneros, and then the member who brought the peppers brought out a couple of Carolina Reapers. Elder Cazier and I were the only ones brave enough (or stupid enough) to do it haha. Aaand it sucked. Haha but we both did it without dying or throwing up, so that's good! And now I can say I've eaten the hottest pepper in the world. :)

Wednesday was transfers, which meant lots and lots of driving. And we got a third companion! His name is Elder Urry, he's from Bountiful, UT, and he's brand new. Elder Cazier and I are trio training him. So far it's been pretty fun.

Thursday we ate TONS of food. Like, tons. I wish I'd weighed myself before and after because it was pretty impressive. First we ate with a less active family (and we invited the daughter to come to church, and she came!), then we went home and digested for awhile, then went and finished up at the Hokanson's, a legit member family here in the ward. I'm actually related to them, funny enough. Brother Hokanson is my mom's cousin and Sister Hokanson was one of her best friends in high school. And of course they loaded us up with lots of pie to top it off. We waddled home that night.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday we did a ton of tracting, trying to share this year's Christmas initiative with as many people as we could. Personally I have been trying to get more out of my comfort zone by talking to more of the people we pass on the streets and by being more bold on doorsteps. And we actually had some success, especially Sunday! We spent the evening working up in Carthage, TN, one of the more far-out towns in our area, and several people talked to us and said we could come back. Which is awesome. It can get really discouraging when no one seems to want to listen. So this weekend was definitely a bit of a pick-me-up. And we also got to end our Sunday night at the Nagy's house, a part-member family that are one of my favorites here. We really want to set a baptismal date with Allan, the father. He really likes the Church and its teachings and we think he would probably accept the invitation to be baptized.

This week I'd like to invite you all to take a minute to watch this year's Christmas initiative, Light The World. You can find it at Mormon.org. One thing I really like about the initiative this year is that it is not just a passive, watch-and-forget sort of thing. It invites us to act and take initiative in sharing the light of Christ with others. As you watch, I would invite you to consider what you will do to share the light. There are even handy suggestions on the website for each of the 25 days of December leading up to Christmas Day, starting with a worldwide "day of service" on Thursday, Dec 1. I would also ask you to share the initiative on social media, and to prayerfully seek for an opportunity to share it with someone specific, someone who might be brought closer to Christ by your sharing this with them. Do it personally and with your family. Make it fun! This is a great opportunity for us to share the light. (Mosiah 16:9, 3 Ne 18:24)

Let's all light the world! I love you guys!!

Elder Alex Swindler
#LIGHTtheWORLD

The Pictures

1) Elder Cazier and I passed out in the living room Friday night and Elder Urry took a stealthy pic

2) District Thanksgiving selfie with Melia

(I don't have the videos of us eating the Carolina Reapers yet but I will get them!)

UPDATE: Here are the videos of us eating the Carolina Reapers.
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Monday, November 21, 2016

Omni 1:26

Hey folks!

I just have time to share a quick verse with you. It's Omni 1:26:

"And now, my beloved brethren, I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved."

There is so much more to the gospel than simply knowing, or checking boxes and saying we're done and good and we're keeping the commandments and going to heaven. If we want to truly know Jesus Christ for ourselves and partake of His peace and love, we must come and experience the power of His redemption for ourselves. To come to know Him, to become converted, to experience this redeeming power, we must lay our whole souls on the offer of sacrifice unto Him. We must consecrate our whole selves - body and spirit. We must repent. Which is a lot to ask.

So what are you holding back? What things do you need to change and improve? What can you lay on the altar of repentance?

Our mission is doing a 40 day "fast" from certain things that we each personally and prayerfully consider. We're abstaining from - or making conscious effort to be more Christ-like with - specific and personally chosen things in each of 6 areas: Disobedience, Fear, Passions, Pride, Attitude, and Laziness. I've fasted and prayed personally and chosen some things I will sacrifice. And if you are up to it, I'd like to challenge you to do the same. If we will all do this, I know we will all become more consecrated servants of our Savior. I know also that by striving to offer our whole souls as an offering unto Him, and continuing in fasting and praying, we will come to know Him for ourselves, and we will have the lasting and fulfilling peace and joy that come from that.

