Week 8 - Oklahoma City - August 27, 2012 -

Mi querida familia,
Just when you think it couldn't get any better...I had another awesome testimony building week. I don't know whats going on, not every week is supposed to be amazing, but while looking back... I had some INCREDIBLE experiences this week.
This week, we focused a lot on visiting less active members of the church. It was quite humbling to visit homes that weren't active in the church. The homes were nice enough, but you could definately feel the contrast between being in a home with active members. It just goes to show that even though you may be baptized, that doesn't mean the Spirit will be with you at all times...you have to keep doing your part by reading the scritpures, praying, and attending church. And you have to do all three of those things, not just one or the other. We met with two families this week and they both had a common denominator...neither had been visited by home teachers in the past months. This one goes out to you Dad, bishops and all those Elders Quorums out their. Hometeaching is essencial for member retentions. I remember when I was an Elder's quroum president at BYU and hometeaching was the hardest thing to have people do. But the difference was the same. Those brothers and sisters in my BYU ward that weren't active in coming to Church were the same ones that hadn't been visited by home teachers. In a way home teaching really is a type of missionary work... in fact it is missionary work.
We also learned about this one inactive family that the reason the wife didn't attend church was because she was offended...once. We can't underestimate the power our words have on other people. True we shouldn't choose to be offended, but we also need to be careful what we say.
Then there were a lot of less actives that weren't livving at the given address anymore. We actaully visited this one guy and we met his mom and brother at the door. Turns out, this member is in jail (we had no idea). However, this contact turned into a pretty sweet experience since the mom and brother weren't members. They ended up becoming new investiagators. It's amazing how spreading the gospel is more effective when you work with people who have had experience with members of the church before.
This week has also been kind of hard in keeping in contact with our investiagators and setting return appointments. The people who work out here NEVER have fixed schedules. Every time we ask "What time would be best for you?" we get the common "Oh any time is as good as another, no tengo un horario." Its so hard. We have three baptismal dates and we didn't get any time to teach those specific people lessons this week. Because they simply aren't making the time to hear our messages. It especially interferes with getting investigators to come to church. Work is like an addiction out here. People just don't want to stop working. It's good that they want to provide for their families, but at the same time it's hindering the mission. But ultimately I think it comes down to the desire.
Ok I have a few more specific experiences I need to share. First, this week was my first time being "dropped" by an investiagtor. This means, the investiagator tells us that they aren't interested anymore. Elder Chapman and I went to visit this lady that previously had a baptismal date. We asked her if we could set an appointment to come by and teach. However she seimply said that she didn't think the Mormon Church was right for her. Our hearts sank. Her concerns were doubts about living prophets and the idea of three kingdoms and that even the sinners will recieve a place of glory. Everything else felt good, but she simply wasn't ready. Her marriage was also a bad situation. She kept telling us that her husband was a lost cause and always made fun of her when she did good. It was sad. However, she had not read the Book of Mormon. this was the only flaw in her desire. So I shared with her two of my favorite scritpures Moroni 10:4 and 2 Nephi 33:10,(perfect scritpure combo for anyone who doubts this church is true and hasn't read the Book of Mormon) and bore my testimony that this book truly testifies of Christ and teaches men to do good that that next to a wtiness from the Holy Ghost is the strongest evidence of its truthfulness. "ask God having faith in Christ if this things are not true...if ye shall believe in Christ ye shall believe these words for they are the words of Christ." I could feel the words flowing easily from my mouth, there was power when I quoted those scriptures and I haave no doubt that the Spirit was backing up what I was saying; our investiagotr had no response except that she would continue to read and pray.
Now, before this experience I had never cried during my testimony. I've always known the Book of Mormon was true, but had never been so sure, so positive in my whole life until this moment being dropped by an investiagator. We left her on good terms, she continue to read and pray, but she will contact us when she feels ready.
In contrast, I had another experience. We were at a restaruant with a member for dinner and while my companion and I were in line for the HIbachi grill, we were apporaced by a lady who asked if we were mormons. We said yes and that we were missionaries. She smiled and said that that was cool and that she had a friend who was Mormon who served a mission as well. My companion and I are both thinking "Wow sweet, this might be a golden contact." Then she started asking about whether had heard about Heavenly Mother. There is this new church in Oklahoma where people are teaching that the gospel has been restored by God....but they believe God is a female. It's an interesting belief. Anyways, then she said that we didn't believe in Jesus Christ but rather Joseph Smith and it just went downhill from there. She wasn't attacking, but rather trying to preach to us. She kept citing revelations and saying that Christ has already come again, and that he came in 1948 when the state of Israel was formed. It was crazy.
