Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Rewriting the Record Book!

Dear Mother and Father!! 

 What a great week we had!! We are super productive as a trio here...and we are just loving working hard all day every day. The Lord really prepared this area and this companionship for this time and I am just grateful to be a part of it.

This week we went on an exchange with the Assistants so I got to go back to St. George for a day and work with Elder Pedersen from Argentina. They have soooooo many college apartments in their area...I was salivating just thinking about it. Right now the mission is closing up most of the campus areas for the holidays so it wasn't booming so much, but I can see how that area would do during late summer and the beginning of the school year. I also loved serving with Elder Pedersen...we are pretty similar in our goals and outlook, and he helped me a lot with questions I had and how to help out my missionaries better. It really is a blessing to have "leaders" to follow and guide us towards Christ.

We had three baptisms this week! D J and his son D along with J. They were all in the same ward (that just got a new bishopric) and so we had all the new leadership very busy this week. The baptisms and confirmations were very spiritual events, and little D said the prayer at his own baptism saying "I love my family and I'm glad I'm getting baptized". Those joyful moments are the whole reason I am on a mission.
I don't mean to just spit all of our Key Indicators at you this week...but just to give you an idea, we taught 53 lessons this week and we have 27 investigators with a baptismal date. We are working hard to rewrite the mission's record book =) But at the same time we always recognize that it is the Lord that is doing all of this work, and we are just the instruments.

I will tell you a little about these investigators :) A B is the adopted 18 year old we have been working with. Like I mentioned, she has had a really rough past and recognizes that heavenly Father has guided her up to this moment to accept the Gospel. She lives in a HUGE very LDS family...they have had us come by to do family home evenings with all of them.

The D family (T, L, D, J) grew up LDS but were never baptized! The live in a small town about 10 minutes north of Richfield and LOVE the Book of Mormon and really want to be baptized. The thing about their ward is that the town is so small and the people are so nice that they are all super supportive with food, help fellowshipping and getting to church.

T and S Y are our investigators from Jamaica :) They read their scriptures every day, have family home evening, and really love church. We might not get to see their baptism because they are going up to Salt Lake this weekend to do it with their whole family.

We are also teaching a number of youth that haven't had the opportunity to be baptized as well. D M, J R, H S, and L C have all come to church with us and love it. It’s kind of funny that when the stake leadership hear we are teaching an unbaptized youth they look at each other and say "why hasn't he/she been baptized yet?" It is way fun to work with great leaders to help out these kids that more often than not come from less active families. In some cases, like L, they know everything in the Gospel and like he told us "I want to get baptized and married in the temple and go to the highest heaven" It may be kind of sad, but he looked at his less active grandma and told her "Don't worry, I will come down to visit you sometimes" We are working on her too ;)

M W is one of my favorites. He is an avid hunter that has made us chips, jerky, bread...he is the one who chose his own baptismal date. It’s so fun going over to his house to teach him and his family; the kids come and take the pens out of our pockets to draw on the floor, but M and his wife A (who we reactivated!!) are so receptive to the scriptures.

T D works on an oil rig and wants to get married in the temple. It is hard to be consistent with him all of the time because he works 7 days on and 7 days off and comes home SUPER tired. His only hang up is not having church clothes to go to church.

The H Family (J, T, K, J) was a miracle find. J has a previous husband whom we tracted into and he mentioned that he has an ex and kids that are unbaptized. As soon as we contacted this family the ward just rejoiced that they want to come into the church is well. J is with a man named J that was ordained an Elder in the church and they just need to get married before they can become members of the church :)

V and S L- our Native American investigators are granddaughters of the Navajo "Matriarch of Richfield". She referred us to them and has helped us out to fellowship. It is so interesting to see how Native American beliefs mix and coincide with the Restored Gospel...they really love the Book of Mormon (see "“Come unto Me, O Ye House of Israel”)

A, B, and C V I guess are three other unbaptized youth that we are teaching. They live in the same town as the D family :) Pretty much mom apologized for not getting them baptized and asked us to help her out. When the kids picked out a date, mom flipped out her Iphone and wrote it down. Investigator families like this are really common for Utah missionaries it seems.

N S is the other YSA we are teaching. Like I said he wants to receive his patriarchal blessing, go to the temple, and possibly a mission. His date might not be as solid because he doesn't want to offend his parents while he is living at home. We have him reading Preach My Gospel though and he met Elder Halleck with us. He is a really good kid...he reminds me so much of a lot of my friends at Lake Braddock.

S and S C are amazing. They are a couple who moved here from California this week and they referred themselves to the missionaries through Mormon.org. They are soooooo humble...not much by way of furniture in their home and both of them have lost their families. They are pretty much golden. We found them on Wednesday, taught them on Friday and Saturday and they came to church for the first time in their lives on Sunday. And they have a daughter that looks exactly like those posters for the movie "Brave". This really is the Lord's work.

