Week 16 - Oklahoma City - Oct 22, 2012

Mi Querida Familia,
Bueno, this is has been a crazy week. A few things have happened that have stuck out to me.
One of our progressing investigator families unfortunately told us we were welcome to come back but that they weren't interested in our church. We asked the father if he had read the Book of Mormon. He said yes and that it was interesting. We asked him if he'd prayed about the Book of Mormon. And he said no. This is a common denominator. Every investigator that drops the missionaries is not reading or praying about the Book of Mormon or is not coming to church. When investigators fail to keep their commitments, their testimony wavers and they reason that they don't need the missionaries and that they are content in their own way of life.
In a way it's the same with members of the church. If we don't keep our commiments that we made at baptism or continually nourish ourselves with the word of God through the scriptures, church, and prayer we lose that spiritual strength and the spirit ceases to be with us.
Anyways, getting dropped by an investigator isn't the worse thing in the world. Honestly, we have our testimonies and nothing can waver them. And right after this family dropped us, we felt impressed to go try another family that we ran into earlier that week. We talked to the father, his name is Saul, and he was very gracious and wanted us to come back.
Let me back up for a second. a few days earlier, my companions and I were leaving our apartment complex. While I was locking our apartment door, Elder Vance saw a man sitting outside by his apartment complex looking kind of depressed. He promptly walked over and started a conversation. The man was definately high, or drunk or mentally ill, but he opened up to us about his life and the struggles he was going through. So the three of us missionaries sat down next to him and just listened. We didn't preach too much or offer the discussions (he honestly wasn't open to changing anything) but we testified of Christ's love for us. And after a while the man's grandmother came and picked him up, she thanked us for our kindness and then that was the end of it. We didn't think much of the experience for a while.
Back to this man Saul that we were talking to. Turns out, he actually drove by in his car at the exact moment he saw us ministering to this drunkard in our apartment complex and recognized us as the missionaires that came to his house a few days earlier.. Saul mentioned that this touched him and really wanted us to come back.
Elder Vance was definately prompted to talk to this man in our apartment complex. Even though nothing came of it initially, our companionship witnessed that the Lord works in infinate ways to soften the hearts of men and prepare them to hear the Gospel.
Then, after we finished talking with Saul, I felt prompted to visit this one house that we'd passed many times. It was poor house, but i knew that a hispanic family lived there. So we went and knocked on the door and met 4 adorable little hispanic children who could only speak Spanish. WE later met the single mother that was taking care of them. We shared a prayer with them, and we prayed for each child by name (they loved it:) I can't expalin everything that happened, but I felt really good about this family.
We then followed up with this family (the mother's name was Juana and the children were Helen, Juanito, Karla, Jose) yesterday and shared the Restoration with the mother. The kids were playing around a lot. I tried to entertain them with some of the pamphlets that had pictures of Christ , that only got them more excited and hyper. It was so adorable! At first the lesson didn't seem to spiritual, but we invited the mother to pray. At first she seemed a little aprehensive, but then elder Chapman lovingly assured her that a prayer was nothing more than expressing our heart to God and that we close in the name of Jesus Christ. She accepted to pray. After she finished her simple, yet heartfelt prayer, she started to cry. She mentioned that this was the first time she'd prayed before. It was touching and we are very excited to see this family progress. It'll be hard getting them to church, but I think the Spirit will work with this mother as she prays and reads the Book of Mormon.
Now.... I must tell you of the recent development in the story of our golden investigator Carlos: the guy I've been talking about for the past few weeks. Elder Vance and I went on splits with Hermano Fabela to go visit Carlos in a park. He specifically told us that he wanted to meet at this park so that he could be in a little more secluded place in order to say a prayer for his repentance. So we met him at the park... he brought us water bottles.
It was such a bizarre teaching experience but in a good way. He cried because of the guilt and shame he felt from accidentally hitting a teenager with his car and that he thirsted for God's forgiveness. He must have said a least prayers that evening. Hispanics often break down in the middle of lessons and offer prayers at random. It's a little wierd coming from a Mormon culture, but honestly it's what Carlos needed.
