Monday, October 29, 2012

Alma and Amulek



Mother and Father!!

This week was definitely the BEST week of my mission. Elder Fragoso and I really hit it off...like we knew we would. =) This transfer feels like I am serving with my best friend; we plan well, teach well, find well, and love to lead the Zone well. The Lord definitely answers prayers :)

From day one in Richfield I felt like Heavenly Father just rolled out the red carpet. It’s different than Snow Canyon :) I went from 1 branch to 2 stakes and 18 wards...whew. The boundaries are crazy up here (check out the Richfield and Richfield East stakes on  https://www.lds.org/rcmaps/?lang=eng) but I love being able to drive again and getting to know this town. Basically, if you studied president Uchtdorf's talk from conference I went from flying in a Piper Cup to an F-16, and I love it! It’s kind of funny as well...I was in Snow Canyon for the 110-115 degrees of July and August, and my second day in Richfield it snowed. That coat is the BEST purchase of pre-mission shopping so far.

 We contacted 6 people on my first day up here on Tuesday that the missionaries have never been able to contact, and without exception I felt that they were all prepared for us. Two are new investigators (from Jamaica!) living with their relatives who are active LDS. They already have baptismal date with us. We found them on Tuesday, taught them on Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday, and they went to church on Sunday :) Their names are S and T and I think they are the first black people I have taught on my whole mission.
We also have been finding a ton of Navajo people up here as well. Some are confused about how their belief's coincide with Christian beliefs. They say "we just believe in Father Sky, Mother Earth, Changy Woman and things like that". There is also a whole Dorm of Navajo High School Students from all over the country. They have their own branch and the Branch president told us to bring any Navajo investigator that we have up there. There was a native branch a while ago in Richfield but they shut it down for some reason
I will tell you one amazing finding story as well. It was Friday night at about 8:40 and Elder Fragoso and I had nowhere to go, so we prayed in the car and felt impressed to go to a certain apartment complex. The first door we knocked opened up to a HUGE family just hanging out, playing games and eating. We started asking questions and it turns out that they are all members except for an adopted 18 year old daughter that they have. We set up a return appointment for the next day and they kept it! And mom sat in on the lesson with A (the 18 year old). As it turns out...A's mom, her friends and family had been praying for A to be ready to meet with the missionaries and Heavenly Father guided us right to her door. We taught them on Saturday, she went to church on Sunday, and they want us to come back three times a week :)

Basically...I have a testimony that hard work, and obedience, and submitting myself to the Lord bring blessings. After one week up here, Elder Fragoso and I are leading the mission. We have a family that wants to be reactivated and wants to baptize their son on Halloween. We taught 34 lessons this week! My biggest blessings right now is being able to forget myself and work with my best friend and just do what the Lord wants.  We are about to rewrite the Alma and Amulek chapters in the Book of Mormon.

I love you so much!! This church is so true, and blessings just depend on our faith and works.

A heart full of gratitude,
Elder Michael Stewart

Monday, October 22, 2012

Richfield!



Hello Mother and Father!!! Am I ever so happy to be writing you this week...so much has happened and it has really been rewarding to be in the Lord's service.

We got transfer calls! President called at 7:30 in the morning yesterday while I was shaving and extended me the calling to be a Zone Leader serving in Richfield with Elder Fragoso! Elder Fragoso and I "were raised together" in the mission one district apart and he is an amazing Elder. I got off the phone and honestly just started to cry...that area is doing well.  I love leading Elders and sisters and I will learn so much from Elder Fragoso. Junior Companion again :) The good news kept coming. The district leaders in that Zone will be Elders Gomez and Lazarus, both of whom I have served with...we are a team already! I am so excited to head up north and invite people to come to Christ in Richfield!

It will be so different these next transfers. First off...I will be teaching in English!  (I will certainly miss tortillas and Latin music in the background) We cover two stakes up there and will attend 4 sacrament meetings each Sunday! I am soooo excited. I could almost hear the words "Well done, thou good and faithful servant" in my ears as I hung up the phone. This is such an answer to my prayers! My reward right now...will be the ability to WORK!! I love it!

