Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Zone Conference Week

Hello mom and dad! This week we were barely in our area at all. It all seems like a blur to me. We drove up to Ephraim to do a Zone Conference on Wednesday, and then we had conferences Thursday and Friday as well. Super Busy! Friday was President Leonard's last Zone Conference and he was pretty emotional about it. He leaves on June 27th and then we get President Center. It’s going to be a bumpy ride!

We had a lot of good experiences this week. We went on three exchanges this week and every time I went into an area other than mine. It was a good chance to get to know other missionaries and to teach with different companions.

Today we are super busy, so I'm sorry if this is no more than an "I'm still alive!!!" I love what I am doing! The Church is still true!!

Love, Elder Stewart

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Quickest week ever!

Dear Mom and Dad,

I've said it before and I'll say it again, but this was the quickest week of my whole mission. This week we received two new missionaries into the mission, said goodbye to one, did one zone conference, three exchanges, and drove back and forth to Richfield a total of three times. Oh, and we had a baptism. It was way too much for my poor old body.

E was baptized this week on Wednesday. There were 75 people at his baptism! Lots of nonmembers came. He bore his testimony at the end. It was perfect! I am glad that his nonmember parents were there to see the baptism.

Funny story though, Elder Chidester baptized E and forgot to pull the plug on the water and left it in the font after he got changed. Normally, they solve this problem by using a special long handled hook (aka, an unbent wire clothes hanger) to pull the plug, but the plug was twisted just so that it wouldn't come up. After lots of unsuccessful attempts, we spotted a random passerby in the institute who was in shorts and flip flops, and we asked him to wade into the water to pull the plug. Being a college aged male, he agreed and frankly didn't mind getting fully wet on a warm night. A little unconventional solution, but it worked!

So next on E's list is family history this week so that he can get the priesthood next week and we can do baptisms for the dead with him sometime in the near future. Also, he and his girlfriend just got engaged! Mazeltov!

We kept teaching A this week, she is a tender mercy. She hasn't prayed yet to ask if the Book of Mormon is true though. We probed her about that and she said that "she is afraid of the answer". It’s hard when you're the first one in your family but A is a great kid. She is managing to find time to meet with us even though its finals week. As soon as she gets her answer she has it all!

This week was a lot of just submitting to the will of the Lord. I was pretty sick this week. We drove up to Richfield to do an exchange, slept that night, and I woke up the next morning with a fever and diarrhea. After feeling sorry for myself for a couple hours, I asked for a Priesthood blessing, and we went through with the exchange. It was honestly one of the physically hardest days of my mission. I was just wiped through the whole thing. I don't know why the Lord wanted me to have that experience but now that I am feeling better I think it will be easier to work hard through every day, because I already did it when I was sick.  Lots of blessings!

Even the hard experiences on my mission have taught me a lot. God wants to shape and mold us. We just have to say "thy will be done."

I love you all so much!! Thanks for making my mission possible, we have a lot of work to do here! 

Elder Michael Stewart

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

We're Different for a Reason

Well hello there from Utah's Dixie! We had another super packed week with lots of duties and jobs to do. I am very tired!! I am really grateful for my mission right now...I can't imagine my life without this specific mission.

I don't know if I told you this story---here is a little background for you. The office has a clear glass door with the church name and the mission name on it and through that glass door there is a reflection of the front desk computer monitor against the wall. The computer desktop is the group picture we took of all of our new missionaries this transfer. One night we were leaving the office and I was super wiped. I may have let a few unhappy and uncontented thoughts creep into my heart at that point, but as I turned to lock the door I looked up and I saw the door and the computer reflection through the door. I saw the words "Jesus Christ" and the picture of all of our new missionaries, and I was reminded of why I was doing what I was doing. I love the Savior and I really love all of the missionaries across our mission. Someone has to do the jobs that we do, and while I can think of a whole lot of people who could do this job a lot better, I guess Heavenly Father is helping me to develop more charity now. It sure isn't easy all of the time!

