Week 4 - Oklahoma City - July 30, 2012

Mi querida familia,
Hola, como estan? This week has been a growing week. My trainer has been at a Leadership Training Meeting almost every day, so I've had to go on exchanges from Tuesday-thursday with an Elder Mulhstein. We both can't understand Spanish all that well, but it was good for us to get out and teach lessons without having to use my trainer as a fallback. I taught my first lessons completely in Spanish without my trainer! I felt pretty accomplished. There was this one lesson we had with a Mom and her children that was entirley in Spanish; we definately struggled communicating, but I think that it allowed for the Spirit to communicate more. Speaking Spanish forced me to simplify my teaching, and overall, I think this was one of the lessons where I felt the Spirit the strongest.
I'm learning a lot about how key member missionaries are in missionary work. Think about the story of the thousands of Lamanites that were converted because of Ammon and his brethren. If you look closely in chapter 23 I think it is, the only reason the missionaries were able to teach and convert thousands of people was because the King of the Lamanites "administered" and "pacified" the people beforehand. Only after the King referred the kingdom to listen to the word of God, were the missionaries able to have success. And then, the Aron and his bretheren went about organizing churches and appointing teachers to preach the Gospel. This is member missionary work! And it was said that the Lamanites who were converted, never did fall away. Think about it, the greatest missionary miracle in the Book of Mormon was brought to pass because of member missionary work.
I was listening to a Stake Presdent speak in Church this past Sunday, and he told us that his son, who was serving in Mexico, recently had a mission training with Elder Bednar. Basically, the missionaries are being instructed not to go knocking on doors anymore and work compleltey by member refferals. This hasn't taken effect in Oklahoma, but truly is what is needed in order to really spread the Gospel. All of us have been placed in the lives of our non-member friends for a reason. I highly encourage everyone back home to pray about a friend they could possibly invite to meet the missionaries. If it's done with love and concern, they will not be offended.
Our branch is pretty good about member missionary work. My companion and I literally pass around a sign up sheet during priesthood session every day, and we get quite a few people to sign up for a time to come work with us. The members can help break down barriers with investigators and establish friendly relationships. It's incredible how much this work is not only reserved for missionaries...it belongs to all of us. True, the missionaries are leading out the efforts, but to be honest, knocking on doors is not the most effective way to find people. It works, but very rarely.
Anyways, that's my rant for the day. I just realized that I forgot to mention where I'm serving in Oklahoma. I'm serving in the southern part of the actual Oklahoma City. The Spanish branch I'm working with is actually the largest in the mission. They have a pianist for Sacrament meetings so I don't get too many chances to play piano (except for P-days). However, there is a Branch Talent Show coming up that I'm hoping to participate in. I think I'm accompaning one of the members who is a really good Opera singer (you can hear him sing above everyone else during Sacrament Meeting). Oh, and here's a little tid-bit about the Spanish branch---they can't really carry a tune all that well:) It's pretty funny, one of our investiagators brought it up. He metioned after the meeting that he liked his other Church better because they sing a lot prettier. He said he'd still come to our church, but we've got a little teaching we need to do with him.
The funnest lessons Elder Black and I have taught this week have been to a few 9-year old kids named Alberto and Silas. Alberto has actually already committed to baptism. His Mom isn't a member yet, but he has good support from his older brother. His mom will let him get baptised but we have to teach him all the lessons first. And let me tell you, these lessons have been a blast. I used a little visual activity that I learned from my Mom in a letter home. We asked one of the members to call our cell phone in the middle of the lesson. We changed the caller ID of this member to say "God". So when the member called our phone, it looked like God was literally calling. It worked so well! Alberto was kind of confused, the other kid that was sitting in with us (Silas) totally bought it. Anyways Elder Black pretended to talk with God. He said thank you for all his friends and asked God to bless his family, mentioned Alberto's name and then he hung up. It was a great lesson about how to prayer and how its literally a conversation with your Father in Heaven. Alberto brought up the fact that he couldn't hear God on the other side...PERFECT opportunity to share how we don't hear God but that we feel his love through the Holy Ghost. He then asked a question that really taught me a lot: "How did God feel when you mentioned my name?" My companion and I went silent because neither of us had prepared for this question. But think about it...how must God feel when you pray for other people? He must feel incredibly happy to see his children truly showing concern for his other children.
Anyways, wow! you know if we could teach children more often out here on the mission, I think the Church would grow at twice the rate it is now, and the retention rates would be equally as good. Children are just so open to hear the Gospel. They are naturally curious and willing to learn. I guess that's why Jesus asks us to become as little Child. you literally can't apply the doctrine of Christ without becoming like a Child. If you aren't humble, meek, submissive and obedient, there is no way you can excercise faith unto repentance. I think back to my own siblings and I realize that I've learned quite a bit from them being an older brother.
On a sadder note, my companion and I had an unfortunate experience this week. Remember that family I mentioned a few weeks ago? The one that was golden and ready to hear the Gospel? They had to go back to Mexico this week. We ran into the Mother just as she was preparing to leave. She said they wouldn't know if they'd be able to come back. It was hard. We quickly bore our testimonies and gave her a Book of Mormon. I have a strong feeling they will hear the gospel though. If not through me, it will be through some other missionary. I felt more hope, than despair.
Well, those are the highlights of the week, and I'm running out of time. The work is progressing and it's incredible to witness. I have yet to witness a miracle, but I'm sure once the day comes that I can understand Spanish fluently, I'll have had enough miracles for a lifetime!
Con Amor,
Elder Powley