So in Snow Canyon we will be replaced by Sister missionaries :) That is just what the area needs because we have been contacting a lot of single mothers and  mothers-at-home these weeks...and we can't go in and teach them without a male present!  I am so excited for the future honestly...we have a gospel of new beginnings and second chances. After Liberty Jail came great revelations and progress for the church. After Gethsemane and Calvary came the Resurrection. I am so happy just to be a missionary right now :)
This week was incredible! We made some great progress with our investigators, found new ones, learned and grew, and got a lot of help from members as well. It was miraculous :) We kept teaching J and E and their daughter C! If only you could meet these people! They are so beautiful and prepared...this week we taught J the word of wisdom (he drinks a lot of coffee) and he said "Well, the commandments are here to be kept..I'll keep this one too" He is working so hard...he is down to 1/4 of the coffee he was drinking before. They continue to love the Book of Mormon. J said "I got the feeling when we were in the Visitors' Center.  I get the feeling when the Elders come over, and I get the feeling when the English Teachers come over too."  He is so receptive to the spirit!! They didn't make it to church this week (because he slept in again! the 5am-6pm Mon-Sat construction job just drains him) so his baptism will be delayed.  He told us "I definitely got an answer from God. The Book of Mormon is very true." YES!! I am so happy to be leaving them in the capable hands of Sister Hernandez and Sister Rodriguez. It was a great goodbye-He told me to drive down from Richfield to be at church and his baptism.   But I am so happy they are rooted to THE GOSPEL and THE BOOK OF MORMON and not to us.

We also kept meeting with A. He did something really funny. His wife made us homemade tortillas and tacos and we were having a quick snack with them and he said "Hermanos, aqui tambien tengo mi cuchillo por cualquier pecador" (Here is my knife against any sinners) he said as he wielded the Book of Mormon. He just needs to come to church!!

We also found two new investigators this week! Nine months in Snow Canyon...and I found new people!? It gets better :) These two older sisters had recently been talking about the need to follow Jesus' example by getting baptized when they were older. YES! 

So, normally when an area is whitewashed (totally replaced the missionaries) it’s because the work is not going well. I am so glad though that we are leaving the Sisters with many baptisms. We are all on the same team :)
Los quiero bastante! Compartan el Evangelio! Tengan Esperanza por el futuro! 
(I love you very much! Share the Gospel! Have faith in the future!)

Con mucho amor,
Elder Michael Stewart

Monday, October 15, 2012

Confia en Mi (Trust in Me)



Saludos Mama y Papa!

I am so grateful for the work I have been able to do this week. Ever since conference I have made it a point to up my "personal commitment" to the Lord through prayer, and small actions as well. I am happier now that I have ever been :)

So I really have been stretched and challenged in these months like never before-but I have come out so much closer to my Savior and committed to his work. And we have been seeing so many miracles as I have just forgotten myself and served!

Our best miracle this week was for J and E, our couple with a baptismal date for the 28th. We had taught them Monday and Wednesday, taken them to the visitor's center on Friday, committed them to church again on Saturday, but come 9 AM Sunday, they weren't there! We even called them right after the sacrament to see if they could still make it to the meeting, but he said they wouldn't make it on time. I was so devastated...I have felt that Heavenly Father wanted these people to be baptized more than I do and they won't make it if they don't come to church enough. As I was praying in church, the thought came to me "Confia en mi" (trust in me).

We went home, and as I prayed again, it was like the Lord opened up my brain, poured a half quart of inspiration in, and slammed the lid shut. A sudden stroke of an idea just came to me. I jumped up off my knees and called the couple to inform them of the sacrament services for another ward that we just happened to be translating into Spanish, this translation has been in the works for 6 months! They got there ten minutes early, stayed the whole time, and even brought nonmember family members. I was so happy...it was honestly the biggest miracle I have seen in a long time, and it showed me that the Lord had been pulling strings for months so that these people could be baptized this month. 

