Monday, March 13, 2017

Snow and the Sacrament

Hey folks!

Hope you're enjoying the daylight savings. It made for a groggy Sunday for us, but it's also making for fantastic missionary work because it's actually light until 7 or 8 now.

We had a great week. Wish I had the time to write about it but I don't. We finally saw our investigator Karla though! She's doing great. Still wants to be baptized. She's struggling to feel worthy to be baptized though. She's living worthily right now, but there are things in her past that bother her. We've had a good couple of lessons on the Atonement though and I noticed this week she always walks away with a huge smile and seems to feel way better. We also saw our investigator Bill and he set a date on his own for when he will quit smoking! Awesome stuff.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is true. As we keep the covenants He has revealed to mankind, they bring us unto Him and help us become like Him, and they give us joy. I know He lives. I know the power and grace of His Atonement. He will help you make the changes you want and need to make in your life and He will help you have real joy if you will just come to Him. Prayer, scripture study, and coming to church are a good place to start. Especially coming to church. It snowed this week and they cancelled church (I know.... I chuckled too) so we almost didn't get to partake of the sacrament. I say almost because we actually had the opportunity to administer the sacrament in the homes of some of the ward members, and in the process we were able to take it ourselves. It was really powerful to bring the sacrament into people's homes. It brought the Spirit so strongly, and going out of our way to do it and seeing just how grateful people were to receive it (and how grateful I was as well) really reinforced for me how great a blessing it is to be able to partake of the sacrament each week. Let's not take it for granted. I like how King Benjamin speaks of taking upon ourselves the name of the Savior in Mosiah 5:8-9, 12. We need to always retain His name in our hearts. Partaking of the sacrament each week helps us to do that.

I love you all!

Elder Alex Swindler



Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Life's Good in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Hey folks!

I've got no time. We had a crazy day yesterday. I did get permission to send y'all a brief email a day late though. :)

Our week was great! We had stake conference. Randall, our investigator, came. He's doing well. He says he isn't ready to set a baptism date just yet but he wants to be baptized sometime in the next 6 weeks.

We haven't been able to get ahold of Karla. If you wouldn't mind praying for us that we can get in contact with her again, that would be really helpful.

I had a super powerful experience on exchanges this week! I was with Elder Hull, the district leader down in Blairseville, GA, and we got a call from someone asking if we could come to the hospital and give someone a blessing. We had a flexible evening so we were able to go. It turned out to be a man in his 20's. He's been married about 2 years, they have a 5 month old daughter, and he had been in a bad car accident. It involved someone else going 150mph in a 25mph zone and hitting his car. If he lives through it, he'll be paralyzed from the chest down. His poor wife was devastated.

The blessing honestly should have been way more nerve wracking than it was. There was a lot of pressure on us after all. And what if it isn't the Lord's will that he be healed? But we just felt this complete feeling of peace and calm and comfort, that it would be okay. And as we gave the blessing it just felt to me like the Lord was trying to tell us all that these things are according to His will for this young family. Things will be okay. That even if our lives don't go exactly as we might wish, they do go according to a plan that is far greater (and ultimately far more joyful) than any we could ever dream of. It was such a powerful experience, one that I'll not soon forget.

The gospel is true. I know it! I love the Savior Jesus Christ. He lives, He loves us, He is the Captain of our lives, and this is His Church. He will lead us to beautiful and joyful paths if we will allow Him to mold and shape us. Let's all try to be a little more like Him this week, and let's strive always to invite others to come unto Him.

Love,

Elder Alex Swindler
132 Springside Rd Apt D1
Asheville, NC 28803


Videos: From our drive back in to Asheville from Knoxville

video
video

Enjoy this video of me spanking Elder Stockinger as he was trying to spank Elder Creasey:
video


1) Asheville traffic

2-3) Pretty stuff



The rest) We visited the Biltmore Estates yesterday and it was awesome! I took about a million pictures. Here's a few of them.

Monday, February 27, 2017

An Epistle

Hey folks!

It's about time that I write y'all another of my huge emails, and I actually have time this week, so brace yourselves. :) I'll try to catch you up a little on the area as well, since I didn't say much last week. 

We had a pretty awesome week this week. I have decided that Asheville is officially the best. I love this area!! The ward loves us and trusts us and works with us, we have a lot of really progressing investigators, the work is moving forward, and it's the greatest. Also, I love Elder Creasey a lot. He's so kind and genuine, and he's super solid in the gospel, and he's also super on top of things here in Asheville. I kind of hope I stay with him until the end of my mission, but I also have a feeling that I'll probably have one more companion before all is said and done. We'll see. But for right now, we're working hard together and moving forward and things are going great. 