And then the sad part. Carlos told us that he couldn't be baptized in two weeks because he would be moving to Kansas the next morning. I was initially sad, but Carlos explained that it was because he needed the work in order to earn money to send to his family for his son's funeral. Honestly,we can accept that. He promised to return in 2 months and get baptized.
You'd think we'd be frustrated. and honestly, we were a little because we wanted to have baptism this transfer. But, we must take into account Carlos' situation with his poverty and family. And to be honest, I'm completely ok with Carlos leaving. This is the Lord's work not ours.
It's been a good week to finish off the south. I had the privilage of giving a recent convert of the other elders in our district the Gift of the Holy Ghost. This was the first time that I've ever given the Holy Ghost to someone, and I did it in Spanish!!! I felt the spirit so strong during that blessing. This kid is going to be a strong member of the Church. I was so thankful for the opprotunity to meet him and help asisit his growth.
And now I have to say good-by to this wonderful Spanish Branch here in the South. I truly have grown to love these people and I've met some very good friends. I remember at the beginning of my mission I could not connect to the members because of my Spanish. And now I have witnessed the power of the Atonement help me obtain the ability and the confidence and the love to be able to connect with the Hispanic culture. It's been such an incredible experience to spend my first 2 and a half transfers in such a wonderful Branch. I'm sending a few pictures of the people i've met.
I'm going to miss this place. Mostof all I'm going to miss my companions Elder Chapman and Elder Vance. We've had our tense moments talking to eachother about our problems, but ultimately I've come to love these guys. I think I'll look back on this companionship at the end of my mission and regard them as some of the best companions i've ever had.
Well I'm out of time for today. I'll be sending more pictures next week because today the three of us are going to take pictures at some of our memorable places. And thencome Wednesday morning, I'll be moving to the North OKC Spanish Branch and be serving with Eldeer Morrell, my old MTC companion. I'm both excited and nervous to be moving to a new area. It'll be my first time switching areas and I hope I can gain friends in this branch as well.
Have a great week and I love you all!
Con Amor,
Elder Powley

Week 15 - Oklahoma City - Oct 15, 2012

Mi Querida Familia,
Ok first off, I just got off the phone with my mission president...turns out I'm getting transferred into a new area in two weeks! Kind of took me off guard, but I'm not the least bit worried. When President said where I was going, I had no doubt that it was what the Lord has in mind. I'm excited and can't wait....it also means I get to take the Defensive Driving course and get permission to drive! That's pretty exciting. I'm going to miss this area and my companions, but I think this new new change is going to motivate me to work a little harder these next few weeks.
this week has been very....wet. Saturday, it rained all day. It was like walking out into a waterfall at one point. And to make matters worse, elder Vance got a flat tire. since our truck is in the shop getting fixed, we had to walk from about 50th to 89th in the rain with our bikes on the side of the road. It was actually pretty fun. At one point we even broke out into singing "Army of Helaman". It was awesome. Except all our appointments fell through, but hey, that's norman:)
As for this past week...we've had some awesome experiences where we've definately felt the Sprit guide our lessons rather than our own intellect.
First off, we had two lessons with Juana this week. During both, we really focused on trying to invite her two baptism. Both times she backed down. As of now, she has not gained a testimony of the Book of Mormon and we are trying really hard to help her. She can't read and understand what she is reading very well, and The Book of Mormon as clear and simple it is with the Doctrine, is not quite Dr. Seuss. So we invited the children's story adaptation of the Book of Mormon along with the actual Book of Mormon. The children's version has pictures and will make it easier for her to understand. I pray she can find that inner desire to find out if the Church is true. We've met with her so many times and she herself has mentioned that she feels a certain power when we come into her home when we teach. I jsut want to yell at "It's the Spirit! Get Baptized!" and to an extent that is what we do minus the yelling part.
We found the perfect friend for Juana's daughter Tania. Last night we brough a member family to have a lesson with them and their little daughter Mayra is actually very similar to Tania's personality. It was so funny, when we were introducing eachother at the start of the lesson, both girls froze up and weren't willing to talk and introduce themselves. I felt the sudden prompting to play the Prophet activity with everyone. So before we started the lesson I said, "Ok we're going to play a game" I might have explained this activity before but if not, here it is: there is one person standing behind a group of people (this is God) and then there's one person standing in front of the group of people (the prophet) the point of the activity is that only the prophet can see God because everyone else is facing the prophet. The prophet then continues to mick whatever actions God does and the people have to "follow the prophet". It's an excellent MTC patented activity that really gets the point across.