Iff you are struggling to come up with things to lay on the altar, might I suggest prayerfully studying Alma 5 for some ideas? Just remember: you have to make these things specific! Not just "I will fast from being prideful," for example, but what specific prideful behavior will you fast from? How will you do it?

The gospel of Jesus Christ is true, and it has been restored to the earth in its fullness by the prophet Joseph Smith. Jesus lives today! And this truly is His church. I have felt the Spirit witness of these things to me many times this week. I know also that anyone can come to this knowledge if they desire. It requires real desire, humble prayer, consecrated work, moral courage, and a willingness to put faith before doubt. It is very doable. And it is a lifelong endeavor. It will never be finished in this life and no one is exempt from trying.

I love you all,
Elder Alex Swindler
#LIGHTtheWORLD

Pics:
1) A last district picture with a recent convert named Sheri

2) A pretty sunset

3) Tater Peeler Rd. Yep. Gotta love Tennessee.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Belief is a Choice

Hey folks!

Our week was pretty good. It had some ups and downs. Probably one of the coolest ups was finding a less active member named Rebecca. Not sure if I already told you about us helping her move in last week or the week before, but her dad (who is a member in Cherokee, NC) called us and asked if we could help him move some furniture into his daughter's house. So we did, and afterwards we left a note with our number that said if she ever needs help with anything, give us a call. Well, we didn't really think she'd ever call us... But then this week, out of the blue, she did! So we went out and helped her with some things for a couple hours and she wants us to come back. It was a neat little experience, finding her.

We also found a new investigator named Steven who likes to talk, a lot. He's actually a former investigator whose name we found and decided to try, and he wants us to come back. Hopefully we can get a word in edgewise and teach him a little, because he seems like he has some real potential.

We had an interesting experience this week with finding a part-member family. We found the names of a couple youth-aged members who weren't active and decided to try them, and the lady who answered let us right in and was super friendly. The family clearly knew who we were and liked us too (which, like, never happens). Turns out they used to be super active but then the  mom (after a series of events and other things in her life) decided to have her name removed from the records of the Church. We called her later to set up an appointment and ended up talking for a long time about why she made that decision. And ever since then it's had me thinking.

My message this week is brief, and it is inspired by this experience. It is that belief is a choice. I could have argued with this woman at length and made a good stand. I probably could have "proved" my point, and done it quite eloquently. She certainly could have "proved" hers as well. And it would have gotten us nowhere.

The gospel is not something that can be proved or disproved by debate, or logic, or study, or facts. While those are useful tools and can indeed support the truth of the gospel, they alone cannot prove it.

God has designed our mortal experience to give us opportunity to choose for ourselves. We cannot learn or grow in this life without making a choice. And belief is one of those choices. I can choose to listen to the Lord, try the fruit, taste that it is good, and then act on that knowledge. Or I can choose to taste of the fruit and then listen to the voices of the great and spacious building and wander away. Or I can choose not to taste the fruit at all. But I must make a choice. Facts and figures and study will not prove its goodness to me, nor will it cause me to stay by the tree. Only tasting the fruit will tell me of its goodness, and only my own freedom to choose will keep me by the tree. I can choose to find reasons to stay, or I can choose to find reasons to leave. But I must choose.

I hope that makes sense. The gospel is true. I know it. And I also choose to believe it. I hope you will all do the same.

Love,
Elder Alex Swindler

Pics and stuff:

We were at a really pretty dam! So I took some dam pictures! Also a district picture with the zone leaders.



More stuff:
1) I burn some pants (to celebrate 18 months of missionary-ing)
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2) Potato baseball
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3) I can't jump over fences, apparently
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Monday, November 7, 2016

18 months

Hey folks!

I hit 18 months yesterday and it's super weird. I'm not ready to be this close to home yet!

This week was pretty good. Highlights were meeting a really sweet investigator guy named Fabian. He is the husband of an active member and really likes the Church. He opened up to us a little more about his concerns. He seems to be a little afraid to pray and ask the Lord if these things are true. He wants to do what the Lord wants him to do, but he also knows that if he were to be baptized, he would feel like he would be betraying his mother's faith (she was a devout member of another faith). Even though he knows she would fully support his decision either way. I think he just wants us to understand where he is coming from.