We met with a girl named Karla this week. Karla is really cool. She's 18, she's from Venezuela, and she's just here for a few months to prepare to come to college in the States. She started meeting with missionaries a month or two ago. It's actually a crazy story. She took an Uber across town one day, and during the 2-5 minutes she was in the car, she mentioned to the driver (who happened to be a member of our ward) that she's thinking about going to school at a place called LDS Business College... So he asked her if she knew anything about the Church, and would she like to learn? She said she didn't know anything, and she would love to meet with missionaries. She had actually been praying just days before for God to show her how she could follow Him. Cool right?? We had a great visit with her at our Bishop's house. She opened up about how she struggles with feeling unworthy even though she has repented of her past mistakes. We talked about the Atonement and repentance and God's love for her, and it was reeeally good. The Spirit was really strong. She set a date for baptism for March 17, and she picked the day herself!

We are also meeting with a guy named Bill who has investigated for ages but is just now starting to move forward. He finally has gotten engaged to his girlfriend who he's been living with, which is super exciting! That and some Word of Wisdom concerns were all that were holding him back from baptism. And he's agreed to start coming to the Church's Addiction Recovery Program, which will help a lot with his Word of Wisdom concerns. 

We had a great visit with an excommunicated member named Wayne. He is coming to church now but still has some concerns that hold him back from being rebaptized. But we had a great discussion with him and I feel like he could really change his life for the better. He seems to me like he's ready, even if he doesn't realize he is. He met with the Bishop this week which is huge progress for him!

I'm pretty sure I mentioned Lora and Griffin last week, the mother and son who were baptized right when I got here. They are doing great! We saw them like 3 times this week and talked to them a lot on the phone. Lora has tons of questions for us and is just on fire about the Gospel. It's pretty amazing to see just how much the Savior has changed her life for the better. And I love how excited she is to learn as much as she can. It reminds me of just how beautiful the truths of the gospel really are. Too often I take them for granted. 

One more cool story and then I'll finish up. We came back to the church for something a couple hours after church on Sunday, and the Bishop was on his way out, and told us he had a referral for us! Just a little before we got there, a man named Shakur (shuh-KOOR) walked in and started talking to the Bishop and one of his counselors. He told him about a lot of his struggles and how he's trying to get his life back in order, but that he has a lot of things in his past that he regrets. He asked if somebody could teach him about repentance. It was way cool! We called him right away and were able to meet with him that afternoon. He's got a lot of potential. 

My message this week is about prayer and how we can make our prayers more effective. There's a quote from the LDS Bible Dictionary that stood out to me this week:

"Christians are taught to pray in Christ’s name. We pray in Christ’s name when our mind is the mind of Christ, and our wishes the wishes of Christ--when His words abide in us. We then ask for things it is possible for God to grant. Many prayers remain unanswered because they are not in Christ’s name at all; they in no way represent His mind but spring out of the selfishness of man’s heart."

When we strive to align our own will with the will of our Savior, even when doing so is difficult and requires uncomfortable changes and even sacrifices, our lives will begin to reflect that of the Savior, and we will begin to bear fruits that bring us and others real joy. We do that by striving to make our prayers "...the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other" (-Bible dictionary). Truly praying in the name of Jesus Christ, as we are commanded, is more than simply saying "in the name of Jesus Christ, amen." It is trying to pray as Jesus would pray if He were kneeling next to us and praying for us.

We can bring our own will in harmony with the Savior's by abiding in Him - by striving to keep His commandments, to be like Him, to do as He would do, and to fill our minds and hearts with His words.

"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. ...If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples." (John 15)

As we strive to bring our lives and our own wills in harmony with God's, I testify that He will help us. "...and every branch that beareth fruit, he [my Father] purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit." (John 15) I testify that the Savior lives and that He loves us. I testify that He is orchestrating our lives for our good. If we will seek His will for us and try to align ourselves with Him, we will find greater joy than we have ever imagined. 

I love you all!

Elder Alex Swindler

Monday, February 20, 2017

Asheville!

Hey folks!

I am out of time this week. Suffice it to say that I'm doing well and loving Asheville and Elder Creasey. There was a baptism this week! A lady named Laura and her son Griffin were baptized. I didn't teach them at all, I got here just in time to see their baptism. But I've talked to them since then and they are awesome! Laura told me her story and she went from being pretty agnostic to being totally converted as she humbly, faithfully and sincerely sought answers from a God she wasn't even sure existed. The gospel is true. God lives. Jesus Christ is our Savior. I love you guys.