Week 3 - Oklahoma City - July 23 2012

Note:  Andrew is in the southern part of Oklahoma city working with a small Spanish branch.

Mi querida familia,
I'll be honest, this week has been kind of tough. We didn't get as much teaching in as we liked since a lot of our appointments fell through, and there were some points this week where I felt really down because of my language abilities. Don't get me wrong, I can speak Spanish...understanding on the other hand is a whole other story. We were meeting with an investigator this week who literally poured out her soul to us about her concerns about everything we've taught her...however it was all in Spanish and I had the hardest time understanding anything. Now, don't misunderstand me, but I've got to tell you, I felt pretty useless. I knew I could have said something that could have helped, and in "Preach My gospel" it says you need to listen to the investigators to discover their needs...but how can I listen if I can't understand?
I vented about this to my companion, and he really helped me through this 3 week crisis I was going through. He helped me realize that I needed to learn self-patience. The Lord works through "simple and small things" in order to bring about his great and eternal purposes. I'm not meant to become fluent in Spanish in the first month, it has to come gradually and I simply need to be patient. Also, he mentioned something very intersting, he said something to the effect that when you're listening to someone speak Spanish, it's very hard to understand them if you keep doubting yourself. This made compelte sense to me! If my head is full of doubt, how can I expect to understand Spanish? I needed to replace doubt with faith.
And so I experimented with this notion during another all-Spanish appointment this week. We were teaching an older couple, incredibly kind and very religious, about the Sabbath Day. A little background on this couple, they used to be Catholic until they started studying the Bible and realized that some of the preachers weren't living the Bible word by word. So they broke away and become part of a Christian church known as "7th Day Adventist". One of the main beliefs in this church is that they believe that the Sabbath day is actually on a Saturday, not a Sunday. This is because in the Bible, it specifically states that God consecrated the 7th day (or Saturday) as a day of rest. When they met with Elder Black before I came in, they politely told him that they would not read the Book of Mormon simply because if our Church really believed the Bible, we would worship on Saterday.
Now, there is scriptorial evidence that the Sabbath day is on a Sunday; so elder Black and I studied really hard for this lesson. In fact we dedicated a day of fast to teach these really extremely kind people. I personally fasted so that I could understand Spanish better. I replaced fear with faith.
And it worked. I didn't understand every word, but I felt the Spirit stronger, and it was able to make up the difference. We bore our testimonies of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and they finally accepted to read it. We didn't change their minds about the Sabbath Day, but we did open up their minds to the possiblity that if the Book of Mormon is true, then Joseph Smith was a propeht and modern revelation has revealed the Sabbath Day to be on a Sunday.
Very awesome teaching experience for me. As missionaries, we have done our part; now its up to our investigators to soften their hearts and accept that they need to change (which is very hard to do since they've been worshipping on Saturday for about 30 years and they've adjusted their work schedules to accomadate this belief). Hopefully it works out, until then, we've put our lessons on hold.
I also had the chance to go on exchanges this week with an elder who speaks and understands Spanish about as well as me. Longest day of my life! All our appointments fell through, and nothing seemed to work out. However, we did get to teach one discussion...and that made all the difference. Every ounce of disappointment was wiped away by simply the opportunity to teach one lesson and invite one person to come unto Christ. I really gained a perspective on the worth of one soul in the eyes of God.
This week I also got to give my first talk. It was actually at a baptism for one of the children in our ward, and I got to speak (in Spanish) about the ordinance of baptism. I spoke about how Jesus Christ is our perfect example of why we need to witness to the Father our willingness to follow his commandments. I also mentioned how privelaged we are to hold the literal priesthood authority of God. As a closer, I mentioned to this boy who was getting baptised, to focus on his feelings. Many times when we are baptized, we don't understand the full implication of the ordinance...but we do feel that it is right. Those feelings are more important than anything because they are of the Spirit, and the Spirit testifies whether baptism is the right direction or not.
The mission is amazing! It's been great to wind down for P-day and write you guys a letter. we actually went to the zoo as a district and got to relax a little bit (don't worry, we got it approved from the Zone Leaders:). I'm gaining a deep love for spicy Mexican food!
I hope everything is going well back at home, I'm really learning so much about life out here and what it really means to love someone vastly different from yourself. I really like my companion, Elder Black, and his outlook on knocking on doors. He just simply treats everyone he meets like they're his best friend. I really hope I can develop this kind of selfless love that I've witnessed with so many people out here in Oklahoma.
Take care! And keep strong!
Love you all!
Con Amor,
Elder Powley

