Monday, February 29, 2016

Y'all're Mormons

Hey folks!

Whoa. It's March already?? That was fast...

Things are going well here in Bristol. We're working hard to find new investigators still. And we're trying to meet with the people we've found. Things are proving somewhat difficult though. The devil sure doesn't like the work here in Bristol to progress. What with appointments cancelling, people not answering their phone, and people getting sick, we haven't been able to see very many people this week, including Dusty and Amber and also Jon. :/ But! We'll keep trying this week.

We did have first lessons with a couple of new investigators this week. One is named Carmen, she looks to be in her 40's and she's a really neat lady. The lesson with her went well, and we had a really great member with us who did an awesome job in the lesson, but we haven't been able to get ahold of her since. :/ The other is a super spunky old lady named Louise. We had a really great lesson with her too, and had another really great member team-up. But this time we did get a return appointment with her for Wednesday, so hopefully that'll work out and she'll actually be there. :)

Anna is still progressing slowly but surely. We had a really good lesson this week about eternal families. She says she still doesn't fully understand the doctrine, but it is something she wants - to be with her family forever. That's something to build on. Some of what she doesn't understand is how things will work with family relationships that aren't so good - when husbands and wives, parents and children, or brothers and sisters may not want to be together in the next life. As I've thought about that, the thought that keeps coming to mind is the infinite nature of the Atonement. The Atonement of Jesus Christ can literally heal anything. It requires that we allow Him to heal us, and that we exercise the faith and put forth the necessary effort to be healed. And healing is not always a pleasant process. But it can be done. And it's worth it.

Funny story from the week: on Tuesday we were helping a member move and Elder Lambert fell right out of the back of the truck flat on his back and smacked his head. And then right when he started to sit up and smile to let us know he was okay, the boards he had just been holding fell down too and smacked him on the forehead. Once it was apparent that he wasn't dead it was actually pretty stinking hilarious. But then he started feeling nauseous a little while later, so we called the mission doctor and he told us he probably had a minor concussion. So, lucky me, I got to wake up every two hours that night to make sure he hadn't stopped breathing or anything in his sleep. :P

Funny story two: we knocked on a door yesterday and the man who answered rather bluntly informed us "Gentlemen, you're Mormons, I'm not interested, goodbye" and shut the door. Thank you, sir. Somehow as soon as you opened the door I totally forgot who I was and why I was standing on a stranger's doorstep in a white shirt and tie over a thousand miles from home, so I really appreciated your brilliant and kindly observation that I am, in fact, a Mormon. Way to go, Einstein.

Anyways. Message for the week. I'm low on time, but I just wanted to bear a brief testimony on the power of the priesthood. This week I was reading through the notes I wrote in my journal after being set apart as a missionary of what I could remember from the blessing. It was amazing to me to realize that I can now see many of the things I was blessed with coming to fruition. I know that my stake president was led by the Spirit to pronounce those blessings, and I know that it is because of God's priesthood power that he holds that these blessings are coming to fruition. We live in a glorious time - a time when God's priesthood power has been restored to the earth along with the fulness of His gospel! That's amazing!! I testify to you that it is real - and that He is real - and that He will change your life if you will apply His gospel to your life. The priesthood is restored! Find that out for yourself, take advantage of it, and then share it with others! What are you waiting for?! :)

I love you all! Make yourselves a great week!

Elder Alex Swindler
 
Fotos
 
1) P-day selfie
 
2) And another one, because I love y'all (unbeknownst to Elder Lambert).
 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Two New Investigators!

Heyyy folks!

Great week this week! Sadly I don't have time to tell you much about it! But suffice it to say that things are starting to pick up here in Bristol. :)

I've got time for one story really quick. We went to contact an old potential investigator (he filled out a survey at a fair way back in like 2014) named Dusty. We talked to him once before but we had to cancel our return appointment because of snow. When we got there he was out on his porch, and we started talking. He was asking us questions about what we believe and what makes us different. Then like 5 minutes later his wife Amber pulled up with their 5 year old son, and out of the blue he asked us if we wanted to go out for dinner. So they took us out to Mellow Mushroom! Turns out they are both super awesome and are sincerely interested. He asked us if it would be okay if they came to church soon, and if the Book of Mormon was available online for him to read (I'm sure we looked like a couple of puppy dogs after the doorbell rings, we were so excited). It was awesome. :) We're gonna be seeing them again hopefully this week, and we're hoping we might even be able to teach them in a member's home!

