We had a good week this week. Super busy which is always great. We did lots of finding and contacting former investigators and less active members and such and actually had a fair amount of success. We also have a ton of return appointments for this week. It's really cool for Elder Frederick to be here in Melton Lake right now while he's being trained. He gets to experience an area with a lot of work going on and really great ward members. I'll give you some of the highlights from this week.
On Tuesday we were able to meet with Verner, a less active member, again. We are focusing on helping him regain a testimony of Joseph Smith as a prophet of God because that will help him resolve basically all his other concerns. He is really sincere about it although he hasn't read much from the Book of Mormon yet since we have started meeting with him, despite our efforts. Hopefully he'll read this week.
On Wednesday we went on splits with the priests. Well, sort of. We were told that they wanted to go on splits this week, but apparently it was actually supposed to be next week, and they forgot to tell us about the error. But the YM president and one of the priests ended up going with us anyway, bless their hearts. I went with the priest named David and saw Esther. She is doing well, she is on board still with telling her parents but she hasn't really done it yet. She wants to wait until they are through with the stress of moving. Elder Frederick went with the YM president and visited with a less active named Michael we have been working with. We are doing basically the same thing with him as with Verner. He has a lot of real intent so I have high hopes for him.
Thursday we saw Janice, another less active member. She's awesome. She's really down to earth and just a little crass and it's super funny. She's not come to church in decades, but lately she has been making huge progress. And she actually came this week to hear Bishop Tobler speak! It was actually a funny story, her plumbing was having issues and her brother kept telling her to call the Bishop and ask if he knew a good plumber, and she was right in the middle of telling him how she was "NOT going to call Bishop Tobler!" and then as she walked into Firehouse Subs mid-sentence, there was Bishop Tobler standing right there. Long story short he helped her get a plumber and then invited her to church to hear him speak in a few weeks, and to his and our great surprise, she actually came, for the first time in decades! :)
Friday we went up to Rocky Top, TN, which is in the northernmost tip of our area. Yep, you read that right: Rocky Top, TN, just like the song. Although the song actually came first. The town used to be called Lake City just a few years ago, but it was sort of dying, so I guess in some sort of desperate attempt to give it a boost, the people there voted to rename it Rocky Top after the song. We went partly because we just wanted to see what the heck was up there. Well, it was SUPER po-dunk and backwoods and turned into an all-day adventure that didn't yield much fruit. :P But it was really pretty and also a lot of fun. Our GPS took us on all sorts of mountainous backwoods gravel roads way in the heck out in the boonies, and the scenery was so pretty. And we met a guy named Jeff who was hit by a train once. That was fun.
Saturday we met with a lady named Sharon who requested a free Finding Faith in Christ DVD. She talked about the things she has been going through and the reasons she is trying to find greater faith in Christ. We taught her about the Book of Mormon as a way to increase her faith and she promised to read.
Sunday we met with Jonas again, the 17 year old who wants to be baptized. We haven't met with him in almost a month, but he is still on board with his August baptismal date which is great. And we also met a cool less active guy we didn't even know existed - we went to contact someone else at the house and he popped out and talked to us for awhile about how he wants to quit smoking. We talked about the Atonement and how we can have greater access to it through priesthood ordinances like the sacrament. He promised to come to church. It was neat to meet him.
Wow, this is already super long. I'll finish up. But I'm doing well. Training is hard and stressful but also a lot of fun. I know I'm sure learning and growing a lot in the process and I hope and pray that somehow Elder Frederick is too. Haha it's definitely a humbling experience for me.
I'm gonna steal my message from the week from Elder Merrill. Oh - by the way - there was an unexpected early transfer in the mission this week, and Elder Merrill - my trainer - is now in my district!! He's actually my district leader too! It's super cool. He will almost definitely be finishing his mission in the Poplar Creek ward (the other Oak Ridge ward - I am in the Melton Lake ward) and I'm glad I get to be around him one more time before he goes home to Georgia. And it's cool that Elder Frederick gets to be around his mission "grandpa." :)
But yeah. I'm stealing this from him. In our district meeting this week he talked about the "fruit of the gospel" in Lehi's dream and the sweet blessings we enjoy because of the gospel. As missionaries we are focused on sharing that fruit - planting its seeds in the hearts of others. But in order to get to the seeds of most fruit, you have to eat through the outside. His point was that in the midst of everything we are doing as missionaries, if we forget to take time to enjoy the fruit and its sweetness ourselves, we will be denying ourselves blessings and also missing the whole point of the gospel. If we want to get to the heart of the fruit where the seeds are in order to share them, we need to be eating the fruit and enjoying it. The sweetness of the gospel fruit keeps our own testimonies fresh and strong and fills us with a sincere desire to share it. As members of the church and followers of Christ I think we can all apply this truth. In the midst of all the programs and activities and callings and responsibilities and even trials and struggles and issues we face, let's not forget to enjoy the sweetness of the gospel. What is it about the gospel that you enjoy most? What makes you happiest?
I love you all and I hope you make yourselves a great week!
Elder Alex Swindler
1) A picture of me making a normal face. You're welcome, Mom.
2) Heh. Nice.
3) Elder Frederick was tired
4-5) Welcome to Rocky Top
Video) Just a video of us tracting.