But here's the thing. I remember distincly that my mind was at a blank while we were talking with this woman. I had no comeback, no words were coming to mind, not even a testimony. And then after she left, I suddenly realized all the flaws in her argument and my mind was opened to a ton more things I could havbe said to to this woman. I asked myself, "Why didn't I think of these things while I was actually talking with her? Why did the Spirit not give me the words to speak in the moment?" and then I realized something... that mind blank that I had druing that conversation with the lady was infact the Sprirt giving me a "stupor of thought" as the scriptures put it. The Spirit was in fact directing me to NOT say anything. She was obviously not open the Gospel and if I had tried to reason with her, it would have been to no avail and it would have turned into a fruitless argument. Sometimes, we aren't meant to correct people who are tryin to prove us wrong. Silence is often the best tool. The Spirit works by giving us the words to speak, and also by stumping our thoughts so that we don't get into a needless argument. The ones that want to argue and satisfy their intellectual gratifications are not the ones us missionaries should be focusing on. We still invite them to come unto Christ and to read and pray, but there is a line drawn when it comes to Bible bashing.
Ok I've saved the best for last. This weekend, Elder Chapman and I decided to visit a former investigator who for one reason or another had lost contact with the missionaries. We knocked on his door and a man answered who introduced himself as Jose. He said he was the brother in law of this former investigator. So we offered to have prayer with him. He was very excited to invite us in and have a prayer. He invited us to sit down. We talked for about 45 minutes about God and some struggles that had been going on his life. This man has been working in Oklahoma for the past year and has only seen his family 12 days out the year. He loves his family (first sign that he's open to the Gospel) and wishes he could be with them more. He then told us how he'd been very said lately for the death of one of his co workers and how he hoped the man had a chance to accept God (2nd sign that he's looking for something more). He talked for a bit about how he wasn't sure about what happened after this life. He aslo mentioned that he wanted to go to church again. GOLDEN CONTACT! This man had been prepared. We had a prayer, shared our testimonies and gave him a Book of Mormon. He graciously accepted the gift and we invited him to church.
The very next day, he came to our sacrament meeting. We had met Jose once. He came, and during Gospel Principles we talked about Missionary Work. He got up and bore his testimony about how grateful he was for meeting the missionaries, and he said it with tears in his eyes. He truly believes we were sent from God to teach him. It was incredible! And the cool part is that Elder Chapman and I literally did NOTHING to convince him to come to church... except being obedianet and by bearing our testimonies and inviting him. The Spirit did everything
But what pleased me the most was how well the ward fellowshipped him that day. He was brand new and I think he shook everyone's hand at least once. He was having full on conversations with members as if they were already friends. Jose has been prepared by the Lord.
The more and more I serve out here, the more I witness the Lord doing his "marvelous work and a wonder" through his servants. I really can't describe what it feels like to be tool in the hands of the Lord. You have to experience for yourself. But I can tell you that I've never been happier in my entire life.
Until next week. I can't promise it will be as exciting, but I promise that what happens is exactly what the Lord has in mind.
Con Amor,
Elder Powley

Week 7 - Oklahoma City - August 20, 2012

Mi quierida familia,
Wow, this week has been incredible. I've witnessed the Lord's hand very frequently in the past few days in this work, and more and more I am becoming convinced of how real this mission really is. Words almost can't describe...well they can, but it's almost impossible to explain what a mission is like. The best I can do is relate my experiences.
My new companion...is AWESOME. President Taylor was truly inspired to put me with Elder Chapman. I love this guy! He went to be BYU and is planning on majoring in biophysics.  He is also allergic to glutten so I am forced to avoid eating flour tortillas (corn tortillas are more healthy). One of my favorite things about him is that he loves to sing (Elder Black couldn't carry a tune to save his life). He carries around a ukelalie (can't spell) and loves to sing. We've starting opening up our companionship studies with a hymn. He plays the chords and while we both sing. We actually can get some pretty good blend and harmony going. Who knows we might do a number for the upcoming branch talent show.
Elder Chapman is also very good at Spanish, which is a great strength to me because he speaks it very often so I get to practice. But one of the traits that I think I can learn from him is his ability to see a solution to a problem and make a decision and follow through without any delay. He's going to be an awesome District Leader for our district. When he gets focused, he gets focused.
