Week 26 - North Oklahoma City - Dec 31, 2012

Mi Querida Familia,
It's been a great week here in Oklahoma. It's getting really cold and I just count my blessings every day that we have a truck to drive. We try to bike at least during the first part of the day in order save on miles, but once the sun starts setting...we cave in to temptation and drive the truck usually.
Elder Mendoza and I have had some great appointments this week. We had an appointment with the Galvan family and we taught the Plan of Salvation. The parents were interested and want to learn more. WE're going to try and have church tour with them this Wednesday with a member family, we are just still trying to get a hold of them.
We met a new family this week as well. The Mom was actually baptized in texas as well as one of her daughters. We taught them all the Restoration and it was interesting how they accepted it. The husband was very non-involved, the mom was remembering everything, but still unwilling to come to church. What made this lesson awesome was how well the four daughters accepted the message.  There was one little girl thats about 10 or so who payed attention to the whole lesson. I asked her how she felt during the lesson and she said very sincerely "Happy and excited!" I almost started to cry. The spirit was icnredibly strong in this moment. I pointed her out to her mother and said simply, this is the holy Ghost that your daughter is feeling. We then gave this girl a Book of Mormon and we challenged her to read the first chapter. She said ok and then immediately started reading it. Before the lesson was over she said that she liked the Book and wanted to keep reading.
I'm not sure if she read it that closely, but the principle demonstrated here is the same. If anyone is going to accpet this Gospel they must become humble enough as this little girl we met. People often dismiss these feelings of excitement that children get as foolish and not of any consequence, but this is such a vain notion! Often times I think children are more spiritually receptive than adults.
We then had a lesson with the Vazquez family. What a bitter-sweet nightmare! WE went in expecting to teach a lesson, but the husband just went off on a million tangents trying to be philisophicaal telling parables and such. He asked us probing questions such as "Is it worse to drink coffee or use the computer?" I felt like I was one of the apostles being questioned by the Pharisees in the time of the Bible. You could tell this man's agenda was to try and use his intelligence to outsmart us.
But here's the kicker, he hasn't read the Book of Mormon. We bore testimony and he was honestly stumped. He argued that the Book of Mormon was just another book. Well, he'll never know unless he reads it.
During the lesson however, we tried to gear ourselves on talking with the wife. She is way more huimble, childlike and willing to accept the Gospel. It was incredible to see the difference. and the difference is that she is reading the Book of Mormon and feels that its true. She even found a scripture and said it literally directly to her husband. 2 Nephi 33:4! It was powerful. It talks about people hardining there hearts that they have no portion of the Spirit with them. She read this aloud at the end of the lesson, and it was very cool.
We are seeing lots of things happening in this area. The Spirit is working with people in small and simple ways. I think the Lord calls this work a "marvelous work and wonder" because of how incredibly he uses small and simple means to bring to pass great and eternal purposes. It's incredible to watch the mission unfold.
Well I'm almost out of time for today. I love this Gospel and our Savior Jesus Christ! There is no other way under heaven that we can gain peace of mind in this life and in the life to come. Remember to stay humble. We can't stay complacent, because that's when we start to forget the miracles that the Lord has shown us in our own lives.
Feliz Ano Nueva!
Con Amor,
Elder Powley


Week 25 - North Oklahoma City - December 24, 2012

Mi Querida Familia,
So President Taylor allowed us to have email time today even though its not P-day. I just wanted to thank you all for the wonderful phone call and the many pictures and videos you sent. Out of all the gifts in the world, hearing your voices yesterday was the best of all.
I don't have much time to write today because I've been busy watching the videos from Christmas Eve, but here is a quick little update on our area.
I have a new companion, his name is Elder Mendoza and he's from Ecuador. This guy is a such a fun companion. We don't have too much in common, but we are really able to connect when it comes to the missionary work. I've found that as long as I focus on the work, its impossible to have a bad companion. And Elder Mendoza has a lot of optimism and faith. Literally after every lesson that is in the least bit successful, he comes away saying "they are going to get baptized." Its awesome!
I am going to relate two lessons to you all that we had this week: the first was with an awesome family, very religious and have great values when it comes to church. The were very accepting of having us come in and teach them, even on a Saturday Morning. the lesson was by the book, Preach My Gospel worthy, and the Sprirt was there testifying,  but something was slightly off. We invited them to baptism and they flat out rejected it. As the lesson came to and end we realized that they weren't really interested in looking for a new church. Oh and we taught the lesson in English.
Later that weekend, we taught another family, in Spanish. Right off the bat, something was different. We got to know the family before the lesson started, we asked them questions such as what the kids liked to do and such. We taught the Restoration and as i related the Joseph Smith story, the Spirit especially testified to everyone in that room. The parents were interested, the accepted the baptismal invitation as long as they knew these things were true. the father asked a question about the trinity, and we were ableto answer his concerns using the Bible, and they came away understanding the doctrine of the God head and accepted it.
What do we learn from these two experiences? Apart from the fact that teaching in Spanish is a lot more effective than teaching in English, we learn that it doesn't matter how effective we explain the Gospel as missionaries, it always boils down to the agency of the people we visit. The Spirit can only truly testify when the investigators are listening with an open heart and mind, humble enough to accept that there is something better out there in this world. I've taught many Restoration lessons on my mission, and the latter experience I realted ranks probably as the best discussion I've been a part of. We are super excited for this family and hope they will progress.
Anyways that's all I have time for today. I love you all and wish you a Happy New Year! Jane is such a cute little sister! Make sure you let her do stuff on her own though ok? Let her excercise her agency a little bit.
Have a great Christmas Break. I can't wait to get back to work and start seeing a few more miracles this next transfer. All of it depends on whether or not we will get members out with us.
Con Amor,
Elder Powley