We also had a great lesson with Nathan, a guy our age we found last week, and his dad Roger. Nathan knows the Bible really well and belongs to another faith, but he wants to understand what our beliefs are and where we are coming from. He wants to know why we put so much effort into proselyting to other Christians. We taught him the Restoration and it went well. He kept having an issue though with the idea of prophets and priesthood authority after the coming of Christ. He accepted the truth of it before His coming, but he kept saying, didn't Jesus finish His work on the cross? Why would he need to call prophets after his coming? Isn't he capable of directing His work on His own by the Holy Spirit which He sent after His ascension?

This is what I wanted to talk about briefly this week. We have a unique message to the world. The Gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored in its fullness to the earth! That means we have a better understanding of the grace of God and of His grand purposes than any other religion. Because of the Restoration, we understand that we are not just meant to be saved, but to become perfected and glorified. To change. We understand that God's work is not merely to save His children, but to "bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man."

Of course Jesus finished His work on the cross. He finished the perfect and complete and infinite atonement for our sins. It is finished! No more price can ever be paid than that which was paid by Him. And of course He is capable of directing His work without the aid of man. He has absolutely no need of our help, whatsoever. He doesn't need to call prophets. He doesn't really need any of us to do anything, as far as completing His work perfectly. He can do that just fine on His own.

But what would be the point of that? Sure, we would be saved, but for what? Would we really be all that different? No! So, really, although He could certainly do His work on His own better than He could by means of mortal man, He chooses us to be participants in this great work, all of us, if we are willing. He knows that by using the "weak and the simple" - you and me - to proclaim the gospel, He really fulfills His purposes, because we learn and grow. That is why we have prophets. If we will listen to them and trust in Him and join in this work, we will all grow together. If he just came down and did it all, there wouldn't be much growth.

Sorry if this is scattered. I am out of time. I love you all!

Elder Alex Swindler

Monday, October 31, 2016

Things are picking up

Hey everyone! Happy Halloween!

We had an interesting week. Things are picking up slowly but surely here in Lebanon. We found a new investigator named Nathan, he's a cool young guy who seems to have pretty high moral standards. He had some misconceptions about the church and initially it seemed like he wanted to bash with us but after we talked for a bit he seems to be genuinely interested or at least curious. We will see how things go with him.

We also were able to meet with an investigator named Joel who is really neat. He is from Africa and speaks 7 languages. He is currently part of a group that is working to translate the Bible into a language whose name I can't pronounce or even dream of spelling. But he is super cool.

And we had some success working with our members. We got 2 or 3 of them to come out with us this week and teach people. One of the members that came with us is a really cool recent convert named Boogie (or at least that's what he goes by). He was perfect! We taught an investigator named Randy with him and he like perfectly addressed all of Randy's concerns. It is so neat to hear his perspective on things as a new member of the church, it's very fresh and honest.

I have a brief message this week. It is from 2 Nephi 32:3-5:

    "Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.
   "Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark.
   "For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do."

We all have need of the Lord's guidance. And we all have work to do in His kingdom. He has given us the means we need to understand His will for us and to receive His guidance and counsel that we all so desperately need. If we will ask, seek, and knock - prayerfully feasting upon His word and seeking for what He would teach us and what we need to do - and listen closely to and follow the prompting of the Holy Ghost, the Gift of which many of us have received - we will be told "all things what we should do," and we will be shown what to do to achieve those things. We don't need angels to come to us and minister to us and tell us the answers, because we already have before us the very means by which angels communicate: the Holy Ghost and the words of Christ. Ultimately the Lord wants us to grow, and we must learn to act for ourselves in order to grow. And it is often in the very effort and process of searching for answers and guidance that we find just what it is that we needed.

I know that God loves and guides His children. I know He will guide you and me as we seek for it. I have received His guidance many times in my life and especially as a missionary, and I know we all can - and must - receive our own guidance from Him as well, throughout our lives, relative to our callings, our families, and our personal lives.