We went on two exchanges this week with the Zone Leaders in Mt. Pleasant and in Cedar City. We saw almost the whole breadth of the mission in one week! The whole time I was in Mt. Pleasant, I was kind of missing being "up north" or "out bound" as the missionaries say when they are outside of the city of St. George. Right now there are 70 missionaries that serve in St. George and Washington City and 82 that are serving outside of St. George...the small towns and the city are two different missions it seems! The towns have a slower pace, more open spaces, no traffic, and humbler people. I think we counted only 5 stop lights in my last zone, and that is the biggest geographic area in the mission. Anyway, it’s fun to be back in the city.
On one of the exchanges I got to go with Elder Lazarus again. I have been serving around that man since he was "born" in the mission and I really have a lot of love for him. It has been fun to see him grow, take suggestions, practice, and become a better teacher and leader. It’s always really rewarding when someone says to you "Elder Stewart, you just make me want to work harder."  That was a payday moment.
Teaching has been crazy this week. There are several people that have accepted baptism, but many of them are going to be leaving on May 2nd when the semester ends. Pray for us to keep finding!

One girl we got referred to (by a girl who is originally from Richfield interestingly enough) is named A, and she has taken some lessons before. The only reason she didn't get baptized before is that she ran into an acquaintance who was anti-Mormon and she got cold feet. A has come to church with us, she is reading the Book of Mormon, and she even attended a Spanish baptismal service with us tonight. She said that it was "beautiful". She accepted the challenge to be baptized and hopefully she can experience her own before she goes home!

We kept teaching E more this week. He is a character. He brought Taco Bell to one lesson and started eating his bean burrito while we were talking about the plan of salvation. Sometimes teaching college kids is like teaching---kids. He is all set to be baptized next week! Yay!

This week, we've had to have some pretty direct and heart to heart conversations with a lot of missionaries. In a lot of the cases, it’s not that anyone wants to be disobedient or make a problem; it’s just that all of us are created differently and sometimes that creates conflicts. Back home, they did not have to be around those they didn't get along with if they didn't want to. On a mission, being with a different companion can sometimes be taxing. But, we are all different for a reason! Heavenly Father wants Elder Stewart to serve so that he can use his specific gifts and talents to move along his work, and the same is true of every other unique child of God.

I have a testimony of this work and of this church. Right now we are gathering Israel in from all the corners of the earth. Even in little old Dixie, in little old St. George the work of fulfilling God's covenants is happening. I know that the gospel has been restored in our days through Joseph Smith, and that the principles of the Gospel can guide and bless our lives. The only way back to heaven is through the ordinances. That’s what we offer everyone!

I love you!!! Be a good friend and an "everyday missionary" this week. They are sometimes the most powerful ones.

Lots of love!!
Elder Michael George Stewart

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Another week in Paradise

Hello Mom and Dad! 

I really loved reading your emails this week. I don't know how God does it, but somehow even thousands of miles away our love towards each other can increase and we can grow stronger together. Thank you for your constant love and support =)

The weather here was....PERFECT, all week. There is nothing better when you can serve the Lord is a place you love with a companion that you love too. It was a great week! Here is a blow by blow
Monday: we met with a kid on the baseball team named K. He is super interested and has been reading the Book of Mormon. Like a lot of kids at the end of the semester though he is super busy, and we need to catch up with him again.

Tuesday: Said goodbye to Elder Pedersen at 9:00am and loaded everyone transferring from St. George onto Elder Woolley's van. We taught a lesson in the evening to E a 24 year old that is looking to marry an LDS girl. I look at E and the family he is going to have, and I just see how much the gospel will bless him. E is super receptive and we have him on date to be baptized next week. Tuesday evening we attended the departing missionary dinner and testimony meeting- I guess you could say that is a perk of this assignment :) Far from distracting me...hearing the testimonies of my friends from the mission really made me want to work harder and be better. There isn't much time left!

Wednesday: We welcomed the arriving missionaries at the airport at 8:50am, took them to the mission home, took their pictures, and fed them waffles courtesy of Sister Leonard. Then we trained the new missionaries and their companions for the whole morning. Training missionaries is the best; I look at these new missionaries, and we are in a position to just mold their missions and their lives. If we can help them start off being obedient and hardworking, we can eliminate so many problems down the road. We also taught students from Haiti, Tonga, and a lot from Vegas :)

Thursday: We had the St. George temple trip in the morning and taught lessons in the afternoon. We drove up to Richfield in the evening.