Week 24 - North Oklahoma City - Dec 17, 2012

Mi Querida familia--

This week....we had in a total three lessons and only one of them was a member present. A lot of our appointments fell through because of lack of communication our part and also because we honelty aren't a priority in anyone's lives right now. Its very hard. I've really been trying to develop my faith in the people we teach more. President Monson counseled us to "see men as they can become" but I'm finding that this is something that is very hard for me to do. It literally means putting an eternal perspective on everyone we meet and seeing everyone as God sees them. It's hard!
And honestly the only way to combat doubt is to simply not give up. You keep on fighting and planning for appointments (even though they will most likely fall) and then teaching as genuinely as possible, inviting people to be baptized without fear, and eventually we'll see results.

Some examples of trials we've seen: for nearly and entire transfer and a half, we've had 0 investigators come to church, and as of now we have 0 bapitsmal dates, investigators we felt were inspired and golden the week of Mission Tour with Elder Bowen have been dropped because they've either moved or we've lost contact.
Needless to say, I feel my faith being tried every day.

However, we did have a great teaching experience this last week. We met with the Vazquez family again and taught them the Plan of Salvation. Elder Morrell and I centered every doctrinal point on their family: ex. Before this life, you lived as a family with your Father in Heaven, you're purpose in life is to keep the commandments as a family and come closer to Christ so that you can live as an eternal family in the Celestial kingdom. Before we used to teach in the first person (using we or in Spanish, nosotros) but we've found that there is more powere speaking in the direct 2 person form (YOU are a child of God).
Anyways during the lesson we invited the father to baptism. He straight up said no. He still didn't quite trust our message. He's kind of stuck in this mind set that you don't need religion as long as you've got God in your home. I straight up told him that this was a lie from Satan. I love Spanish because it forces me to be blunt and bold simply because we don't know many words. Then I went in a bore testimony and he didn't have anything to say. I might have offended him, but he still accepted a return appointment.
But now we know his concerns. If we aren't bold as missionaries, the people we teach will never progress or talk about their doubts and concerns. It's interesting to see that the longer I serve, the comfortable I am with being blunt and straightforward. We are representatives of Jesus Christ. If people don't accept this Gospel they will never return to live with their Father in Heaven. The priesthood authority we hold and the fact that our church is Christ's one and only Restored church is the only thing that seperates us from the rest. We have evidence through the Book of Mormon as the word of God and the Holy Ghost testifies of it.

I can't wait for tomorrow when we get to teach them again. Elder Morrell and I are going to prayferally study what needs to be said. The Lord will bless us with the words we need to say in the moment they need to be said. That's another thing I love about being a missionary. As long as you know and understand the doctrine, you don't have to worry about what you will say. The Lord will give you the words to say. It's his work and he knows what people need to hear.

On that note, this week is transfers. Elder Morrell is leaving and I am staying here another transfer. I'm going to miss this guy so much. We've really become great friends and we worked together really well. My new companion's name is Elder Mendoza who is a native Spanish speaker who has been learning English out here in the Mission field. I look forward to working with him and improving my Spanish 10 fold these next 6 weeks.

Well that's about all for today! Merry Christmas and I'll talk to you all next week! Love you.

Con Amor,

Elder Powley

Week 23 - North Oklahoma City - Dec 10, 2012

Mi Querida Familia,

It's been a great week out here in Oklahoma. No snow, but last night was probably one of the coldest nights we've had out here. Elder Morrell and I are the only ones in our District that have a car, but we decided to bike last night anyways because we felt like it. I prefer biking to riding in the car any day. There is just something about sitting in a car that makes you lazy and less excited to get out there and work, But when you're biking, your blood starts pumping, the suit coat blows in the wind behind you, the wind bites at your face, you can wave at everyone you pass by and give a big warm smile even though you're freezing....and most importantly at least for me, I feel more like a missionary when I'm biking. 

And I think biking outside it the bitter cold humbled me a little more than usual and I felt more in tune with the Spirit of my calling. There was one house we passed by and I remember the specific thought coming to mind to stop at this one house. At first I ignored it, but then the thought came again. I then reasoned that if I didn't stop at this house, i would feel guilty about it in about 10 minutes. So we stopped by and met a very nice lady who was home alone. We couldn't go inside, but we were able to have a prayer with her at her doorstep. After Elder Morrell said the prayer, she said amen and we could see her wiping away tears. She then expressed how grateful she was for us to stop by to remind her how much God loves her and is still watching out for her. It was very touching. She mentioned that she already went to church but she was interested in having missionaries stop by later that week. 

