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

Monday, September 19, 2016

Lord, Save Me

Hey folks!

We were pretty busy this p-day so I'll keep this short.

We had a pretty good week this week! We had an awesome zone conference that was really great for me, I've had a lot on my mind lately and literally every one of the trainings that was given addressed something I've been stressing about. President Griffin's was especially great. He gave a really powerful training on how we recognize the Spirit. It is unique to each one of us but we all feel it and we all receive guidance and encouragement from Him. We must learn to tune out the outer and the inner noise in our lives in order to hear it.

We had a fantastic lesson with a guy named Marvin who is easily the most golden investigator I have ever seen on my mission! He is looking for the truth and has so many desires that will be met by the restored gospel. Our bishop has known him for a few years and last week he felt prompted to ask Marvin if he would be willing to meet with us. Marvin prayed about it and felt that God wanted him to meet with us. The lesson went super well. He even asked if it would be okay if he read ahead in the Book of Mormon! 

And Cameille and Camron are doing great! We met with them twice this week. They seem to be feeling good about being baptized, which is good because the plan is to do it this Saturday. We are finishing up final preparations now and it's exciting. I especially love seeing how happy their grandparents are. They waited and prayed for 15 years hoping their daughter would come back, and now she finally has come back, and the joy that has filled her life and the lives of her kids is beautiful to see. They are happy to see their daughter truly happy for the first time in years.

My message this week is from a talk given in sacrament meeting. The man who was speaking brought up the story of Peter who, when he saw his Master walking on the water late one night, called out to him, saying "Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water." Jesus bade him to come, and miraculously, Peter came, walking a fair distance on top of the stormy waves. "But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and [began] to sink..."

I think Peter's experience is common to many of us. For me, it seems I have times when my faith is strong, and, like Peter, at my Savior's bidding I am able to leap out of my figurative boat and walk a good distance upon the stormy waves of life on the strength of my own faith. But then as I look around, I begin to see the storm around me, and feel the wind blowing and the waves rocking. My faith falters and I begin to sink. I make some efforts to stay afloat, but compared to the storm, they suddenly seem so feeble. I wonder why I no longer seem to have the faith I once had, and I begin to slip into despair.

The adversary will try to convince us in these moments that we are at fault, and that therefore we are alone. He wants us to abandon ourselves to hopelessness. But we mustn't forget who called us from our boats in the first place. Like Peter, we can cry out, saying, "Lord, save me!" We can have faith that Jesus is there, as He has been the whole time, waiting with outstretched arm to help us in our efforts to come unto Him. Faith is not just getting out of the boat and walking on the water; it is also trusting that when we begin to sink, He is there and He will help us out of the stormy waves again.

Our faith is not yet perfect. It falters at times. But if we will exercise our faith in Him and reach out for His help, trusting that it will come, "immediately Jesus [will stretch] forth his hand, and [catch us], and [say] unto [us,] O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" (Matt. 14:28-31)

I love the words of President Hinckley: "YOU HAVE NOT FAILED UNTIL YOU HAVE QUIT TRYING."

I love you all! Make yourselves a great week!

Elder Alex Swindler

El Photoritos:

1-2) Took a bit of a detour on the way home from zone conference because we were passing my old area in Knoxville. It was just long enough to take a picture of the front door of my old apartment.

3) Elder Frederick falls asleep in the car a lot...

4) See that huge green blanket that's overtaken an entire massive field and even a tree or two in the background? That's kudzu. It's a vine that grows about 12 inches per day and is eating huge chunks of the South. It boggles my mind that this stuff exists... It can take down entire forests. Also it looks kinda cool, which is mostly why we took this picture. Haha

5) Um...?

Monday, September 12, 2016

It's Monday again?

Hey folks!

I can hardly believe it's been another week. Things are going well for us! Here are some of the highlights from our week:

We found a neat new investigator named Grey on Monday while out tracting. We felt prompted to knock on his door even though it was after dark, and he came out and started talking with us. He told us that he's always been impressed with how persistent missionaries are. When he lived in Maryville, missionaries once trekked all the way up his huge steep driveway when it was covered in an inch of ice just to knock on his door. He talked to them just because he was impressed, and after that he said they wouldn't stop trying his door for over a year. This time around he actually seemed somewhat interested, especially in the idea of a modern prophet. He promised to read from the Book of Mormon. We'll see where things go with him.

Wednesday we did some tracting and went on splits with the priests in the evening. We were actually able to see a couple less actives with the priests so that was good. One of them is this really sweet old guy named Bill, who used to be a coal miner. He's one of the old faithfuls of the ward here, but his health keeps him from church. He loves visits from anyone, he's really lonely after his wife passed away. I visited him with a really cool priest named Wiley. We're trying to sneakily convince Wiley to serve a mission haha. 

Thursday was awesome! We had three lessons that day. The first was with a teacher at the high school named Will who we found tracting last week. Since meeting him last week, he told us he has read some of the Book of Mormon and had even looked up the BYU channel on TV and watched some program that compared a chapter in the BoM to a chapter in Malachi. He is impressed with the Book so far and we had a great first lesson. We're pretty excited for him. He has a lot of potential. He doesn't know he's searching for the gospel but he totally is.

