Monday, March 28, 2016

Finding

Hey folks!

Guess what? I'm short on time again! Surprise! Haha I'll try to keep this short. But knowing me, it'll probably end up long somehow anyway.

We had a pretty okay week this week. We did a lot of trying to contact people and knocking on doors, which usually isn't very effective, but the weather has been mostly nice so it was actually not too bad.

Highlights from this week:

We had dinner with a member family and they had their less active son David and his nonmember girlfriend Kristin over as well (per Kristin's request, actually). David wants to get back into church and Kristin, who doesn't have much religious background at all, is really reaching out to God right now and wants to be taught by us. We had an awesome lesson with them about who God is and His role in our lives, and why we're here. Both of them, but especially Kristin, were just lapping it up. And they came to church on Sunday! And on top of that we have a return appointment for this week. We're pretty excited about that. Although Kristin may live on the other Elder's side of the ward so we might have to pass her off. :P

We also met a neat less active couple named Laura and Timothy! We were out contacting people we had in our records and we knocked on their door and they let us in. They've recently moved to the area after both of them losing their jobs, and they have been struggling to recover both temporally and spiritually. Laura in particular said she has been struggling in her faith. We had a good simple lesson with them and committed them to pray together as a couple every night. We've got a return appointment with them too. :)

Anna watched women's conference with us! It was a really good conference and she said she liked it. Beforehand she had us help cook dinner (I made asparagus and more Nutella bars - thanks Mom!) and then we ate a TON of food. Every time our plates cleared a little she shoveled more on them. Haha typical Anna though. I thought I was gonna pop by the end.

And at church, we had Kristin and David come, and also a less active member named Melanie and her non member boyfriend Eric. Melanie's father passed away (I think I mentioned that last week or the week before?) and that led to her deciding she wants to come back to church. Now her and her boyfriend want to meet with us and take the discussions. So that's cool too. The work is definitely picking up here. Thank you all for your prayers!

In closing, I'd like to share our mission president's email to us this week (sorry this email is long - it's worth reading though, I promise!). He was revisiting a topic he gave a training on at our zone conference this week that was really pretty amazing. He talked about the difference between sin and weakness, and how weakness comes from God and is an intended part of our mortal experience. We need not feel guilt over our weaknesses. As we come unto Christ He actually shows us the weaknesses he has given us (so seeing how weak we are is really a sign of our progression), and if we will humble ourselves and exercise faith in Him, He will help us become strong. He may not (probably won't) take away our weaknesses, but He will help us learn to use them as strengths and improve gradually over time. Anyway. Enough rambling. Here's President Griffin's email:

> Dear Elders and Sisters,
>
> I wanted to thank you for a incredible experience at each of our ZC's. The Spirit was present. I could feel and see Him working in each of you. I pray that you will remember what it was you felt and thought. Even more importantly, I hope you will choose to act upon that witness.
>
> Below please find a few of my notes that I want you to remember from our training. These are not all my own, but thoughts, words and scripture I have compiled.
>
> Remember:
>
> Sin is not the only expression of human failure, however. Human weakness is also responsible. Weakness, inherent in the mortal condition, includes limitations on endurance, judgment, wisdom, energy, skill, resilience, or physical capacity. Weakness includes susceptibility to disease, emotional disorders, temptations, addictions, and death. Such human emotions as anger, worry, fear, sadness, and pleasure are also inherently weak when untutored.
>
> Weakness can lead to sin, but weakness in itself is not sin. In fact, God is the author of human weakness, while Satan is the author of sin. We are weak by design, as part of the mortal experience. God is patient and tolerant with human weakness, yet He cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.
>
> In the book of Ether, the Lord gives a succinct explanation of how we can receive strength from the Lord for our weaknesses. He says:
> An 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. (Ether 12:27)
>
> Once we respond to our weakness with humility, God offers us His grace. Just as charity is a special work for Christ’s love for us—love we cannot fully understand without spiritual help—grace is a special word for God’s particular brand of goodness to us, also beyond our full understanding.
>
> In the same way the God offers forgiveness to the penitent sinner, He offers grace to the weak but humble. Forgiveness is akin to cleansing, freeing, or canceling a debt, while grace refers to divine help or strength.
>
> I pray for and love you always, President Griffin
>
> HIS WORK.....................HIS WAY.........................BY HIS POWER



I love you guys! The Gospel's true! Make yourselves a great week! Happy Easter!

Elder Alex Swindler

Fotos:

1) Spring in the Appalachians

2) Selfie with my friend Elder Shaw who'll be going home this transfer

3) Cows

4) Easter tie selfie with Elder Lambert

5) Why are you advertising that your people are messy?