It's only been a few days and I can already tell we have a good relationship, and we've been very productive these past few days as well (which is surprising since the first week of transfers usually don't yield too many results.) Another thing I like about my companion is that when I have a prompting by the Spirit or when I have an idea, he takes it very seriously and is able to reinforce my idea. For example, we were out tracting and I saw this lady out weeding her yard. We were about to hop in our truck and head out to Noche de Hogar with the Branch, but I felt the impression to go talk with her. Now, I've served with a few elders where I'd have been hesitant to share my opinion, but for some reason I told Elder Chapman about my thought. Instead of saying "Oh we're going to be late don't worry about it," he shrugged his shoulders and said "Ok, let's go talk to her." We ended up having a prayer with her and having a great contact. She lives by herself and drinks every now and then, but she has a strong belief in God. She even mentioned that she thought God told us to come and talk with her, which in a way is true. I can't deny it was the Holy Ghost that told us to go talk with her.
Another experience: just on Saturday Elder Chapman and I were debating on whether to ride our bikes or use the truck for our appointments that evening. I wanted to ride bikes so I could get a work out (not the best reasoning) and to also save miles since we're only allotted 600 miles a month. However, we both realized that since our appointments were spaced out over a large area and we had set people we needed to visit, that the truck would be more effective.
As we were walking out to our truck, we ran into a hispanic standing outside his apartment (he lives in our complex). We exchanged some hellos and than Elder Chapman started to contact him. We introduced ourselves as missionaries and said that today we were offering prayers for people and their families. He let us right in to his house and gathered his wife, two daughters and we had a kneeling prayer right there in his dining room. The Sprirt was incredibly strong, he asked us to specifically pray for the presence of God to be with them in their home. This was honestly one of the most amazing prayers we've given. Nothing special was said, but you could definately feel the Spirit testifying of our Heavenly Father. Let me say that again: you could DEFINATELY feel the Spirit TESTIFYING of our Heavenly Father. We paused after the prayer (I highly reccomend this for everyone, pause after you say a prayer allow time for the Spirit to work within you. If you just say the prayer and go on your way, you don't get the same effect.) and we set a return appointment for Tuesday. Now it's too early to say they will be baptized, but one thing I know for sure is this... we were NOT meant to ride our bikes that day. If we had chosen to ride our bikes, we never would have contacted this man and his family. Just goes to show that the Spirit does not prompt us in obvious ways.
                 When we are consistantly living the Gospel and keeping our covenants, the Spirit NATURALLY works through us guiding our thoughts in a seemingly effortless manner. God placed us and this man in that exact moment for a reason. Some of you reading might call this coincidence. Sure, but I can testify that it was more than that. This work is real.
An then to even add on to this experience, later that night we were driving and stopped by an old potencial investiagator Elder Black and I found back in my third week. Her name is Martina, and we had never been able to contact her since, and the one time we did contact her, she said she would have a prayer with us as long as it was with her husband. Well, after 3 weeks Elder Chapman and I found her at home with her husband and had another incredibly strong prayer with them where the Spirit was DEFINATELY TESTIFYING. It was great. We then set an appointment for the next day to come and teach the first lesson.
And again, if we had been riding our bikes, we would not have had the time to stop and visit her, and we may have lost the opportunity.
So you can see, that two families were introduced to come to Christ through the smallest decision: should we ride our bikes today? Being a missionary is soooooo incredible!
Anyways, our follow-up with Martina was equally amazing. We brought Hermano and Hermana Fabela, a married couple in our Branch, as member presents. Only Martina was home unfortunately, but we decided to teach her. The members are amazing! They are instrumental in helping break the social barrier that is sometimes created by missionaries. Hermana Fabela and Martina were very friendly and that jsut only invited the Spririt. We taught the lesson, I definately said some things I did not plan on saying (inspired questions were asked) and we were able to set a baptismal date with Martina. You could tell she felt somehting, and I could feel my words being solidified by the Holy Ghost's testimony. People feel different when you share the Gospel with them, they may not say it, but there is a different feeling.
We also got a new investigator off the visit. Martina's niece Jasmine also sat in on the visit. She was very interested as well. We asked her if her family would be interested in hearing our message, and almost without hesitation she said yes and said we could come by Tuesday night. Wow! This is a mission! I feel like a silent voice crying from the monitor of a computer screen. The Holy Ghost is real, this whole Gospel is real, not just a nice thought.
Needless to say, I am really excited for this next transfer. I have a feeling this weekend was only the beginning.
There's more I could write about concerning Branch drama, but I think I'll just dispense with the drama and call it good. Just remember to be quick to forgive and slow to anger, and if you lose a plate...don't worry too much about it:)
Anyways I've got to go, but remember the Church is True!!!!