That was easily the highlight of the week. And we had some other adventures, including a referral named Earl. First thing he told us was that he referred himself just to prove to his mom that we aren't the Jehovah's Witnesses. Another star moment was when he asked us if we knew about a website called "MormonBoyz." We told him we didn't. He told us it's a pornography website... And the best part? He told us Elder Lambert looks just like one of the guys on there (and he even pinched his cheek when he told him)... Yikes. Hahaha right about then I spoke up and told him we actually had to go. Like, right now. We hightailed it to the car, and once we got over the creepiness of the whole thing we about died laughing. Hoo boy. Missions are great. :)

But really. This week was great. I wish I had more time to tell you all about it.

Another quick message this week.

Something that really struck me at church this week was that the Savior really can heal anything in our lives - and that sometimes the adversity and trials and weaknesses and struggles we face ARE part of the cure. Some things can only be healed through the furnace of affliction. The beauty of it all is that even when He does not always take away our burdens from us when we ask, He doesn't ask us to bear them alone. He bears them with us, if we will let Him.

If you get time, look up the Mormon Message called Bearing Our Burdens With Hope. It's about how our burdens can actually enable us to get through things sometimes. It's a great one. :)

I gotta run. The Gospel's true! I love you all! Make yourselves a great week!

Elder Alex Swindler


Fotos:

There's this giant countdown clock in downtown Bristol for this huuuge College Football game between the University of Tennessee and Virginia Tech at the Bristol Motor Speedway. People here are crazy about football.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Let Me Check My Schedule So I Can Avoid You (But I Won't Say No)

Hey folks!

I'm super late today and also pretty tired so this week's email is probably gonna be pretty short.

This week we had a few appointments fall through, which was kinda dumb. But we also got in contact with a few potential investigators and a less-active lady who said they'd be interested in meeting with us! And we tried to contact a referral again that we've been trying to see for a month, and after they didn't answer (again - even though we had an appointment) we tried the neighbors and they said they'd like us to come back! Which is great too! Only when we showed up on Sunday at the time they asked us to come, surprise! They weren't there. :P But other than that it was a fairly good week. The work here in Bristol is beginning to pick up. It's nice to start to see some fruits of our labors.

We did service on Tuesday and Friday for different members in the ward like we usually do. After the service on Friday we ended up having an epic snowball fight with the other elders that was super fun. And we saw Anna a couple times. We're focusing on helping her learn to recognize the voice and fruits of the Spirit for herself in her life. She read Alma 32 and really liked it. She read it like 2-3 times and she wants to read it some more if she has time to try to understand it better.

My message for the week is some homework, if any of y'all get the time. Dust off your copy of Preach My Gospel if you have one (or download it on the Gospel Library app, or find it on LDS.org), go to chapter 4 ("How Do I Recognize and Understand the Spirit?" - an awesome chapter to study in general if you have the time), read the section called "Learn to Recognize the Promptings of the Spirit" (pg. 96-97) and do the study activity. :)

I love you all! Make yourselves a great week!

Elder Alex Swindler

Pics:



1) Elder Swindler, Rooster Wrangler (from a member mom)


2-3) Good ol' Stars and Bars.


4) A member in the Abingdon, VA ward gave the Sisters some squirrel, so they decided to fry it and bring it to district meeting. It was pretty tasty.



5) "Hey Sal! Ahbaughtchyeuh truck! It's just fer you!"

Monday, February 8, 2016

Ups and Downs

Hey folks!

This week was kinda crazy. We did a lot of trying to contact old potential investigators and less-actives. And we had some success! And it was nice to get to drive on back-country Southern roads again. I haven't gotten to do that since Rockwood. The South can be so stunningly gorgeous... I'm so grateful to be serving in one of the most beautiful places in the world. :)

Well. Some bad news. On Tuesday, Michael (Tonya's husband) called and dropped us. :( He wouldn't tell us why and he wouldn't let us talk to Tonya. And before we could even try to talk to him he just hung up on us. We were pretty upset about it. We were sitting there wondering what on earth to do and feeling kind of shell-shocked, so we decided to try praying about it. After praying, discussing, praying again, discussing again, and praying and discussing one more time, we both felt that we needed to go over there anyway that night (even though he asked us not to) and try to talk to them about it all.