P E is soooooo great. She lost her husband three years ago and has a son that wants to go on a mission as well. She said she was "Catholic" but is living with her brother and sister in law who have been endowed and sealed. We taught her the Plan of Salvation first and she just opened up to us about her family members that have passed away and how she doesn't know if she will see them again. She has been to church a lot and when she read 2 Nephi 31 she said "I am a lost dove and I need to be baptized"-she has even picked out her dress! Thanks to teaching her I get to keep up with my Spanish as well.

So I hope you see from that glance at our teaching pool that we LOVE what we are doing. There are a lot of missionaries and investigators under our care but the Lord is able to do great things when we just put ourselves in his hands. But really, the principle I have learned this transfer is the principle of love. I honestly love all of these people I am working with more than myself...it is a long list and all of this doesn't leave much room to get into trouble!

Seriously though, the church is true. There is no way three young men could accomplish all of this on our own. I really know that God lives and that he has heard my prayers. There were a couple of days this week where I went to bed just absolutely wiped out and when I woke up I told Heavenly Father "Elder Stewart is done...he can't take another step. But if you let Jesus Christ work through my life right now, I will keep putting one foot in front of another." And we have seen miracles from all three of us sacrificing like this.

I love you so much!! You are great examples of love and consecration for your service to the Hurricane victims, to the ward, and to us!! I thank Heavenly Father every day for my amazing parents. I am working on Christmas letters/postcards this Pday...I should get them all done. Keep sending reminders if you want to.

Take care!! I love you!

Con un abraso, (with a hug!)
Elder Michael George Stewart

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Three Musketeers

Hello Mom and dad!

The most exciting news that I have so far is that....we are in a tri-panionship now! Elder Betham from Hawaii is going to be with us until at least the end of this transfer (Dec 3rd) but after that, Elder Fragoso and I really want to keep him in the Zone. These are my favorite companions in the mission...right now it is so enjoyable to do missionary work. Contacting doors is diverse and exciting, we are teaching well together, and having a lot of good fun.

This week Elder Halleck and Elder Leavitt of the Seventy came to our Zone Conference and we introduced him to our investigator N and taught a "lesson with a member present" to N during the break. It’s pretty good to have a Seventy fellowship with you ;) But in all seriousness Zone Conference was great; our mission will be increasing its complement from 118 missionaries to 180...President says that he wants to split our area and put a set of missionaries in each stake, but I just pray he does that after we have a chance to do all our work through January!

Another humorous story to me...we were driving down a residential road two days ago right across from a kid practicing his baseball swing with a water bottle. The thought flashes through my mind..."that kid is going to hit the water bottle straight at us".  And sure enough as we are driving past, he swings, he connects, and the bottle comes straight at the Lord's Chevy Malibu.  Thankfully, I braked in time, and the kid looked really embarrassed and ran inside. Well...we decided to knock that house for help with another address...and it turns out that kid and his dad are interested in learning the gospel and being baptized.  I have never found a new investigator by playing baseball before. It seemed to me like sometimes the Lord will attract our attention when he really wants us to go somewhere :)

The work keeps going :) D J, his son D, and J R will be baptized this weekend, and there are a lot lined up for next week. Keep praying and working hard! I really do know that this church is true and that as we forget about ourselves and work, the Lord can do miracles with us; we just have to move our feet!

Working hard in the tri-panionship,
Elder Michael George Stewart

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Lord is at the Helm

What a great week! Thanks for your letters and support this week; I feel so blessed to be serving in this town at this time...it’s a great place to be. One of the things I like best about serving here is that everyone who I meet wants to get to know me and my companion as people (they ask about our families, what we like to do, who we are) even before they care about us as missionaries. That warmth is something that has really impacted me...I feel like in the first months of my mission I loved doing missionary things, maybe at the cost of loving and appreciating the people with all of my heart. I feel like Richfield is changing that around for me.

We had to drive all the way down from Richfield to St. George this week for a meeting and we had a good chat with President afterwards. He told Elder Fragoso and myself "don't expect to be leaving Richfield anytime soon" :) If all goes well I should be up here for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and my birthday! And who knows, maybe leaving Elder Stewart in areas for 9 months will become a theme...

All the same, we have a LOT of missionary work to be doing! This week we baptized two brothers who have been coming to church for a little while. Missionaries had been teaching J and B for a long time, it was just hard to get them to church. Now they have been riding their bikes to church for the past weeks, B bore his testimony in church last week, and they were doing cartwheels during our lessons out of their excitement to get baptized. Their service was really spiritual, lots of nonmembers showed up, and their whole family got up to bear their testimonies. It was great!