Con Amor,
Elder Powley

Week 6 - Oklahoma City - Aug 13, 2012

Mi Querida Familia,
Hola! We had a really good week. Yesterday...I had my first baptism for Alberto. He's a nine-year kid who loves video games and the Gospel. And let me tell you, he has the strongest testimony in any 9-year kid I've ever met...that would include myself when I was his age. He was ready to get baptised at least a month ago, before even his mom accepted the invitation. So Elder Black and I have been teaching him all the lessons for the past month and it's been such a blast! I actaully taught my first Word of Wisdom and Law of Chastity lessons ever with Alberto. They were actually really fun lessons. For Word of Wisdom, he said "I don't understand why y'all can't drink beer.. it makes you tell the truth." And then for Law of Chastity, we basically told him straight up that you aren't allowed to have sexual relations before or outside the bonds of marriage. He's first reaction was "Are you for real? That's messed up!" It was so funny to hear that coming from him, but it also shows what kind of environment he's living in with his school and in Oklahoma...it's not you're typical Mormon Utah school playground. Some of the things he told us really shocked me. Nonetheless, he is dedicated to keep the commandments, and Elder Black and I love him a lot.
The service was very spiritual. Alberto and Maria, Alberto's mom, were both baptized. Elder Black had the privielage of performing the baptism for Alberto, and then Alberto's older brother got to baptize Maria. It was quite an experience. The Spririt was definately testifying with every passing moment that this is the right path to go. This Church has the authority to perform saving ordinances, I have no doubt about that.
Although we were extremely busy this week preparing for the baptism, Elder Black and I also found any incredible family of new investigators. The Mom and Dad have a 1 year old son and live in very humble circumstances. The usually keep themselves pretty hushed up because they don't like the neighborhood they live because of the many "berrachos" (people who are drunk). The story is actually really cool. We met them through a Heavenly Gift. We prayed for them to find their medicine for their child who was sick. We left it at that. We then returned a few days later. We knocked twice and no one answered, and just as we were about to turn around, I felt the distinct impression to knock a third time. So we did, and the door opened. They had been taking a nap and were simply getting ready to let us in. I am convinced if I did not knock, we never would have contacted them again.
So we go in and learn that literally 5 imnutes after we said a prayer the first time we visted, they found their medicine. And so they were very open to hearing about the Gospel. We shared a first lesson, the Dad (whoes name is Eli) is tons of fun. He asked if my companion was married (because of the ring he has on his right hand) we jokingly said he had 5. eli laughed so hard, it was great. Anyways we taught the First Lesson and they felt the Spirit incredibly strong. They notice the Spririt when we are in their home, and I am really excited to see how they progress. Eli is extremely nervous about praying and setting a baptismal date, but I think if we keep fellowshipping him with members, he'll gain more confidence. Man, I really hope they progress!
This past week was my first Zone Conference. And.......WOW! IT WAS SO COOL! President Taylor might become an Apostle one day, I think. He is a very inspired mission president. He talked about the Doctrine of Christ and how it's like being in a tumbler. A tumbler is a machine where you put rocks in side and then let them grind against each other until they become smooth. It was a great analogy and I learned so much. I even learned things that weren't realted to his talk. This Zone Conference really showed me how the Sprirt is able to give you revelation, if you are listening.
I also got to play piano for the whole conference. It felt SOO good to be accompanying people again. Sister Taylor gave me this version of "Called to Serve" that it is really fun to play with a killer key change into D-flat major at the end that makes you want to suit up and shoot a cannon or something. Man, it gets me pumped!
As I mentioned in the subject header, this week my transfer with Elder Black ends. (For those who don't know a transfer is 6 weeks in the same area with the same companion) He is going to become a Zone Leader in Stillwater, while I'm going to stay in Oklahoma City and finish my training. I'm going to miss Elder Black, especially his non-stop laughter and positive attitude and excitement for the work. He's helped me learn how to have fun and take the mission seriously at the same time. It's been good for me because I tend to get stressed out a lot. He'll do great at being a Zone Leader. I did learn the name of my new companion...Elder Chapman. I've heard good things about him and so I'm excited.(he will also be the next District Leader).
Anyways, great week! Can't wait to start a new transfer!
Here are some pictures! I'll try to get some with my apartment for next week. But I have here a picture of me, Elder Black and Alberto. As you can see, he's a lot of fun to be around.

Con Amor,
Elder Powley

Week 5 - Oklahoma City - Aug 6, 2012

Mi querida familia,
It's been a hot, hot week here in Oklahoma. I think we hit record temperatures at least 2 or 3 times this week. It's been fun biking around and looking at the faces of people we contact when they check out our hair and shirts dripping with sweat. It actually is a good thing we sweat so much, I think it helps soften the hearts of those we meet to at least give us a glass of water. Then we've got them right where we want them: they want their cup back, and we want to share the Gospel!