I love you all! Make yourselves a great week!

Love,
Elder Alex Swindler

Pictures:
1) Fishing for our district p-day. Top: Elders Cazier, Vellinga, and Leon. Bottom: Me, Sister Roser and Sister Vance

2) I caught a fish!

3) The leaves are changing

4) We made lemon pasta


Monday, October 24, 2016

I Actually Wrote a Fairly Short Email This Time

Hey folks,

Guess who has no time? Surprise! It's me.

But. We had a good week. We got a couple members out with us to our teaching appointments, and Jamie (a guy we tracted into last week) came to church!!

Here's a quote from President Monson I like a lot and that I am trying to apply:

"Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved."

It can be so easy to forget that though, as catchy as it may sound. Life's problems can be so immediate and all-consuming in the everyday moments that we can easily forget the people who are right there before us. The Savior set the perfect example in this regard. He had many, many tasks to perform, but never did He ever let them supplant in importance the people around Him who needed His love. Nor does He let it happen today with you and me. He has so many tasks of cosmic importance to perform, and yet still He teaches us that we are His work and His glory. Let's all strive to be more like our Savior in that regard. 

I love you all! Make yourselves a great week!

Elder Alex Swindler


Pictures:


1) Yup, you read it right: Little Salt Lick Road. And this is where it intersects with Difficult Road. In a community called Defeated, TN. You can't make this stuff up.
 2) Jamming with members.

3-4) Our awesome jack-o-lanterns.



5) New shirt.


Video: Driving in Lebanon 
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Monday, October 17, 2016

Lebuhnun

Heyy folks!

Well, I got transferred this week. I'm in Lebanon, TN now (I have been told at least 3 times now that it is pronounced "LEH-buh-nun," NOT "Leb-a-nahn") with a companion named Elder Cazier ("Cuh-ZEER"). He is from Treemonton, UT and will be going home in December. It's a good area with a great ward and a lot of potential, but right now the members' trust in the missionaries isn't great and the work is kind of slow. It's not bad, but it's a bit of a jarring transition coming from Melton Lake. Elder Cazier hasn't been here for very long either, only a few weeks, so we are kind of getting to know the area together. I have hope though that things will get much better. There is also a pair of sister missionaries in our ward, Sister Vance and Sister Roser, who have been here for just a couple months longer than us, and they have been working really hard to build the members' trust and are starting to see some really good changes. The work in their area has picked up a lot and the members are really starting to trust them. So we just have to follow their lead. We already have some promising people. We tracted into one guy this week named Jamie who really opened up to us and told us about how he is struggling to overcome an addiction. We talked to him about the atonement of Christ and he wants us to come back and help him. We will try to get him to the addiction recovery program as well. 

I am out of time. I love you all. The gospel is true! Christ lives and loves you, and His atonement is real and can be a powerful force for good and healing in your life if you will let it be so. Make yourselves a great week!

Elder Alex Swindler


1) Posterity picture - Elder Merrill, me, and Elder Frederick
2) Goodbye to the Valdez family, one of my favorite families in Oak Ridge

Monday, October 10, 2016

Another Transfer

Hey folks!

Wow. We had an eventful week. Transfers are this week and I will be leaving Melton Lake to go to Lebanon, TN. Elder Frederick will be staying here with a new companion. I'm excited for a new area and new opportunities, but I'm sad to be leaving Melton Lake and Elder Frederick. This has been my favorite area so far - the ward is AWESOME, and there are so many people here that I'll be sad to leave - and Elder Frederick has been a really great companion and friend. But hey, that's how missions go.

A cool story from this week: out of the blue one morning we had a sudden idea to try dropping by a less active member family named the Bainums. We've tried them before and haven't been able to catch them at home, but we figured we might as well. This time when we pulled up, we found them outside on the porch. We walked up and they were all excited to see us. They had a friend with them named Frank. Frank told us that two days before, he had prayed to know if God was there, and promised Him that he would be His servant if He would show him what he needed to do. And then when he came to stay with the Bainums the next night, somehow their conversation turned to the gospel, and they were up talking until 3 am. He told us he didn't think much of it and kind of dismissed it, but then the very next morning, there we were walking up the driveway. He told us he didn't know what it meant exactly or what he was supposed to do, but that he knew that somehow we were sent there by God for him, and that he would listen to whatever we had to say. It was so cool!!