Anyways the real magic the happened with the activity is that at one point Mayra and Tania played the parts or God and the prophet. The activity broke the ice between the two. And while my companions and I were having an intense discussion with the parents and Juana, the two little girls ran off and played together. INSTANT FRIENDSHIP! So cool! I love having members come to lessons with us.
And now for our incredibly instense lesson this week with Carlos. This man has been through soo much. I don't know how much to include because it's all incredibly personal. But basically, his 9-year old son who lives in El Salvador died this past week in a car accident while he was riding his bike. The irony and the karma was very apparent in his countenance when we came to visit Carlos. And this man has nothing...not even chairs to sit down in or a truck to drive to church. No job, no documents to travel to El Salvador, and no money to send to his family.
We went into the lesson planning to teach the Doctrine of Christ, but as we talked we all felt impressed to share something other than we had planned. I pulled out Alma 36 and talked about repentance and how the Atonement can replace our pain with exceedingly great joy. Elder Chapman shared the scripture in D&C when Joseph Smith was in Carthage jail. Elder Vance shared an experiance about when his mom died when he was kid. All three of us can testify that we did not go into that lesson planning on saying anything that we said that night. The spirit was there testifying, comforting and helping Carlos. He said very little, and we only taught for 30 minutes. But it was the most comforting 30minutes I've felt in a long time.
and then, the unthinkable. Carlos was still up and ready to attend church the next morning. He witnessed a great fast and testimony meeting and is excited for our lessons to continue. The branch is really jumping in to help find him a job and we're all excited to see him progress. It's a crazy situation, but whatever happens tonight, my companions and I all trust that the Spirit will let us know what to say and how to say it.
what a week. I could keep going with little spritual experiences I've had, but I've run out of time for today. all I can say is that I am witnessing a change of perspective with myself, a change of heart. I can't really explain it with words, but I am so glad I am on a mission right now.
Con Amor,
Elder Powley

Week 14 - Oklahoma City - Oct 8, 2012

Mi Queirda Familia,
WOAAAAH! Conference just blew my mind!!! It was quite a sight. All of the missionaries in our district were watching conferance together and when President Monson made that announcement about the change in age for when young men and young women can go on missions. It was like the opening night to Harry Potter 7. All the missionaries literally cheered and were really excited. For the rest of the day, we were just awe struck. Think of the implications of what this means. The Lord must incredibly trust the youth of this Church.
Watching conference as a missionary was an incredible experience. I don't know if we realize, but General Conferance is an incredible opportunity to receive revelation for our lives. Almost every topic addressed would have answered one of the concerns of each of our investigators. It's fun to watch it with other missonaries. It's like anticipating a sports event a little bit. "Oh Elder Holland is up next, get ready for some loving chastisement." or "Here comes Elder Oaks. He's got some real bold sauce." Oh man I love conferance!!! My testimony was especially strengthened.
If I could I would write down every little insight that I wrote down in my Personal Study Journal. But I think I'll just stick to a few. First off, I loved Elder Nelson's address about "Ask the missionaries, they can help you." More than just what he said impressed me. The apostles of the world and including the prophet have such incredible confidence in us. I was really touched. Elder Nelson's comments gave me confidence that we can truly make a difference and do the Lord's work. I'll admit, a little earlier this week I was feeling really discouraged because our companionship wasn't seeing a ton of success. I was too focussed on the numbers that I failed to look at the many blessings we've been given. We have two solid baptismal dates. That's two more people brought unto Christ and a third one is well on the way. He also said that "the decision to go on a mission will shape your spiritual destiny." Look out how he phrased that: the DECISION to go on a mission will shape your spiritual destiny. Are we deciding to go on a mission for the right reasons? If our motives are anything other than a "desire to serve God" (D &C 4) then we need to change something. Don't decide to go on a mission for your girlfriend, for your parents or even for yourself. I say don't go on a mission for yourself because if you think that by going on a mission because it will somehow magically change who you are and make you a better person you've missed the point. Sure, you will be changed on the mission for the better, but our motives can't be self-centered. It must be because we love the Gospel and desire everyone to partake of it.