6) The sisters left this selfie on my iPad when I left the room

Monday, March 21, 2016

Another Week in Bristol

Knock knock!
Who's there?
The Mormons!
*a pause, some shuffling, the TV cuts off, then silence*

Hey folks!

This week was super quick. I can't believe it's already Monday again. Although sadly it wasn't quick because it was busy. We had a lot of appointments lined up that fell through, which was unfortunate. But we had some good experiences so it wasn't all bad. We had a really good discussion in ward council on how to improve ward council. We had another good appointment with Anna. She is crazy close to accepting the gospel but she's still just not ready yet. She also had us over to her church again on Friday for another dinner service (they've been having Friday dinner services for lent for the last few weeks apparently) and we made chocolate hazelnut bars at her house for it (thanks for the recipe, Mom!).

We also had an appointment with a couple of old investigators named Travis and Katie. Well, they're actually a fairly young couple, but they're long-time investigators. They're close friends with some of the members and they've investigated off and on for awhile. We and their member friends are pretty sure that Katie will get baptized if Travis ever does. His main concern seems to be with the priesthood. They've got a 3 year old boy and they just had another baby within the last few months, so we're going to emphasize eternal families. We think this might finally be the right time for them. And they're really awesome. They have a lot of real intent. They both want to know if it's true. Travis was saying he just hasn't gotten an answer yet for some reason. We'll focus on helping them find answers to their prayers too. They could sure use your prayers.

We are being blessed with some opportunities to work with new people. Remember that family I mentioned? The one wit the grandma Charlotte we gave a blessing to in the hospital, and the grandson Skyler we got in the door with, and the grandson Tanner's girlfriend Kelly we also gave a blessing to? Well, Charlotte's brother just passed away this week. And as a result, at least one of his less active daughters and her non member fiancée are wanting to come back to church and meet with us to take the discussions. It's neat to see God working in their lives. They are going through such a hard time, but at the same time so many blessings are coming throughout all the hard stuff.

We could use your prayers too, for help finding new investigators and for some guidance on how to help the investigators we have, and so that we can actually meet with them (Jon cancelled every appointment we had with him this week because of his dying mother in law keeping them awake all night. We have to be patient, but it can be frustrating).

I'm short on time, as usual, but I'd like to leave a brief challenge. Take some time to prayerfully examine your Sabbath day observance. It is a "sign" between you and the Lord (as Elder Oaks put it) of your desire to obediently serve Him and consecrate your life to Him and of your gratitude for all He has given you. Do you need to make some changes? Make them!

We've been watching training videos in Ward Council from the Brethren on Sabbath day observance. Here are a few quotes I wrote down.

Our Sabbath observance is a sign between us and God. Personal preparation for the sacrament begins long before you walk into the chapel.

"Every week we have access to the powers of Godliness that help us in our ongoing process of sanctification." -David A Bednar

Sabbath day observance should not be regimented by leaders but should be decided by individuals in council with the Lord and by families in family councils (also with the Lord).

"As we humbly seek the Lord's help He can help us progress from good to better to best" -Linda K Burton

"As we keep this one commandment it will increase our capacity to keep all the others." -Russell M Nelson

"The particulars of exactly how each of us tries to keep the higher law don't matter [as much as] that we are truly and sincerely trying to keep the higher law, and as we do that He will enable us... As we do that our homes will become [a] refuge... -one of the members of our ward council

And finally, one from an email from our mission president about self discipline:

"I’m not asking you to turn over a new leaf today, or commit to a new program. This is merely an invitation to live life as Christ intended, which includes difficult choices, some hard work and increasing capacity to enjoy all the goodness the Savior offers those who come unto Him. Choose to worship, serve and love the Lord this day."

I love you all! Thank you for your prayers and support. The Gospel's true! Make yourselves a great week!

Elder Alex Swindler

Fotos:

1-2) The new district, from left to right: Elder Hill (who is actually not in the district but was on exchanges in place of Elder Nelson), Elder Dyment (district leader), Elder Baird, Elder Collins, me, Elder Lambert, Sister Crawford, and Sister Johnson.



3) One of the members we do service for on Fridays is building a geodesic greenhouse in their backyard.

4) I got a new haircut! (I know it looks just like the old one, shhh...)


5-6) Elder Lambert and I pranked the other Elders last week with the fake poop my mom sent me. Elder Baird was FREAKING OUT. He was like "how does anyone even poop like that?!? You'd have to like grab your ankles and have, like, explosive diarrhea!!!" To top it off, even after chipping off the "poop" with a q tip as it started to peel off, they STILL haven't sat on it since. They're too grossed out. This was last Monday. :D

 


Monday, March 14, 2016

Under Restoration

Hey hey!