Elder Alex Swindler

Pictures: (Alex didn't label any of these, so I'm just guessing.)

(1) Fun with darts





(2) Last district pic in Lebanon

(3-4) Goodbyes in Lebanon

(5) Reunited with his mission "sons"

(6-7) Driving into Asheville

(8) Baptism for Laura and Griffin

(9-12) District hike on Mount Pisgah


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

To Asheville

Hey folks!

We had a bit of a crazy P day yesterday and in the midst of it all I didn't send y'all an email. But I got permission to send this a day late, so here we go.

We had a pretty good week this week! It was kind of crazy though. For one thing, I found out that I will be transferred this Wednesday to Asheville, North Carolina. I've actually wanted to go to Asheville for awhile. I've heard that it's a good area, and also that it's really pretty, so I'm excited to go. But I'm going to miss Lebanon a lot. There are a lot of people here that I have grown to really love. And it's hard to leave a place after putting a lot of hard work and love into it.

One super awesome thing that happened this week was that the Nagy family (part member family we have been working with) came to church, for the first time since I've been here in Lebanon!! It was awesome! We weren't expecting them to come at all, it was just out of the blue. We were actually waiting at the door expecting another person to come, a less active boy named Donny, and while we were waiting for him, up walked the Nagy's! We were so excited. And Donny did end up coming as well, which was awesome.

Another big thing this week is that we seem to finally be gaining the ward's trust. We were able to sit down and talk with the Bishop after church last week, and we had a good meeting. He even wants to come out with us tomorrow night to see Ronnie so that will be good. The Elders Quorum President also seems to be beginning to trust us a lot more too.

Ronnie is actually doing really well. We brought a member named Brother Reeves with us when we saw him his week and they seemed to click pretty well. And the lesson went great. We invited him to baptism, and he has concerns about it (mostly it's that he has already been baptized), but he also told us that he has prayed about meeting with us and about the Book of Mormon, and that the answer he has gotten is to continue to meet with us. He says he knows the Lord wants him to be studying with us. He agreed to pray about baptism and seek the Lord's direction.

I have been saying a lot of goodbyes the past couple of days. We said goodbye to the Hokanson family, the family that is related to me. It was bittersweet. They have really helped this ward to feel more like home. They fed us so much food that night that we thought we were going to die haha. We also said goodbye to the Nagy family on Sunday night. I love them a lot too. And then last night we said goodbyes to the Ward Mission Leader and his wife. I'll miss them a lot. I'll be back to visit them for sure. They are awesome. I'm sad to be leaving this district - I love these missionaries here a lot. And I'll be really sad to leave Elder Urry. He has been such a good companion and friend to me. But I know he'll do great things here in Lebanon, I know things will continue to move forward here, and I'm excited for what the future holds. This is the Lord's vineyard, after all. It is His work and He is in charge of it, and it will move forward under His direction.

Well, I better go. I trust that the Lord is leading me where he needs me to be. I know that as we move forward with faith in Jesus Christ, He truly does lead us and strengthen us to become all He knows we can become. I urge you to seek, listen to and follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit. There was a scripture Elder Urry shared this week, and I'll share it with you:

"Wherefore, we search the prophets, and we have many revelations and the spirit of prophecy; and having all these witnesses we obtain a hope, and our faith becometh unshaken, insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea." (Jacob 4:6)

As we search the words of the prophets, both ancient and modern, and as we listen to and follow the revelations given us by the Holy Spirit, we obtain hope, and we begin to develop unshakeable faith in Jesus Christ, which faith we will need to move forward where He asks us to go, do what He asks us to do, and be who He asks us to be. He will help us strengthen our faith if we let Him, and love Him, and put forth the effort.

I love you all!

Elder Alex Swindler
11320 Station West Dr. Ste. 101
Farragut, TN 37934


1-2) We cleaned out our fridge this week and found this. Yum.

3) Goodbye to the Nagy's

4) Goodbye to the Hokanson's

5) The Westbrooks (ward mission leader) made us cake :)

Video 1: Waiting for an oil change on exchanges with Elder Vellinga. Mission life can be so hard sometimes.
video

Video 2: Some fun on the guitar with Elder Urry.
video

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Book of Mormon

Hey folks!