Friday: Woke up in Richfield in my old apartment and went to the Manti temple with the northern part of the mission. Then it was 3 hours in the car back to St. George. It was good bonding time with Elder Chidester.
Saturday: Watched general conference at the institute and met with President Leonard to plan for the transfer's meetings. We had another lesson with R, a girl we found last week, and she is going through some opposition caused by poor choices. It’s hard to see people use their agency like that!

Sunday: Watched general conference in the morning with the S family! I lived with them in my very first transfer on the mission, and they are my favorite. We also had a lesson with a kid from Guatemala named A.  And we got to teach him in Spanish :) It was good to teach with my companion in Spanish again...A is really receptive, he has been coming to church with a friend for a week and wants to learn the restored gospel. We taught E again in the evening, and he is ready for baptism! Then we went to the office at night to do our Sunday night chores :)

Well...I don't know if you felt it at conference like I did, but the church is definitely true! One of the things that really struck me from this session is just how much the Apostles are rooted in teaching the doctrine of Christ. Everything they taught in conference was related to increasing Faith in Christ and his Atonement, Repentance, Baptism, Receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the End. I am trying harder than ever to be rooted in this doctrine and have it relate to everything I do. The Doctrine of Christ is my purpose I guess you could say right now. Right now our area kind of looks like Richfield did at the beginning of last transfer....not to many investigators. BUT! We can turn it around now just like we did then :)

This week was definitely a busy one, but I am so grateful to the Lord for his help in doing it all this week. I know that when I have asked for strength and guidance he has liberally given it to me...how comforting that we don't have to do anything alone. Keep the faith!! It is all worth it.

Elder Michael George Stewart

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

"Long hours and lots of sacrifice"

Hello mom and dad!! I think this has been the busiest week of my mission, hands down. I learned a ton and did a whole lot. These transfers are definitely going to be an opportunity to develop greater charity. 
One slight change in protocol, since we do a lot of admin on Sunday, we will email on Sunday as well. So expect my emails a little sooner.

This week is a blur. Elder Wooley picked me up on Monday and drove me down to St. George and since then it has been a blur of transfer meetings with the President and Elder Woolley, meeting with missionaries, and teaching. Elder Woolley and I talked on the way down, it was a good heart to heart :) He told me that "This assignment is a great opportunity. It represents long hours and lots of sacrifice, but you will love it." We do have an area; we cover Dixie State University, in the St. George YSA 1st stake. It is amazing :) There are kids here from all over the world that we teach: Hong Kong, Mexico, Haiti, Mozambique, Russia, and Sweden. It’s pretty incredible.

In Richfield, C got baptized this week! I was sad I didn’t get to see him, but we also had a baptism this weekend in Dixie. A young man whom the elders have been teaching for a few weeks got baptized on Saturday. His name is J and he is from Hong Kong. I now repent for ever wanting to go on a mission in China, because here in Dixie the Chinese kids come to us :)

My companions for this week were Elder Pedersen from Argentina and Elder Chidester from Massachusetts. They are great missionaries and Elder Chidester will probably be my companion for the next few transfers.

One of the things I am already appreciating is being around President Leonard so much. The man is amazing. He is patient, kind, bold, and objective all wrapped up into one. He honestly listens to and accepts our input for transfers and he trusts us so much. I am going to love this :-) We kind of had a major fire drill this week. We make transfer calls and type up all of the info for our calls on a sheet of paper (new area, new companion, transfer location and time etc.). Well, Sunday evening, we were getting ready to call all of the Elders to give them there transfers, when we found that the file had been corrupted. That was a lot of work down the tubes. So we used pictures of the transfer board to make the calls and we gave all of the other information from memory for 144 missionaries. It was such a blessing that the Lord helped us to remember everything. That was pretty crazy.

In other news, this week we found three new investigators who all came to church. Teaching just YSA's is going to be a lot of fun.

Well, I have to go!! I just want to let you all know though how much I love the Lord and this mission. It seems like I am giving more now than I ever have, and I am trusting in the Lord to take care of everything. It seems like a theme on my mission has been that you can't do it all alone. I couldn't learn Spanish alone, couldn't teach alone, couldn't train alone, and it’s no different now. I know that Christ's atonement can strengthen us in everything. This is his church! The key to access his power is obedience to his gospel.

I love you so much! Keep praying for us to be able to find investigators.
Elder Michael George Stewart