I hope you all had a great week. We had a pretty good one. Once again, though, I'm short on time. :/ I'll try to give you the cliff notes version.

We went to a dinner and a service at Anna's Episcopal church! It was really pretty and the people were super friendly. And she cooked, so of course the food was super good. I like going to other churches. Although my favorite part always seems to be coming back to our church afterwards. There's such a difference in the Spirit I feel at ours. And she is making progress. Thank you for all your prayers. Actually this week she made a little comment that stuck out to me. She said "it took me 50 years to leave my last church. I hope it doesn't take me that long this time."

We had stake conference on Sunday, which was really good. This really cool area 70 from Atlanta came and spoke. He could've been a black Baptist preacher. He was awesome. And Elder Maynes from the presidency of the 70 came too. They both gave some really good talks. One thought I really liked was from Elder Maynes: "Why don't we treat our children and those under our stewardship the same way we treat investigators, with the same level of attention and care and planning and effort?" As missionaries, we put a LOT of thought and planning and care and preparation into each individual investigator. It would make a huge difference if we all did that in our other church callings and roles in life.

Dusty and Amber didn't come to church. :( Actually Amber has all of a sudden decided she's not interested at all. But we're still in contact with Dusty and he's still interested, at least we think/hope so. We'll keep trying. Prayers would be appreciated.

We finally had a lesson with Jon! He REALLY wants to get baptized. And he came to church again this week. So that's awesome.

Also - I heard from our new zone leader, who just came from Rockwood, that Ronnie is on date for baptism!! Do y'all remember him? He was the first person I ever talked to about the gospel on my mission. He let us in because we mentioned we play guitar. And we could never get him to pray. Well, they finally got him to pray, and apparently it was such a powerful experience for him that he started crying right in front of them. And afterwards he accepted a baptismal date! I was so happy. :) And the area sounds like it's really blossomed. The Jennings had their baby too!

My message this week is to follow the promptings of the Spirit. The Lord has a marvelous work to perform and He has a crucial part for each one of us to play. If we will all do those small things He prompts us to do, even if we can't see the full picture, He can use us to bring about great things. For instance, I've been told that on average a convert has positive contact with at least 7 members of the a Church before being baptized. If any one of those members didn't speak up or live up that person might not have been baptized.

Gotta go. I love you all! Make yourselves a great week!

Elder Alex Swindler


P.S. Everyone go watch and share the new Easter videos, Hallelujah and Follow Him! They're awesome.


Fotos:
1) Here we see the Tennessee missionary in his natural habitat

2-5) We found an old house or jail or something in the backwoods and thought it was cool that they knew about the Restoration too :)





6) The Hillbilly 10 Commandments

Monday, March 7, 2016

Priesthood

Hey folks!

Man, I've gotta come up with some more salutations. I'm sure you're all sick of reading "hey folks" every week. Suggestions are welcome.

I hope you're all well. I'm great. We had a pretty good week this week. We finally heard back from Dusty! He had worked 84 hours in 8 days and so he hadn't really been able to get back to us. He took us out to eat again (this guy! My goodness) and we answered some of his questions about the Book of Mormon. He's awesome. Although he and his wife are kind of struggling in their marriage right now, they could use some prayers. They'll be coming to stake conference this week! That should be good. :)

We also had a really good experience this week giving a blessing to a girl named Kelly. She's the girlfriend of the grandson of a member in our ward (and the grandson is a former investigator). The grandma called us and asked if we could give her a blessing. She asked Kelly (the girlfriend) and Tanner (the grandson) if they'd like us to and they both said yes. Kelly was in the hospital at the time and was really struggling spiritually and physically. And she had been having some pretty scary experiences with seeing evil spirits (seriously). We gave her the blessing and afterwards it was amazing to see the difference. She was crying and you could visibly tell she felt better. She told us she felt a lot better. We gave her a Book of Mormon and told her if she reads it when she's struggling she'll have the Spirit with her. It was a huge blessing for her and for us, and it came because of a faithful grandmother who hasn't given up on sharing the gospel with her grandsons. Please keep them in your prayers too!

I'm completely out of time, but I'd just like to bear my testimony again of the power of the priesthood. I saw it work again this week in Kelly's life. She says she has been doing so much better and I know it's because of the power of the priesthood. I'm so grateful for the Spirit of the Lord that directs this work. I love you guys and I really appreciate all your prayers! The Gospel's true! Make yourselves another great week!

Love,
Elder Alex Swindler

Fotos:
1-2) Companionship selfies (as requested by my mom)



Some videos and a picture from our adventures this week:


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