Sorry I didn't send an email last week. I had a nice one drafted but then my iPad ate it and there wasn't time to write another one.
These past two weeks have been good. I'll share some highlights.
Last week we went on two exchanges back to back. The first was with the zone leaders, Elder Hill and Elder Farnsworth. It was basically just so that Elder Lambert and Elder Hill could be together one more time before Elder Hill got transferred, because they used to be companions and they are really good friends. So we came up with a reason (Elder Hill is good at finding and Elder Lambert wants to get better at it) and got President Griffin's approval and off we went. I stayed in Bristol with Elder Farnsworth. It was pretty good, and Elder L loved it.
The second exchange was the next day, with the other Bristol Elders (Baird and Collins). It was mostly because Elder Baird and I wanted to go on exchanges, because we've become good friends here and he was about to go home. Plus he's really good at talking to people on their doorsteps and that's something I want to get better at. So we got permission for that too and off we went. It was super fun, and I did learn from him too, so it was good. We stayed up till like 2:30am talking haha.
Also last week, I got a call from Elder Beard in Knoxville. He told me that Joe from my last area has decided he wants to be baptized now! Elder Beard has been working with him a TON, and Joe has said before that he wants to be baptized, but never would set a date. Finally Elder Beard texted him just to tell him he'd likely be leaving the area in a couple of days and he was grateful to have gotten to know him, and Joe replied that he had decided that morning he wanted to be baptized, and that he wanted Elder Beard to do it and me to be there! Which is awesome!! Not sure if it's going to happen that way though, I'm clear up in Bristol and Elder Beard did just leave the area. Haha but as long as Joe still gets baptized, I'll be happy.
This week was awesome. We finally had a lesson with a less-active member named Melanie, who promised her dying father a couple months ago that she'd meet with us and get back into church and get her life in order, and her nonmember boyfriend Eric. It was great! They're both committed to doing what they need to to get right with God. And Eric even told us if he finds for himself that what we taught is true that he'd want to be baptized! They came to church again this week and seemed like they had a great experience.
We also had a lesson with Kristen and David again. They still haven't read from the Book of Mormon, which is dumb, but they are also still pretty on board with learning. We did set a baptismal date with Kristen though! June 4th
And we taught Joyce again (the girlfriend of Fred the less active who came back to church a couple weeks ago). She is awesome. We taught the Plan of Salvation and she absolutely loved it. She especially loved 2 Nephi 2:22-25. She told us it's like everything she had learned before had a stop to it, and this was taking it all to the next step and getting rid of the stop. It made things she'd always been taught suddenly all make sense. She and Fred are getting married on Tuesday!! And she's been enjoying church too so that's good. And she accepted a baptismal date of June 11th!! That's three baptismal dates (Jon, Kristen, and Joyce)!! The work in this area has changed and grown SO much! So many prayers have been answered. :)
Sunday was great. We had the best ward council I've ever been to, ever. We talked about specific investigators and less actives and their needs, not just calendaring and fluff. Assignments were made, people volunteered for things, ideas were offered... It was awesome. I'm excited for how much the work in this ward has changed and grown since I've been here. I've been blessed to see it and be a part of it.
Also on Sunday, we had a pretty remarkable sacrament meeting. Just before it started the Aaronic priesthood and bishopric realized there was a problem with the sacrament cups - namely that there were barely enough cups left in the building to fill a tray and a half. So they improvised with some big colorful solo cups left over from an activity. They could only fit about 8 to a tray, so the deacons kept having to coming back for more cups that the priests would fill from a pitcher on the altar, until there was only one person left who hadn't had the opportunity to partake of the water. So a little deacon made the long walk back to the front, got one last cup, and brought it back to the person. It made for a longer, very reflective, and very spiritual sacrament. I won't soon forget it.
Something I took from it was that the sacrament - and the Atonement it points our minds and hearts to - is the most important part of church. It's not something to be taken lightly. The bishopric could have easily said "oh, we'll just skip it this week" and we all could have just waited to take it until next week. But they didn't. Nor did the deacons stop going back for more cups until every last person had been given the opportunity to partake - just as the Savior didn't stop His suffering until every last person had been atoned for and given the opportunity to repent and be freed and cleansed and changed.
I know the Gospel is true. I know the Savior lives and has power to change lives - your life and my life and all of our lives - and He will, if we will just come unto Him "willing to take upon [us] the name of [Jesus Christ], and always remember him, and keep his commandments which he hath given [us], that [we] may always have his Spirit to be with [us]." He can loose any chain, lighten any burden, lift any heart, and change any life for the better. He just asks, wherever we are, to reach out to Him and begin taking steps.
I love His words in Isaiah 1:18: "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."
I know that's true and I testify of that in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
I love you all!
Elder Alex Swindler
1) Fun at the park!
2) What happens when the South runs out of road names
3) Let's play Redneck I-Spy! Can you find the truck??
5) I forgot to mention what happened at transfers. I'm staying in Bristol for one more transfer with Elder Lambert. Elder Nelson left Marion. Elder Baird went home. And guess who replaced Elder Baird? Elder Bateman, my old companion from Knoxville!!! Haha we spent most of Wednesday evening catching up. We were so excited to see each other again. This is gonna be an awesome transfer.