I also really enjoyed President Uchdorf's talk during Priesthood session. He made an excellent analogy using an airplane. Sometimes the passangers on a plane complain about the size of the peanut bag while they are soaring through the air...high above the clouds. Sometimes us missionaries get frustrated with not getting enough new investigators that we forget we've been called by God to build his kingdom on the earth and be literal representatives of Jesus Christ. As long as we have faith and dilligence, we can help inspire people to change their lives. President Eyring also addressed this point in Priesthood session. From what I got out of his talk, we have a responsiblity to help others realize their divine potential. So we must compliment others, encourage them and tell them that we believe they are of worth.
There were so many gems to be found in General conferance. If you missed it because you were tired or busy....Watch it! There is spiritual power to be gained.
I also loved Elder Oaks talk. Not necessarily because of what he said, but because of how he said it. The apostles have real authority and power to address problems of the world and say what needs to be done. They truly are inspired men.
Ok, we had some great experiences this week. Remember Carlos from El Salvador that we met last week that I mentioned called us over while we about to ride off on our bikes? We learned that he actually attended our church back in El Salvador but decided to forgo baptism to go into the military. He has regretted that decision for his whole life and believed God cursed him for it. He went through many trials in the army and almost died at one point. He lives in poverty now: has no car, no lightbulb his living room...no chairs. We had a very spiritual lesson with him sitting on a few old buckets covered by his shirts. We committed him to a baptismal date and he actually came to Priesthood session this weekend. He's met a few of the men in the branch and is making friends.
How marvelous it is to be involved in giving this man a second chance to accept the Gospel and be baptized into the throng of God. He is even preparing his finace to listen to us. I am so excited to help this man progress. I pray he doesn't give into temptation. As missionries we are helpless to keep him from making mistakes or rationalizing that he doesn't need the Gospel. We can only bear testimony and show him the way, he must choose to follow it. That's how it is with every one of us. I've really come to understand how God feels when we choose to follow him and his son Jesus Christ...its exaclty how I feel when I see an investigator I've come to love decide to be baptized... it's exactly how I feel when I see my siblings decide to get baptized go on missions and serve other people...its exactly how a parent must feel to see their child choose the right...except God's feelings are magnified 100 fold.
We also had two powerful teaching experiences this week. My ability to teach in Spanish has gotten so much better and I know the Lord has been strengthening me. I can understand investigators concerns and address them. I've realized that when I make a conscious effort to speak the things put in my mind by the Holy Ghost, I can speak with more power and when you speak with power and the Holy Ghost backing up your words...you can physically feel it. You feel more confident.
Juana and Tania are still progressing. We taught them the Law of Chastity and Word of Wisdom this week. I don't think we'll have many problems there. Juana actaully fed us hot chocolate and bread with her nice china when we came over Friday. We really love this family and we need to invite Juana to be baptized so that she can be baptized with her daughter. It will happen we just need to find the right moment when the Spirit is strongest.
Anyways the mission is giong great. Oklahoma is getting colder and riding a bike keeps sounding less and less attractive. But we need to ride bikes in orderto make ourselves available for people to ask us questions.
I'm so excited for this work to progress.
Have a great week everyone!
Con Amor,
Elder Powley

Week 13 - Oklahoma City - Oct 1, 2012

Mi querida familia,
Thank you soooooooo much for the pictures and videos! They really brought a smile to my face today, and I actually got to watch the videos. It means so much to me to see that everyone is staying so united as family back home. You all look like the best the best of friends. And...I really miss that. I'm glad everything is going well. Happy Birthday to Matthew once again and I'm glad he got my letter. I am for sure going to be sending everyone a personal letter for their Birthdays.