The second was with Camille, Cameron, and Crystal, the part member family that's on date for baptism. We've been struggling to find out what, if any, 15-year-old Camille's concerns are. She's really shy and doesn't give us much to go on. But this time when we asked about how she's feeling about her baptismal date in two weeks, she actually gave us a timid nod, which is more than we usually get! So that's good. We're excited for them. Please keep them in your prayers, that they can be ready by the 24th!

And that evening we had an appointment with Michael, a less active member. Our last visit didn't go so well, we got hung up on his concern about the degrees of glory. But this time went muuuch better. It was cool, the lesson went a totally different direction than we had planned but ended up being exactly what he needed. Definitely was led by the Spirit. He admitted to us that this all basically comes down to whether he believes the Book of Mormon to be the word of God or not, and that though he has been praying about it, he hasn't been putting in the effort to study. As James wrote, faith without works is dead, being alone. So he promised to start reading a chapter of the BoM a day, and we promised to read right along with him and come back and discuss together. Big progress from last time!

My message for the week is from something that struck me at church this week and also from 1 Nephi 10. In this chapter, Nephi relates some of the words of his father Lehi as he prophecies concerning the coming of a Messiah. Then he says this:

 17 And it came to pass after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father, concerning the things which he saw in a vision, and also the things which he spake by the power of the Holy Ghost, which power he received by faith on the Son of God—and the Son of God was the Messiah who should come—I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men. 
 18 For he is the same yesterday, today, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him.
 19 For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round.

As Nephi learned about the Savior from the words of his father, he felt a desire begin to grow inside of him, a desire to come to know this Savior for himself. I think this is common to all of us: as we hear about the Savior, who He is, and what He has done for us and can do for us, and as we hear the testimonies of others, we begin to feel a desire to know these things - and to know the Savior - for ourselves. Nephi teaches us an important lesson here. No matter who we are or when we live or whatever our circumstances - no matter what - we can all come to know the Savior and have a testimony for ourselves. Even if we already believe and have a testimony, we can have a stronger one. The way is simple: repent, and come unto Him. Seek Him diligently and you will find Him. The way to come to know the Savior is to make use of His Atonement: to turn to Him and work diligently with Him to be healed and changed by His grace. It is then that we will come to know Him personally and have an unshakeable testimony of His divinity and Atonement and love. If we will seek Him diligently, repent and come unto Him, and follow His Spirit, we can and will come to know Him for ourselves.

Wherever you personally are in your relationship with the Savior, please take time to strengthen that relationship. Make a more full and deep use of the healing and changing power of His Atonement. I promise you your life will change for the better and you will have greater happiness and peace.

I love you all! Make yourselves a great week!

Elder Alex Swindler
 
Pictures:
 
1) Elder Frederick and I 
 
2) District pic. From left to right, Elders Nelson, Merrill, Nelson, Bateman, me, Frederick
 
3-4) Double chin selfies 

 

Monday, September 5, 2016

Hey, It's Actually Kinda Short This Time!

Hey folks!

I'm really sorry, I don't have any time for an email this week. Suffice it to say that our investigators are doing well and so are we. We had some cool experiences finding and following promptings. Also the ward here is awesome and they seem to be really trusting us a lot. The ward council keeps giving us referrals and it's awesome.

Crazy story! We got the number for the missionaries in the area in Nashville where Esther moved, and when we called to explain more about Esther, the sister missionary who answered introduced herself and her name sounded really familiar. I asked her a couple questions and sure enough, it was Sister Abby Harward, a girl from my home stake! Of all the people who could have answered, we ended up calling someone I went to high school with. It blew my mind. Haha it was neat to talk to someone I know from home, and even more neat that she'll be taking over working with Esther.

My message this week is brief. The Savior's gospel is designed to help us become perfect eventually. Remember that perfection is His job; improvement is ours. Let go of perfectionism! Take time to feast upon His words every day and to communicate with our Heavenly Father in prayer, and listen to the Holy Spirit as you do so, and He will help you to know how to improve right now. That's something that stood out to me this week, because I get pretty hard on myself sometimes for not being perfect. That's not how it should be though. Our lives are not just a time of probation, they are also our loving Father's gift to us. So if you're anything like me, maybe consider being a little kinder on yourself. Improve whatever you need to improve, repent of whatever you need to repent of, but be patient. "Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith..." (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Well. Somehow this still turned out to be longer than I meant it to. I love you all! Make yourselves a great week!

Elder Alex Swindler

Duh Pics

1) Found this lovely sight when we came home one night

2)Video: #missionaryfood
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3) Selfie outside the children's museum where we volunteer. Love that place.

The Unrated Pics: Some slightly more PG pics and things. View at your own discretion.

1) Courtesy of Elder Lambert

2) No captions necessary

Videos) Elder Frederick discovering the (fake) poop I left all over his toilet seat hahaha
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