Really I just want to bear you my testimony about FAITH. I trust in God our Heavenly Father, and that he also loves us so much that He gave the world his son. Jesus Christ is the very son of God; his only begotten in the flesh-he has all power in heaven and in earth. I know that as I work, as I come to Him myself, he will give me power to bless other people's lives. He just needs a little bit of faith on our part, and then he can do miracles :)

La iglesia es verdadera! Familias pueden ser eternas! Los amo muchisimo, y quiero que compartan este gozo con todos- oren por experiencias misionales, sean audaces y amorosos al hablar en cuanto a la iglesia, inviten a personas! Seran guiados por el Senor :)
(The church is true! Families can be eternal! I love you very much and want to share this joy with everyone. Pray for missionary experiences, be bold and talk about the church, invite people. You will be guided by the Lord.)

Los amo!
Elder Michael George Stewart

Monday, October 8, 2012

Los Ultimos Dias (The Last Days!)



Que Magnifico!  (How Great!)

What a great week we've had! It started great and ended great! I am really grateful to be serving in this area right now, there is so much good to be done here and I am increasingly finding that I am doing the things I love every day. 

First off, what a great conference! We watched the sessions with the great members of our stake, and we saw President Monson's announcement at our High Counselor’s house. That was amazing! We are a true and living church, and I have a feeling I will be getting an 18 year old companion sometime in the future :) I know I would've just JUMPED out of high school to go on a mission...we need more good missionaries! If we weren't in the last days before, we certainly are there now.

The miracles were flowing this week...thanks to a lot of things :) We had a first lesson with a new family on Monday and I was really thankful for the spirit and for preparation going in there. J, E, and their daughter C all became new investigators this week. J has had other Elders knock on his door before, but he has never opened up to them, he has always made excuses. But Elder Killian and I have developed many door entry methods :) Actually, the real credit goes to the Spirit for touching this man's heart on the doorstep. 
So we went back for the second lesson a few days later and we were on splits (with my "brother", Taylor Squires! (The recent RM son of the Squires family that I lived with. We are basically the same person). And it was my turn to give the first vision! Because I have been training for 6 months, I have always let my companion do the first vision in the lessons, but this time it was my turn. We took it really slow and let the Spirit sink in deep, and J and E both said they were touched, and are really going to pray and read to know if it is true. They also recorded conference to watch it later, and they want to meet with us 3 times a week. I just know that the Spirit is the most important element in this work. I don't want to impart information to these people.  Rather I want them each to have a personal experience with the Spirit and then act on it.  He is the teacher. We will have to work hard to help C open up to us too- it is understandable that an 11 year old is shy around us, but even she has been reading her own Book of Mormon with her parents! I just can't tell you what a miracle find this family is...I know EVERY home in their trailer park, and this one had never answered the door before, but Heavenly Father definitely knew when it was their time.

We had another miracle lesson with O this week! We went out contacting with our English Teachers this week and we decided to go by her house.  She had just barely gotten home from the store. What a tender mercy. So we started to teach this sister right there and we wanted to help her with her struggles to read and pray about the Book of Mormon that she has had. Suddenly the impression came to ask her English teachers to bear their testimonies of the Book of Mormon and we followed it. There was such a strong presence of love from God and love between these people and Elder and Sister Osborn bore testimony to O and we translated. I was thankful for the power of the Holy Ghost to touch hearts as O said "That Moroni 10:3-5 really caught my attention, I will definitely read more, and pray more about it" She offered a humble prayer at the end of that lesson, and she has read a lot since! Hopefully she will make her baptismal date!

Now conference...wow!!! I loved it!! We are certainly led by seers and revelators today. The main message to me from all of the apostles was about personal commitment: to our families, to true principles, to the Gospel, and to the Savior. Elder Holland's talk seemed to reach down inside of me and shake me. It is true that our thoughts, actions, desires, all reflect our deep love for the Lord, and we will all meet him and have to answer the question "Did you love me?"  Every day in my prayers, I have been making the decision to give my all to the Lord THIS DAY. And as I have committed myself consistently like this, I have felt much closer to him.

All of conference was great! We watched both Sunday sessions with our landlords and funnily enough Tommy Crompton from the Burke ward was there too :) The LDS world is the size of a postage stamp.