This week has been very awesome with Elder Vance joining Elder Chapman and I. He's from Holiday Utah and has been out for about a transfer. He's a swimmer and is very interested in photogrpahy. He actually has this one photo of one the many lightening storms we've been experiencing out here in Oklahoma and it's AWESOME! He's been an incredible strength. He has a great attitude and he keeps things very lively. Su espanol es un poco feo pero pienso que eso es uno de sus fortalezas. This Sunday he gave a blessing in Spanish to one of the ward members, and I learned something very significant. Even though he didn't know a lot of words and he messed up on the grammer (instead of saying you will have health he said, you had health) the Spirit was just as strong as if from a someone who spoke the language fluently. I even saw the member wipe his eyes a little bit. It's incredible how even with our weaknesses, Our Father, Christ and the Holy Ghost qualify us for their work. We truly can make do with whatever intelligence we have. As long as we're trying our best and many times we feel our best isn't good enough, the Lord will make up the difference. I've witnessed that time and time again.
This past week has been incredibly wet and stormy. Lightening Storms in Oklahoma are the coolest! Saturday, we got to put our raincoats on and bike around our area for a full day! Despite the weather, I found it rather enjoyable. there is something about Oklahoma rain that is just very calming and soothing, and I don't know it makes it fun. We had an interesting finding experience. We had been knocking doors. I had felt the Spirit prompt me to knock on a few doors and none of them turned into anything special. They either said come back later or were'nt there.
But then I realized the purpose behind knocking on those doors. Right after we were finishing tracting in that area, a man suddenly walks out of his house and calls us over. He's from El Salvador (meaning his Spanish is incredibly difficult to understand) and he wanted to talk with us. He knew we were Mormons and mentioned that he had experience with the Mormons back in his country. He had to hurry off to work but he asked to exchange numbers and then we could come back in a few hours. We were shocked and so we complied. We actually didn't end up meeting with him that day, but we contacted him the next day which was Sunday.
Now Sunday, just happened to be this activity that our ward mission leader had been planning. Yesterday, we had an activity in the evening wherein we had a short devotional and watched "The Testaments". We invited our investigators;threee of them showed up: Carlos (the guy we met from El Salvador) and Juana and Tania who we've been teaching for the past month now.
Now the movie and the testimony were great...but more than that the members of the Spanish Branch are what touched me the most. With Juana, she only knew one member of the Branch before and that member didn't happen to be at the activity. But, our recent convert Maria (the mother of Alberto who Elder Black and I baptized my first transfer) jumped right in and fellowshipped Juana. Maria invited Juana to sit by her and then spent the rest of the night talking with her.
I often reflect on the experiences that bring me the most joy and one of them is watching the members of the branch fellowhship the investigators we had grown to love. I can't explain how happy I felt. It was simple, and felt very warm. This must be how our Heavenly Father feels about us and when we show charity to our fellow neighbors. The scripture "When ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God." took on a deeper significance for me last night. We are all children of our Father in Heaven, and just as it fills me with joy to see our family staying united and having fun with each other, the same must betrue when our Father In Heaven sees us trying to be friends with our fellow neighbors. He loves each of his children.
And other members fellowhipped Carlos as well. Without us even asking! I like what Dad said in his last email. We are helping facilitate friendships between members and non-members. Not in a factory like way, but we are helping the Lord place people in the paths of others and give people the opportunity to develop lasting friendships. This work is so incredible! I am so greatful to be in the Branch for another transfer.
I am loving this gospel more and more every day. It's frustrating sometimes because it seems like we teach the same principles every day and they don't seem to sink in right away into the hearts of our investigators. But nonetheless, patience has become a virtue that I've come to treasure. We don't have to have miracle baptisms that occur three weeks after we meet someone. Sure that'd be great, but we have to remember that it's through "small and simple means are great things brought to pass".
Anyways, I'm glad I got to write you all today. WE actually just got a DVD of the Branch Talent show that happened a few weeks ago and I'm hoping to copy the numbers that I was in and then send them in a package our something back home. You get to see me sing in American-Gringo- Spanish! It's very fun.
Keep on being the awesome family that you are to me. I thank God every night that I've been placed in such a loving family. You've been such as strength to me, helping me remember the reason I'm out here--to help other famililes recieve the Gospel and feel the joy I've felt having you all as a family.
I love you all and keep on praying reading and going to Church!
Con Amor,
Elder Powley