This week was great. Probably my favorite thing that happened was on Friday night. It was like 8:50pm and we were about to go in for the night after a fairly unfruitful day, but we decided that we'd just try one more person before heading in. There was one name in our records that stood out to us, a former investigator named Delbert. So we went by, and all the lights looked to be off, but we figured we'd knock quietly anyway. Well, he turned out to be home, and he let us right in even though it was late. He had met missionaries in the past but they hadn't really taught him anything. He seems to have a very real and string relationship with the Savior and he has studied the Bible a TON. We taught him about the Book of Mormon and he was ok with it but was a little wary, until we handed him a passage in Moroni. He read it, and then he just kind of kept on reading, and then started flipping around and reading a little more... His whole attitude changed as he read. He kept saying "this is just like what I studied this morning!" or "wow, that's just like this thing in Jeremiah" etc. When we asked him to pray about it he told us "Oh, I can already see that this book is the word of God!" and he was so excited to read more.

I also know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I have tasted of it for myself and found it to be good and true. Following its principles has brought me so much closer to Jesus Christ. I know that we all can receive this witness and enjoy the power and blessings of the Book of Mormon in our lives if we will take the time to taste of it each day, involving the Lord as we do so, and asking Him in sincere prayer to teach us of its truthfulness. I actually did that again this morning, and it was confirmed to me again that this book really is the word of God. I know this to be true and I am grateful to be here to share it with others. I love you all!

Love,

Elder Alex Swindler

Picture of a Tennessee sunset:

Monday, January 30, 2017

Adventures in Lebanon

Hey everyone!

I don't have time to send much this week but suffice it to say that we had a good one. Highlights were that Fabian is making good progress! We brought a member with us named Brother Keefe to see him, and he told his own conversion story, and it made such a difference for Fabian. He inadvertently ended up addressing, like, all of Fabian's major concerns. We are excited to see how far he has come.

Also this week, we had a worldwide Missionary Broadcast, and there were some major changes made by the Apostles in the missionary daily schedule! The new schedule they presented allows us much more flexibility to decide when and what we do during the day. They also taught us a lot about true repentance and how we can help people to make real changes in their lives.

And then a couple days later we had a wonderful zone conference with President Griffin. He talked about repentance a lot as well. We all carry heavy chains of sin that weigh us down, but because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, those chains can be dropped, and they need not be picked up again. Which means we don't need to keep beating ourselves up over past mistakes which we have repented of. We have changed, and now we move on. And while we cannot take the chains of others from them, we can help them bear the weight and help and encourage them to let them go themselves with the help of the Savior.

I have to go but I love you all and the gospel is true! I know that as we strive to serve God and keep His commandments, He pours out His Spirit more abundantly upon us, and our hearts begin to change. Let's all try to do that more this week.

Elder Alex Swindler
11320 Station West Dr. Ste. 101
Farragut, TN 37934


Here's some pictures from our week:

1) Oh look, a floating head. How nice.

2) We decorated the other Elders' toilet today.

Videos: We did apple cider vinegar shots, just for fun.
video

video

Monday, January 23, 2017

Short One

Hey folks!

I don't have time to say much of anything this week, but suffice it to say that we had an awesome week. We struggled a little at the beginning, but we started just leaving the apartment and hitting the pavement and trying to talk to people, and every time we got out and worked, we met someone that we were able to share the gospel with or who invited us to come back. I know that the Lord truly does bless us when we get up and try, especially when we are trying to do His work. He loves us. His work is our salvation, and He is best able to help us and those around us when we try and when we get out and work. He helps those who are willing to work. I love Him and I love being a part of His work. And I love you all! Let's all seek His help this week as we get up and work. And let's all seek for opportunities to selflessly serve and lift others along the way. Charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever, after all.

Love,

Elder Alex Swindler
11320 Station West Dr. Ste. 101
Farragut, TN 37934


Pictures:
1-2) I had my first fried Oreos this week and they were AMAZING.

3) Elder Urry took a sneaky picture of our investigator, Alan. He's great. We just have to get him to church. By the way, if you wouldn't mind, would you pray that he will be able to make it to church this week? He really wants to come, but crazy things keep happening every week that prevent him from coming.

4) Some tasty cheese from the back of our fridge.

5) Is it a cat or a lion?

Fun with Vacuums:
It really sucked.

video

video

Monday, January 16, 2017

168 Hours

Hey folks!