Week 2 - Oklahoma City - July 16, 2012

Mi quierida familia,
What a week! I got to experience my first Oklahoma rainstorm, and wow was I am impressed. I've never seen so much rain fall at one time. Literally, puddles were the size of small ponds, and small creeks would start forming in neighborhood parks. It was awesome! In case you were wondering, I was actually not stuck on a bike, my companion and I were lucky to have a car to drive around in.
However, having the car was the principle reason we weren't riding bikes... This past Tuesday was a very humbling, experience. The kind of expereince that I think every white Mormon boy from Utah has to expereince at least once in their life when they leave home. Long story short, Elder Black and I left our bikes at a member's apartment complex because we didn't want to ride our bikes home in the rain. We made the mistake of only locking our bikes to eachother (which is the first time we'd done that, we're usually not so naive:)and some lucky person got a "2 for 1" deal. Yep, our bikes got stolen! Reality check big time! People actually steal stuff. Apparently, bike-theft rates have tripled this year from last year, and there are people out there targetting guys riding around in white shirts and ties and balck name tags:)
I've learned a lot from this experience. I'll be honest, I wasn't completely discouraged. For me, the fact that our bikes got stolen was a testimony that the adversary is truly trying to slow down missionary work. Key word here is "trying". He can't succeed.
I also found some great words of comfort from the Book of Mormon in the book of Helaman. It says that if the Lord does not chasten us with afflictions, we will not remember him (12:3). I think these our great words of wisdom. I echo the words of Paul who said something to the effect of "I take joy in my affirmities...when I am weak, I am made strong." Losing my bike has been more of a lesson than a hardship. Just as I should probably hook my bike up to an "iron rod" next time, I should always keep myself anchored in Christ.
Despite our misfortunes with our bikes, we nonetheless had some great success this week. We found 5 new investiagtors in one day, using the Heavenly Gift method that I described last time, including a terrffic family. Let me tell you, we are so excited to teach this family. We were literally in the right place at the right time when we met them:
We actually met the kids a few days before outside of their house. They were trying to through away the trash when all the sudden the bag exploded. Elder Black and I rushed over to help them. We talked with the kids, gave them a high five and then left because we had an appointment later that day. However, I had the strongest impression, or thought, the we needed to come back and visit this family.
We were going to visit them on Tuesday, but that was the day our bikes got stolen (another proof that the adversary obviously wanted to delay us in meeting this family). So we contacted them Wednesday. The mother was super kind, the kids had actaully told her what happened when we helped them with the trash. She was open to a prayer, she invited all the kids to participate. It turned out very well. We couldn't enter the house because there wasn't another man at home, however, we set up a return visit for Sunday when the father was home.
So yesterday, we got to have a prayer with the whole family. We literally drove up to the house right as they were arriving home. The dad was a bit uneasy at first, but he eventually warmed up to us because of the example we set to the children. We went in, had a family prayer and we bore our testimonies of eternal familes. We feel very confident that this fmaily is someone God wants us to teach. We left them with a Restoration packet and plan on teaching them the first lesson this ext Sunday. We are willing to wait because you learn out here from experience that if you do not get the father in on the discussions at the same time as the rest of the family, it becomes very hard for them to commit to baptism. I can't wait to teach them again!!
This family (the Martinez family) has been the highlight of my week. You could tell right when when you walked in the house that it was a home abounding with love. It's families like these that give hope that there truly is righteousness in this world.
My testimony has been truly strengthened this week. Sure, I've had moments of discouragement and doubt.  But it always comes back to the same principles we've been taught at the MTC: pray, read the scriptures and love other people. I believe that it's when we turn outward rather than inward that we truly witness an increase in our testimonies and better understand the Atonement of Christ. What better way is there to learn of Christ than to actually experiement with what he did and serve others?
Keep strong in the Faith!
Con Amor,
Elder Powley