Oh, there's been so much that has happened this week. I guess to start off, I got a new bike this week that replaced the old mission bike that I've been using for the past few weeks. Funny story about the mission bike though: this week we locked up the bike to go give a blessing to the father of one of our investigators. Incredibly spiritual, these people really have a strong testimony of priesthood blessings and were literally excited to invite us in to give a blessing. We got to bear our testimonies and were happy to hear that they are finally taking the Book of Mormon seriously.
Anyways great uplifting experience...we come back to get our bikes (now keep in mine we locked them up extremely well using a U-lock and everything) only to find that someone had stolen the bike seat of my mission bike. Now, forgive my language, but that's just plain rude! You can't do much with a bike seat so it was obvious that whoever took it just wanted to mess with us. So my companion and I took turns riding the bike the 20 blocks back to apartment without a seat. On the bright side, our thighs ae pretty massive by now.
Other than that, we had a very great time this week. We set a few baptismal dates. One of them was a little hard to set. We were teaching this lady the 2nd part of the Plan of Salvation about the Spirit World and such when she brought up the concern that we don't seem to believe in a hell. I was stumped for a second because we do believe in hell, but we also beleive in the Telestial glory. Anyways I got caught up trying to explain our point (didn't go very well) but thank goodness we brought our branch Mission Leader as a member to our lesson. HE was able to more clearly explain the doctrine behind our view on hell. I learned a lot from him. We then invited her to be baptized. At first she accpeted bat as soon as we set a date, she backed off because it was a little soon. So I got to explain to her that the purpose of a baptismal date is to set a tangible goal that she could progress to in order to be baptized. If you show the Lord that you have the specific desire to be baptized on a specific date, he will help you come to a knowledge by that time. WE testified of this and she accepted. It felt so good! now we just need to help her attend church, get the husband on board, expalin the Word of Wisdom, tithing, fasting, Gospel of Christ and of course the Law of Chastity... no big deal.
I had an interesting experience knocking on doors while on exchanges with one of the Zone leaders this week. We were serving in an English speaking area and let me tell you... I've never experienced a larger culture shock in my life! My eyes were finally opened up to how difficult it is to truly go around knocking on doors. Because in the Spanish community, people are a lot more humble and willing to listen. Not to mention, it's kind of entertaining to see a few white guys trying to speak Spanish. However, when you're an American knocking doors in an white-American suburb....it's a whole new ball-game. I never knew Americans were so hard to offer a prayer to. It was crazy. It showed me how much you really have to work in order to find those that are ready.
Sunday, we witnessed quite a miracle though. First, let me share the background of the situation. There was a family in the branch that got to go through the temple the day before. For that, the entire branch was deeply affected. Many people got to go bear their testmonies about eternal familes during Fast and Testimony meeting. It was incredibly spiritual, and I could even understand the majority of it.
Anyways, we have this one investigator who has literlaly been seeing the missionaries for nearly two years. She has a son who is going to be baptized this next Sunday (this is Alberto who I mentioned last week I believe) and today she was especially moved by the Spirit. She literally walked up to us and said she was ready to be baptized and wanted to get baptized with her son! WAHOOOOO! The Spirit is real everyone! Just the week before, you never would have guessed she was ready to commit. Before she'd always been very hesitant, but now she's realizing that she couldn't deny that she has felt happier than she has ever felt in her life... and all because of this Gospel!
I truly am starting to gain a testimony that this Gospel has the potential to change lives. Also, every day I'm reminded that the Spirit touches each person in their own time and place. Imagine if the missionaries stopped visiting to her even 6 months ago because they thought she wasn't progressing simply because she hadn't made any steps toward deciding to get baptized. She would never have chosen to get batized if it weren't the faith and perseverence of all the Elders that came before me. It just goes to show that as long as we do our part and not give up because we think someone isn't ready. You just never know, and ultimately it's the Spirit who converts, not the missionary.
Anyways, here's my week report I can't wait to tell you all about the baptism next week. I'm so excited!
Love you all and remember that this Gospel is true. I know I'm on a mission and it's a completly different atmosphere. I know when I was in the shoes of all my siblings, I don't I truly comprehended even a tenth of how real our Heavenly Father and his 'work and glory" truly are. The Atonement turly can change lives...it's changing mine.
Queden en la fe con mucha fortaleza!
Con Amor
Andrew Powley