So we did. And not too surprisingly Michael was angry that we'd come. He still wouldn't let us talk to Tonya and he still wouldn't tell us much about why they were dropping us. It was so frustrating. They were doing so well! And it was hard to say goodbye like that after coming to love them. But they have the Book of Mormon and they know what they need to do to learn if this is true and the way God wants them to go. When the time is right I hope the Spirit will move upon them to try investigating again. And they'll be stronger because of the opposition.

But the night wasn't a total flop! We were in the car wondering what to do, and one of us had the idea to drop by a person we've been trying to get ahold of for awhile. His name is Skyler, he's the grandson of the sister we gave the blessing to last week (and it was when we gave her the blessing that she told us where his house is), and he was once investigating the Church and almost got baptized but he got mixed up with some shady people and kind of fell away. We've tried his house before but he was never home. But he was just down the street from Tonya and Michael, so we decided to try again. When we knocked, no one answered, but just as we were getting in the car he and his girlfriend Logan walked up! They'd been out walking the dog. So we ended up having a pretty good visit with them and getting two new investigators. And if we hadn't prayed, followed the Spirit, and gone to visit Tonya and Michael, it wouldn't have even happened. God does answer prayers.

We also had a good lesson with Anna this week. And an investigator in Elder Lambert's last area got baptized, and we got to video-call in to watch it, and Anna came to watch too! Afterwards the investigator got up to bear her testimony, and she talked about how she joined the church despite having no support from any family or friends - which is one of Anna's concerns (she feels like she'd have no support if she joined). So that was good.

We had an investigator named Jon come to church this week! He told us he's been thinking a lot about baptism by authority and he's decided it's something he wants. He says he's willing to work for it. It's gonna take some work, he has some significant word of wisdom concerns, but that's awesome. And we also had a guy named David come too! He's an excommunicated member who has decided on his own that he is ready to come back. He came to church and said he had a wonderful experience. :)

We also had a great lesson last night with a member named Ryan's stepdad Hank at Ryan's house. Hank has been around Church members for years but has never expressed any interest at all until recently. Ryan (who is a newlywed of like 2 weeks) bore a powerful testimony of the blessings of an eternal family and really opened his heart about how much it would mean to him to be sealed to Hank and his mom. It really seemed to touch Hank and he agreed to start reading the Book of Mormon.

I'm short on time so I'll keep my message for the week brief. I've been studying President Monson's recent conference talk "Be an Example and a Light" (Oct 2015) which is really good if you have time to study it. Something that stood out to me from his talk was being an example of the believers in the way I speak:

"Each of us came to earth having been given the Light of Christ. As we follow the example of the Savior and live as He lived and as He taught, that light will burn within us and will light the way for others.

"The Apostle Paul lists six attributes of a believer, attributes that will allow our lights to shine. Let us look at each one. "I mention the first two attributes together--being an example in word and in conversation. The words we use can lift and inspire, or they can harm and demean. In the world today there is a profusion of profanity with which we seem to be surrounded at nearly every turn. It is difficult to avoid hearing the names of Deity being used casually and thoughtlessly. Coarse comments seem to have become a staple of television, movies, books, and music. Bandied about are slanderous remarks and angry rhetoric. Let us speak to others with love and respect, ever keeping our language clean and avoiding words or comments that would wound or offend. May we follow the example of the Savior, who spoke with tolerance and kindness throughout His ministry."

Even as a missionary, I feel like the way that I speak is an area I need to improve on. The way I speak to / about others, using slang, the humor I use / laugh at... I'd like to work this week on watching and improving my language.

I challenge you to read President Monson's talk and pay attention to what stands out to you! Pay attention to the Spirit, choose one thing to work on this week and work on it. That's another thing I learned this week - we have got to improve steadily, but we've got to do it one thing at a time. Don't overwhelm yourself. Listen to the Spirit and follow it's promptings. The strait and narrow path leads onwards and upwards. Take it one step at a time. :)

I love you all! Make yourselves a great week!