So we came back and taught him the Restoration. It was like nothing he'd ever heard before. He told us it just sounded and felt right, and he promised to read from the Book of Mormon and pray about it. He even accepted the invitation to be baptized! He has a lot of personal struggles he is trying to overcome and he is really reaching out to God right now. Helping him come to know Jesus Christ for himself will make such a difference. And Brother Bainum told us afterwards that he has also been praying for help with some personal struggles for the last few months, and every time he has, the answer he has gotten has been to "talk to the missionaries."

It was a great way to end a transfer. :) I'm excited for Elder Frederick to get to work with all the people here. Frank is one of several people here that just sort of appeared out of nowhere and are super prepared to receive the gospel. Melton Lake has been sort of the area of miracles in that way.

My message this week is something it seems the Lord has been trying to teach me this transfer. It is that if we will try to love Jesus Christ, with everything we've got, then everything else will fall into place for us.

The gospel is true. Christ lives, and He is the way. I love you all. Make yourselves a great week!

Elder Alex Swindler
Pictures:
1-2) Final district pics: Elders T. Nelson, Bateman, Swindler, Frederick, L. Nelson, and Merrill
3) "Killing" Elder Merrill - he will be going home this transfer. I'm gonna miss him. He's been a huge part of my mission. It was cool to serve around him one more time, the first time since he trained me actually.
4) A selfie
5) Zone picture with President & Sister Griffin
6-7) A cool member let us hold his big gun haha
8-9) Goodbye to Crystal, Cameille, and Camron

Video: Just a good ol' boy blaring some country gospel on his motortrike.
video
 
10) We made taco soup!
 

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Book of Mormon

Hey folks!

I apologize but I do not have time to write much of an email this week. We did have a really good week though. The best part was a lesson with an investigator named Kim. She's a longtime friend of a couple of members here in the ward. They have been talking to her about the gospel for years, and she has expressed only mild interest at best, but a few years ago her father passed away, and this past summer her son did as well. Now she is asking some very sincere questions about eternal families and what happens after this life, and she finally agreed to meet with us. When we taught her about the plan of salvation it was clear she felt the Spirit testifying to her of the simple truths, and when we asked her what it would mean to her to be with her family forever, she told us "it would mean more than anything else to me. I would give anything to have that."

It was a sweet experience and I am grateful for it. Kim is wonderful and sincere. And her friends have been awesome to her. They have been true friends to her for so long and she trusts them so much, and their diligence in sharing the gospel with their friend has finally begun to show its fruits.

Melton Lake is a miracle area. We have so many ridiculously golden investigators that have just fallen into our laps.

Another highlight this week was going on exchanges with Elder Merrill, my old trainer. It's been a blessing to serve around him for his last two transfers as a missionary, and this week I got to spend one last day with him. It was cool how it has come full circle - we served together when I first came out, and now again as he is going home. I love him a lot and I'm going to miss having him around. He goes home in 9 days.

And of course, general conference was this week! It was awesome, of course. I hope you all were able to watch at least part of it. I learned so much from the talks, and from the Spirit helping me to apply the messages that were given. One thing that stood out to me was an emphasis on the Book of Mormon. If we will take time every day to study and apply the words of the Book of Mormon, our faith in Christ will grow strong, and we will be able to stand strong in the turbulence of the last days. I have come to love the words of the Book of Mormon as a missionary. They are true and powerful. They testify plainly of Jesus Christ and His Atonement, and of the restoration of His gospel in our day. Please, take time every day to feast upon its words. You will not go astray if you will sincerely and faithfully study and apply the words of the Book of Mormon every day.

I love you all!

Elder Alex Swindler

Picture:

1) The selfie that my mom requested.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Baptahzd

Hey folks!