Los quiero bastante! La iglesia es verdadera, y yo se que guarda el sacerdocio, la doctrina y las ordenanzas del evangelio de Jesucristo. Podemos recibir ayuda del Salvador en cada momento, aun cuando nos parezca imposible El estara alli para ayudarnos. Me ha ayudado a mi a saber las necesidades de mi companero, de los otros misioneros en mi distrito y tambien de mis investigadores. Amo y atesoro el evangelio mas que nunca.
(I love you very much. The gospel is true and gives us the priesthood, doctrine and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We can receive help from the Savior any time; He will be there to help even when it seems to be impossible. He has helped me know the needs of my companion, the other missionaries in my district and my investigators. I love and cherish the gospel more than ever.)

Take care!! Share the Gospel with everyone! Invite your friends to church and activities!

Con amor,
Elder Michael George Stewart

Monday, October 1, 2012

Catching the Vision



Mis queridos padres!! Esta fue la semana de 17 Milagros en nuestro distrito!
(My dear parents! This was the week of 17 miracles in our district!)

We had so many opportunities to do good this week. I keep meeting new people here, it is incredible. Also, thank Grandma Darger for sending me pictures of "Snow Canyon Park". That’s what the mission looks like to me :)

This Sunday was something of a "pay-day" for me. The F family asked me to bless and present their newborn in sacrament (the dad baptized R in July, but still doesn't have the Melchizedek priesthood) and that was such a blessing. I really love the branch (Presidente D said they're moving my records down here) and I really just want to do all I can to grow and strengthen them. The gospel is for everyone...men, women, and children :) Also! At church yesterday L C came! He is the Catholic husband of G, one of our recent converts. The real miracle...is that he asked her to take him to church. Elder Killian and I have been doing something called the "21 Day Promise" for him...the promise (made by a general authority) is that if you pray for a list of 9 people day and night for 21 days, at least one of them will be prepared to hear the gospel. Heavenly Father really only needs a little faith on our part to do the miracles :) The prayers of the righteous definitely are heard. I'd definitely encourage you all to make your own list of 9 people and then give their names to the R.V. Elders as referrals. It’s so simple!

We kept teaching K and M this week as well, and they are going to need a little more time before they want to be baptized, but they do love us and really want to take the lessons. They again expressed their desire for their 1 year old M to be a missionary like us some day. I am beginning to really feel for these people like the Book of Mormon prophets felt about their people...it kind of hurts when someone doesn't commit to making the needed changes in their life or accepting the restored gospel. But those feelings just motivate me to pray and plan even harder for them.

This week was all about catching sight of President Leonard's vision for the mission and I do know that he is an inspired man. He (and Elder Holland apparently) have a vision of this mission baptizing 1 out of every 3 investigators that we find. Let me tell you...teaching people in Spanish, our own area has been baptizing about 1 in 9, and other Spanish areas are as high as 1 in 22. It’s true that we are so blessed to be in a mission and in an area where we can teach and help people progress towards joining the church. The members are amazingly helpful, there are a lot of prepared nonmembers to find, and Hispanics are very receptive to the gospel. Just like Ether 12:14 "Behold, it was the faith of Nephi and Lehi that wrought thea change upon the Lamanites, that they were baptized with fire and with the bHoly Ghost." We are working so hard on strengthening our faith to do that.

You will probably remember N that I have talked about before...well the story continues :) It has been hard to consistently see her. But we stopped by last night on a prompting, and she was excited to see us! Miracle! I love it when they get excited to see us. N has been praying, and she has been having some difficulties in her life. Her renters took off without even paying her! But she prayed for help, and that same day, she found new renters! She told us that it really helps her to meet with us, she just isn't sure yet which church she needs to join. I am counting on the Holy Ghost to answer her. Just like Sister Stewart said, this is the work of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. They will help and guide when we just have the vision and faith.

Los quiero tantisimo. He estado muy agradecido en estos meses por la expiacion del Salvador y por la oportunidad de empezar de nuevo y de arrepentirme de mis pecados. √Čl me apoya, me ensena, me guia todos los dias, y sin el nada podria hacer. Lo amo con todo mi ser y tan solo le quiero servir y seguir todos mis dias. La iglesia es verdadera!
(I love you so much. I have been very grateful these months for the Savior’s atonement and the opportunity to start over and repent of my sins. He supports me, teaches me, guides me and without him nothing else would do. I love Him with all my being and want to serve him all my life. The church is true!)

Con amor,
Elder Michael George Stewart