Elder Alex Swindler


Pictures:

1) District selfie with President and Sister Griffin. They had me take it because I have long arms. :P


2) Personal prayer win.


3) Yes, that is a Prius with flame decals. Welcome to Virginia.


4-5) P-day selfies featuring Elders Hopkins, Baird, Lambert, and yours truly (complete with fresh haircut).


Video: Some companionship fun. (Elder Lambert is under the pillows)
video

Monday, February 1, 2016

Day 6

Things are going great. I have a feeling this is going to be a great transfer!

Everybody Talks



Hey folks!

So Elder Hoff did end up getting transferred this transfer. He's in Asheville, NC now. My new companion's name is Elder Lambert. He's super awesome. He's from Nashville (seriously, he's only a few hours from home). We are bizarrely similar. Like, we have similar interests (he loves theater and choir and reading and a heck of a lot of other things in common with me), we think similarly, we talk similarly, we have similar past experiences, we even look similar.... So many things. It's a little eerie.
                  
In other news, Elder Nelson from my first district in Rockwood is here! He's Elder Dyment's new companion. And a bunch of my mission friends are training new missionaries this transfer, including Elder Milne, Elder Larson, Elder Beard, and Elder Darrington.

Some stories from this week:

Tonya accepted a baptism invitation! She's getting baptized on February 27th! But they weren't able to come to church this week and they had to schedule their appointment with us today because her husband's health is bad right now. They could use some prayers.

On Thursday we gave three priesthood blessings! One to Jon, an investigator, one to Michael (Tonya's member husband), and one to a member named Charlotte. We'd actually been trying to see Charlotte for a few weeks, so it was really a blessing to us as well to be able to meet her and talk to her.

Elder Lambert's first impression of the area must be that people here talk a LOT, because in the few days he's been here we've had at least 4 different people talk our ears off. First the member who gave us a ride to and from transfers in Knoxville talked basically nonstop for the whole 2.5+ hour car ride back (but he told cool stories so it was actually okay). Then we had a team-up with an awesome recent convert, Brother Gauvreau. He came with us to see Tonya and Michael, and he talked for probably a third of the time in total all by himself, and then kept us in his van in the parking lot of the church telling us stories for another hour or two afterwards (we were trying to leave but there seriously wasn't a break!). Then we had an epically long lesson with Anna. Her lessons usually go kinda long but this one was seriously the longest lesson I have ever had on my mission. It was good though. She's still reading the Book of Mormon, and she's coming to us with real, sincere questions. We taught her how to "liken" it to herself. And THEN last night we had a dinner appointment with the Harrises, and Brother Harris barely even paused to take a bite and chew, let alone breathe. We were seriously there for like 3 hours before we found an opportunity to jump in and say "Hey, Brother Harris, we've gotta go!"

My spiritual thought will have to be brief because I'm out of time. I'll just share some thoughts from my reading in 1 Nephi if that's okay.

In 1 Nephi 1:20, Nephi says:

"...But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance."

This is immediately before he begins to relate the story of the incredible physical and spiritual trials he and his family went through. Nephi is telling us what he learned from his experiences - and what we can learn too.

Faith in God is more than a passive belief in Him. It is a choice to act even if we don't know everything because we believe in Him. The Lord wouldn't have made Nephi and his family "mighty even unto the power of deliverance" if they hadn't chosen to exercise the faith to pack up and leave when He told them to. Time and time again throughout his writings, Nephi shows us how God works in the lives of His children according to their faith. If we will choose to exercise faith in Him and act - like Nephi did many times - the Lord can work miracles through us and for us in our lives. If we choose to merely passively believe that He exists but refuse to act in faith or only do so grudgingly - like Laman and Lemuel - we are choosing to reject His power and the blessings He so desires to give to us.

I challenge you to examine yourself and your life. How can you act in faith this week? Pray, ponder, study, and pray again about it. Figure out what you can do. Then do it!

I love you all! Make yourselves a great week!

Elder Alex Swindler


Pictures:

1) "Welcome to Hillbilly Grocery Store -- We have a large selection of wine!"


2) Sister Davison took a stalker picture of me and Elder Lambert when we were doing service. Luckily I saw it coming so I at least closed my mouth ;)