Week 1 - Oklahoma City - July 9, 2012

Mi querida familia,
Hey everyone! Hope you're all doing well, I know I'm having a blast out here in Oklahoma.
I'll be honest, I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed. My Spanish is not as good as I thought it was back in the MTC, understanding the members is really hard, but I generally feel their love for the Gospel whenever I'm around them.
So a few things about the Spanish culture that I've learned out here: 1. Spanish culture is very "spur of the moment". We were out knocking on doors one day, and we went to this one house where they were having a family BBQ for the 4th of July. We introduced ourselves and they let us come share our message and then they offered us these really good steak tacos.
Also, I'm learing that often times its not that offensive to completely miss an appointment. Most times, appointments fall through. The men in the Spanish culture seem to always be working 24/7 so its very hard to set appointments with them.
2. The Hispanics are very kind people, I have yet to meet someone who was hostile to a couple of young missionaries walking around offering to bless their homes.
3. There is this fun MExican tradition that they do on birthdays. The person having a birthday often take a huge bite, literally no forks just their mouths, out of the birthday cake. It's quite hilarious.
4. Not the best singers when it comes to Sacrament meeting:)
5. Many people like to sit out on the front porch and simply hang out. I never really saw a lot of that in Utah.
6. Family Home Evenings in the Spanish Wards are a little different. The whole branch is really closely knit, so for Fmaily Home Evening, the whole branch usually goes to the Church for a Spiritual lesson and to play volleyball.
So there are a few things about Spanish culture. Now I want to share with you this interesting tactic our mission uses when doing door appraches. This tactic is called the "Heavenly Gift" or "Don de los Cielos". We no longer identify ourselves as "missionaries as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints" right off the bat. Our approaches go something like this: "Hello, we are representatives of Jesus Christ. There are many troubles and hardships in the world and today we are going around blessing peoples homes because we feel like we could all use a little more of God in our lives. Would it be ok if we came in and said a prayer with you and bless your home and family?" We would then proceed to go in, get to know the family, ask them what they would like us to pray for and then pray for them. Ultimately, we get on the subject of religion, and we're able to share a restored truth and get a return appointment.
It's been very effective for our mission, we've actually doubled the number of our progressing investiagtors ever sicne instigating this approach. It works because it very efficiently seeks out those that are ready to hear the gospel. Your heart has to be pretty hard and closed to turn down a prayer.
Now let me tell you about my companion Elder Black. Seriously, he's like the best trainer ever. I have yet to see him frown. He laughs a lot and takes the work very seriously. One of the things he's helped me learn is how to not feel so uptight about everything, keeping that trust in God and keeping the work fun as well as busy. Everyone is really drawn to Elder Black, he is very personable and I've really been able to connect with him. He's a volleyball player and and also the District leader for our District. This means we get to drive a car! We only get 400 miles a month so we still have to bike a lot... but it's a really great asset to have the car. I learn so much from Elder Black, sometimes I feel like I'm eclipsed by his awesomeness but we've been able to work as a team really well.
Our apartment is pretty standard. I'll have to send pictures next week. To those who went to BYU, it's about in between the New Heritage and Old Heritage in terms of quality. I'm so glad to be out of the MTC! We don't have to worry about dinner ever. The members literally sign up to feed us; they really get excited about missionary work; I've never seen such excitement about missionary work such as here than anywhere I've lived in Utah. We pass around sign up sheets for members to come teahc appointements with us, and we've been able to get quite a few volunteers.
MY companion and I have a good sized amount of investiagators. Oklahoma is a very religious state. You know how there are LDS churches on every corner in Utah? Well, it's like that except there's a different church on every corner. Most everyone knows about Jesus Christ, we really have to rely on the message of the Restoration and the Book of Mormon to show our uniqueness from other churches.
My faith has really been tested out here. I'm learning the magnitude of trust you need to have in the Lord and that the Holy Ghost will help you teach. It's a bit daunting to think that God can work miracles through me.
We had a very interesting experience with an investigator yesterday. She really thinks the Spirit is telling her to get a divorce, and even after we explaiend how the Spirit manifests truth. She felt peace when she thought about getting a divorce but she's confused because she gets the feeling that Eternal Fmailes are important as well. It was a very deep, spiritual lesson. I didn't know quite what to say; but I think Elder Black and I have figured out how to help her and keep pointed towards our purpose: which is to bring her closer to Christ through Faith in Jesus Christ and his Atonement, repentance, baptism , receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end.
I did have my first baptismal invitation this week with an investigator named Ismael. He accepted, but he has so much he needs to learn. He's also not very educated so we have to really explain things simply and we have to remind him constantly to come to Church and and of what we taught the lesson before.
I can't wait to see what my mission has in store for me. It's such an exciting experience. The gospel is truly expanding, and there are people out there who are ready to hear it. They just need to come to Church! (that's the biggest challenge:)
Hope everyone is doing well; again the best address to reach me at is the Mission office in Oklahoma
416 SW 79th Suite 210
Oklahoma City, OK
Keep strong in the Faith!