This week was good. One highlight was finding a guy named Jack Presley! We saw he had a bunch of military stuff outside his house while we were tracting, so we mentioned it at his door and he let us right in and told us about all his family who have served in the military. A couple of his brothers even lost their lives serving our country. We talked with him about eternal families and he asked us to come back. It was pretty cool.

Another highlight was that we went on exchanges with the zone leaders, and one of our new zone leaders is Elder Constantino, an Elder I served around in my last area! I love that guy. He is so genuinely kind and selfless. We had a good time together talking about people and catching up. Also this week we had a whole bunch of our members come out with us. It was pretty great. This ward is awesome. Our members really want to support us and be engaged in the work of the Lord.

A not-so-highlight of our week was that a lot of our investigators cancelled on us. We weren't able to meet with James, or with Allen, or Fabian, or a few of our other investigators. But! James did tell us that he has been reading from the Book of Mormon. So that's good.

Elder Urry and I have been working hard and doing a lot of tracting. We have actually gotten pretty good at it. We found several people this week that could become really promising investigators. Also, I love my district. Elder Vellinga and Elder Hatch are super cool, especially Elder Vellinga. And I really like our Sisters, Sister Beare and Stevens. I'm gonna miss this district when transfers roll around again in a few weeks.

I wanted to share something that stood out to me in the Book of Mormon this week. In 1 Nephi 7:13, Nephi exhorts his brethren to be faithful to the Lord: "Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten that the Lord is able to do all things according to His will, for the children of men, if it so be that they exercise faith in him? Wherefore, let us be faithful to Him." How often do we forget that? It struck me because I realized I had forgotten that this week. The Lord is able to do all things according to His will for us if we will exercise faith in Him.

One more thing stood out to me as well from this story. A few verses later, after being bound by his brothers, Nephi prays to the Lord and asks: "O Lord, according to my faith which is in thee, wilt thou deliver me from the hands of my brethren; yea, even give me strength that I may burst these bands with which I am bound." Nephi does not pray for his circumstances to be changed - for his bands to miraculously disappear or fall from his hands. Rather, he prays for the strength to change his circumstances - for the strength to burst his own bands. Then he went to work, trusting in God, diligently working at his bands to break them, and he was given strength from the Lord beyond his own. This is how he exercised faith in the Lord. When we find ourselves bound and trapped in our circumstances, we can learn from the example of Nephi. We can exercise our faith in the Savior, pray for the strength to change our circumstances according to His will, and then go to work, seeking to bring about His will and the desired change in our circumstances.

I testify that if we will exercise faith in Jesus Christ, He is able, according to His will, to do all things for us. And He is able to give us His enabling and strengthening power, to make us able to change our own circumstances. Let us excercise faith in Him! Let us seek His help as we go to work striving to change our own circumstances.

I love you all!

Elder Alex Swindler

1) Half mission conference pic, from a few weeks ago

2) Cool lookin' tree

3) We were dead after weekly planning this week

4) Nice

5) My jack-leg guitar. I broke my guitar string this week (again! I just barely got new strings after breaking the exact same string a few weeks ago), and I didn't want to buy another string, so I tried just tying it in a knot, and it worked! This guitar is basically being held together by wood glue, a knot, and prayers.

Video 1) I tried to dump ice cold water on Elder Urry but I missed by about an inch.
video

Video 2) We made a quartet!
video

Monday, January 9, 2017

Short One

Hey folks!

I don't have time for much of an email this week, but I'll send some pictures. Alan wasn't able to make it to church, and neither was Cory, but James read from the Book of Mormon this week! And we found a cool new guy named Brian. We taught him the Restoration out on his front porch in subfreezing weather. It was awesome.

This week I've been thinking a lot about submitting our will to the Lord's. In times when it is hard to trust and obey Him, or when exact obedience to gospel standards and the higher law is difficult and inconvenient, remember and be grateful for the choice our Savior made when He said in His agony in the garden of Gethsemane, "not my will, but Thine be done." He made that choice, so that now we will have access every day to His infinite Atonement! Where would we be if He had not chosen the difficult, but right, path that night? We can choose the harder right. We can obey the higher law. We can be exactly obedient. Because we love Him, and He loves us. He will help us.

I love you all!

Elder Alex Swindler
11320 Station West Dr. Ste. 101
Farragut, TN 37934


1-2) Elder Urry got pooped on by a bird

3) New Christmas sweater

4) Last District pic before transfers, plus the zone leaders

5) Whippoorwill Rd

6) It snowed this week!! :)

7) Shouldn't that read "road closed?"

Videos:
 Pranking the other Elders
video

video