I'd say one of our highlights this week came during a lesson with M W on Thursday. He has been coming to the Second ward for weeks and really does want to join the church, but just wanted to choose a date on his own. After talking it over a lot with Elder Fragoso we decided to just be patient with him and keep teaching him. Well, on Thursday he told us "Elders, I have been thinking and praying about a date, and in sacrament meeting it came to me. I will be baptized on December 22nd" Yes!! It took a lot of faith on our part to follow that prompting, and trust M and the Lord enough to have him make that decision unassisted, but it came through! M is really such a great guy too. He has given us homemade (and self procured) Elk jerky, jalapeno chips, and offered to take us out to shoot "exploding star targets". Unfortunately due to mission rules, we could only accept the first two offers, but who knows what trips to Richfield there are in the future :)

We also kept teaching two YSA investigators this week. A H (the adopted daughter of an active family) has already picked out a baptismal dress, started making her program, and is really excited to be baptized herself. She has had a really rough past life, but as we taught her about the plan of salvation and the atonement, you could see the spirit wash over her and comfort her. The other YSA is N S, who might as well have gone to Lake Braddock with me. He told us "I am really looking forward to getting my patriarchal blessings, getting the priesthood, going to the temple, doing a mission, and maybe getting married along the line." We just smiled and thought, "Would you like to get baptized first?" Working with YSA age kids is so very different...I feel like they are extremely receptive because they are at a time where they are making a lot of important life choices, deciding their values, and working out who they really are. It’s very rewarding work.

They are so many other people to write about...our Jamaican investigators, a 50 year old man who wants to get baptized with his son, a family of five that we found this week, and so much more!! Just know that the work is real. Heavenly Father is hastening his work- he has called thousands more missionaries into the field recently, and we are pretty much swamped out here with so much to do. This is His church! It is true! And he is at the Helm of this work!

I love you so much! Take care! This week, maybe share a message from http://www.mormonchannel.org/ in an email you send, or include it as an email tagline. 

You're the best!
Elder Michael George Stewart

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

If the Lord is with us, who can be against us?

Hello mother and father!!

Thank you for all of your love and support. It was an incredible week here in Richfield. We broke our record for lessons taught that we set last week, and we had a miracle baptism! It is so different serving in two stakes up in this town than in St. George, but I love it.

This weekend Elder Fragoso baptized J on Saturday and I got to confirm him on Sunday. It was pretty crazy working with his family to get him baptized this weekend. He is 9 and he lives with a family that was formerly less active. Elder Fragoso and Elder Chadsey (the Elder who went down to Snow Canyon to be DL down there...small world) had tracted into the family and they mentioned they wanted to get reactivated. Well, the family has been coming to church, J was supposed to be baptized on Halloween (they postponed it though), and yesterday A-the mom-told us that after Js baptism she felt like she needed to be setting a better example of keeping the commandments for her kids. We are super excited to be seeing all 5 of the Js' at church (plus 2 nonmember friends that they bring;] ) consistently now. You can count on the Holy Ghost to help change people's lives.

We kept working with J C and her family this week as well (they are all Navajos) and she told us before we had even invited her that "I need to start going back to church with my kids". Yes!! We also invited her daughter to be baptized this week and she threw up both hands and said "Yayy!!" It was nice to see such enthusiasm and understanding from little V =] So we got them all to church on Sunday, and the family took up almost a whole pew. J had invited all of her kids, some cousins, and other family members; the only one that we were missing was her nonmember husband.

We also found three new investigators this week who have already been going to church. One is named N S, and he has been attending the YSA ward in the Richfield stake since he graduated high school in May. It has been really hard for the missionaries to contact him however, and Elder Fragoso and I are the lucky ones to start teaching him. After one lesson, he told us that he really wants to serve a mission himself, and that he doesn't "understand why more people aren't members of the LDS church". I really love this kid. He reminds me a lot of people who were in my classes at Braddock, and he is such a straight arrow...Elder Fragoso and I are buying him his own Preach My Gospel today, so that he can prep for baptism and a mission at the same time.

Sorry it’s such a short email. I just want you all to know that I am incredibly happy, Elder Fragoso is a great companion (he is from Salt Lake as well, can you say post mission roommate?), and we are tearing up Satan's kingdom here in this town. More than anything else, I feel like it is a pleasure to serve the Lord at this time in this place. It is so obvious to me that everyone I meet, every lesson we have, and even every missionary that I serve here has been prepared for me. The Lord is merciful with all of us, and when we sincerely want to serve him he will make everything possible for us to make a difference.

I love you all! Keep praying for missionaries! Just exercise a little faith and the Lord can do miracles through you!

Un corazon muy lleno, (With a full heart)
Elder Michael George Stewart