Con Amor,
Elder Powley

Picture with Mission President and wife

Andrew at the President Taylor's home in OKC.  Night of July 3rd

July 3, 2012 - OKC Arrival Letter

Hi everyone! I'm glad I got a chance to call home and simply hear your voices. It meant a lot to me, but now I think I might miss you all even more...Matthew;s voice is so low! He sounds like a teacher already:) Jane is really funny to listen too, and hearing all your voices really brought back fond memories. Thank you for that.
But nonetheless, I am having perhaps the most fulfilling experience of my life out here. I can't really explain it. You hear all the missionary experience stories that people tell; and they sound cool. However, when you experience them for yourself it's an entirely different experience altogether. You literally feel as if the Lord is supervising every word you speak and there's a certain aura of responsibility that you feel when you talk with other people.
I contacted two people by myself today. Basically I just talked with whoever I sat by during my flights to Denver and then to Oklahoma city. I truly believe both of these people were placed in my path for a reason. The first was an older woman of about 50 or so, who was traveling with her daughter and grandson. I had a nice chat with her about families, what it means to me to serve a mission, finding peace through God, prayer and Jesus Christ. She actually had taken the discussions before, in fact, she'd read the whole Book of Mormon.And then I asked her the golden question: "Have you prayed about the Book of Mormon?" She replied no. I then got to testify and share the promise made in Moroni 10:3-5. I've testified of the Book of Mormon many times, but this time was different. I was testifying to a non-member, something I've never done before. The Spirit backed up my testimony, and WOW! it was so cool! And this spiritual experience happened all because I felt prompted to ask "Do you have family in Iowa?"
Then I talked to a younger guy who was actually in the Army shipping out to Korea in a few days. I noticed he had a scripture from Isaiah tattooed on his arm from the 41 chapter verse 10 about "Fear not I am with thee, be not dismayed for I am thy God..." I thought it was such a cool scripture that I felt I had to talk to him about it. So I contacted him. I then shared a cross reference in the Book of Mormon (Helaman 5:12). He was genuinely interested. I later learned that he actually made a few Mormon friends during his time in Boot Camp. These friends even gave him a Book of Mormon. I then invited him to read it, specifically Alma 56 which talks about the Stripling warriors. I thought it might be cool for him to see that he could liken the scriptures to his situation. If you have faith in God, you don't need to fear anything.
Anyways, being a missionary is awesome. I don't know if any of these people will convert because of what I said, but I know that I invited them to come unto Christ. And after both these experiences I felt really good. Almost as if I'd accessed a part of my soul that I didn't know even existed.
I then landed in OKC and was greeted with a hug from our Mission President, President Nolan. Such a nice guy, including his wife. They were very happy to meet us, and we immediately felt like family.
Our travel group then went to the mission home. we had a nice lunch, a few words from the assistants to the President, and then we went proselyting for the first time. Wow, talk about humbling. The Hispanic community is actually very kind. No one slammed doors in our faces or threatened us (yet), but people were really friendly. The people of Oklahoma are very religious, everyone believes in Jesus Christ; they just don't know that he's personally established his church on the Earth through Joseph Smith.
Anyways, things are great. Slowly its starting to dawn on me how hard this mission is going to be. I feel so overwhelmed right, almost as if I'm not capable of such a work. However, I know for a fact as long as I'm obedient and spiritually minded, I will be strengthened by the Lord.
I know for a fact that I'm supposed to on a mission.
Love you all and remain strong!
Con Amor,
Elder Powley
PS Fyi, my p-days are Mondays from this moment on instead of Thursdays.