Man, this week was great. The best part was definitely seeing Camron and Cameille get baptized (or as it is properly said here in Tennessee, "babtahzd"). I have said it before and I'll say it again: that family has come so far and has been so changed by the atonement of Christ. It's been truly beautiful to see. The service went well and had a good turnout, and the Spirit was really strong there. Elder Frederick baptized Camron and their grandpa baptized Cameille, and Elder Frederick and I confirmed them the next day in sacrament meeting and gave them the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Their mom and grandparents were all emotional afterwards and it was obvious how grateful they are for the Gospel in their lives. I've probably mentioned this before, but their mom, Crystal, was pretty much off the deep end and wanted nothing to do with the Church or really with God for the last 15 years. Now she is back of her own free will, and she tells us all the time just how much happier and more at peace she is. She never knew what she was missing until she finally gave in and came back. She is so grateful her kids have made the decision to be baptized. She didn't push them at all, but she sure wanted them to have the joy she's just rediscovered. And she sure wants to be with them forever.

Anyway. I could talk about them a lot. It was a good weekend. :)

Also this week, we had a really neat experience doing service. We got a call last week out of the blue from a lady named Ann saying that she needed urgent help moving, and someone had referred her to us, and would we be able to help? It was going to be on Thursday, and we were kind of busy that day, but we agreed to help for a little while and we asked Elder Merrill and Elder Nelson if they could help too. At first they told us they couldn't because they were busy, but then all their appointments cancelled the day before, so they were able to come. And while we were there helping, all of our appointments for the evening called us and cancelled as well. It worked out so that all 4 of us were able to stay and help her for the whole afternoon and evening, which was needed because she had a lot of stuff and not much help besides us. She's been going through a really rough patch - her father, mother, brother, and fiancée all passed away within the last 3 years.

Well, out of the blue, Ann showed up at church on Sunday! She came to the other ward instead of ours, but luckily Elder Merrill and Elder Nelson spotted her and sat with her. They talked with her and answered some of her questions. She is easily as golden as Marvin, the ridiculously golden guy we taught last week. She said she felt something completely different at our church that she's never felt anywhere else - this warm and welcoming feeling. She cried when she learned about how people can accept Christ even after they die, and she is really interested in the Book of Mormon. And we found out that she had been praying, a lot, for the Lord to send someone to help her move, and then miraculously both our and the other Elders' appointments all fell through that day and we were able to stay and help. She came to church partly just because she was impressed with how we treated her - she said we treated her like we were her brothers.

The Gospel is amazing. And what with everything happening here in the area right now, and back home, I feel that perhaps the most hopeful doctrine of the Gospel is that because of Jesus Christ, we can be clean and pure and live with our families forever. What greater blessing can we ask for? What higher cause can we live for? Let's choose to live for that. Doing so will bring a peace and comfort and reassurance into our hearts that nothing else can bring. Jesus Christ has the power to heal any soul, any family, any life, and to bring us all back to our Heavenly Father, to dwell with Him and with our families forever. That's His job. Our job is to let Him. And His Spirit can uplift us and fill our hearts with faith and reassurance to face any trial or challenge, if we will let Him in. The choice is ours. Start where you are. No one is too far from the love of Jesus Christ to improve. I promise that greater joy than we can even comprehend is ahead of us as we press towards the tree of life, holding fast to the word of God, as Crystal and her family have discovered. Christ is offering us eternal joy with our families; what else matters?

Remember to listen to the Spirit's voice. His voice builds us up and encourages us to try harder and be better. His voice tells us we can do it. The devil's counterfeit tells us we ought to be better, but we never will be, and we are worthless and can never do it and should just give up. Be careful which voice you listen to.

I love you all! I hope you are as excited for General Conference as I am! Make yourselves a great week!

Elder Alex Swindler
Pictures:

1-2) Baptism pics :) (From the left: Sister Crosby, Brother Crosby, Cameille, Camron, Elder Frederick, Elder Me, Crystal)

3) Poor Elder Frederick

4) The Eccumenical Storehouse crew this week (it's like a Christian food pantry, but for furniture and houseware. Sorta like DI back in Utah. We volunteer there a lot). From the left: Brother Newport, Elder Nelson, Elder Merrill, me, Elder Frederick 

5) Camron made a spaceship out of chairs 

6) 40000 miles!
  
7) Bowling