Now with this said, I've had many experiences like the one mentioned above and after about a few weeks, these potencials slowly start to fade in interest due to work and other excuses. The only way for an investigator to progress is if they keep committments. You can have all the spiritual encounters you want with someone, and they won't be any more converted than when they were before you met them. The ONLY way to become converted to the Gospel is through "excersing faith unto repentance". The word "exercising" is important. Unless we act and do the things we are commanded, including going to church, reading and praying, then our testimonies start to dwindle. You can receive no revelation of any spiritual truth if you are constantly breaking commitments. 

This is why Elder Morrell and I were devastated when this family that we've taught and come to love (Celia, Luiz, Dayana, Kairo, Melany) didn't come to church yesterday, when they committed to. The more weeks that go by without coming to church, experience has shown me that investigators start to digress and lose interest, and forget the Spirit they felt when they were keeping commitments. We've made very specific plans to help this family realize that they need to come to church this Sunday. 

In other news, Elder Morrell and I are really starting to grow as missionaries. I can tell he wasn't the same guy I knew back at the MTC, and our teaching together has improved as of late. And the reason we've seen improvement is because we've set goals and made plans to practice teaching the concise principles of the Gospel. We were out with a member this week and said we really need to focus on teaching the Gospel simple and concisely and allow the people we're teaching to find out what it means to them. 

Another fun experience we had this week happened while we were...yet again...riding our bikes. We were stopped at an intersection when a man in the car next to us rolled down his window and asked if he could talk to us. We gladly obliged because we had 5-10 minutes before we had to leave to our next appointment  He was genuinely curious about some of the things he's heard. Soon enough after we were talking, a third man drove up and joined our conversation. Now before you get excited and start thinking that this is one of those miracle stories where the men get baptized 3 weeks later-- let me explain that this experience was not one of those. The men were definitely not interested in learning about the gospel. In fact third man that walked in was one of those people who thought organized religion was wrong. He went as far as to start preaching to us that in essence we should denounce the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith and simply preach about Christ. He must have said the same thing over 50 times in the course of 20 minutes. He then starting showing us these pictures he drew and how they were revelation. 

It was weird  And honestly Elder Morrell and I just sat there in silence and let him talk. Once he finished, I felt impressed to simply my testimony. I didn't argue, or try to prove him wrong (even though I could have cited scripture about to contradict everything he said). 
And as I spoke, I could feel the words flow as if they were I part of me for hundreds of years. I know Jesus Christ lives and is my Savior. I know Joseph Smith was a prophet of God called to restore Jesus' church. I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God. 
I could feel the Holy Ghost testifying very simply and very calmly. What I said didn't change these men's opinions about anything, but there was a difference between our testimony and the man's urge for us to forget Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. 
What was the difference? The Holy Ghost testified as I spoke rather than when he spoke. 

We parted ways, and nothing else happened. We invited them to hear more, but they declined. I'm reminded of the great and spacious building and how it represents the wisdom and pride of the world. We need to rely on wisdom from God rather than wisdom from the world. I recommend reading Alma 37 and Mosiah 2 to learn about what it means to have wisdom.

Anyways, that was a great experience for me this past week. I'm loving the mission right now and the growth that I can see happening. I am so excited for Alexandra to serve a mission and I can't wait for both my brothers to serve as well. In fact, I can't wait for all my siblings to serve. You have no idea what's in store for you until the moment you enter your field of labor. I do the best to explain what I'm feeling, but you must actually come out here and commit to serve until you can truly understand what it means to be a representative of Jesus Christ. 

When you start to feel inadequate, the only solution is to get out and work. It's only when your out there doing something that the Holy Ghost manifests itself to you. 

I love this Gospel and I know this work is true. and when I say its true I mean that literally God is preparing the world for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and that he is gathering his sheep. 

Con Amor,

Elder Powley

Week 22 - North Oklahoma City - December 3, 2012

Mi Querida Familia,

We've had some awesome experiences this week. The highlight event would have to be the Temple Conference we had on Friday. In our mission, we have the privilege of attending the temple twice a year. This past Friday was the first time I've been to the Temple since leaving the MTC. Wow, it felt soooo calming. I'd almost forgotten how strong the presence of the Spirit is there in the Temple and how its able to help clear our minds and give us comfort. One of the insights I realized is the the Lord is very patient with each and every one of us. Even when we sin, he still is holding out his arms for us to come back to him. This past week I'd been a little frustrated with myself because I haven't felt like I've been measuring up to what the Lord expects of me, and when I went to the temple, I just got this overwhelming sense of peace and comfort and love. I know my Father in Heaven loves me and is patient with my shortcomings. This mission is the best time for me to grow and I  can feel myself being stretched every day.

President Taylor instigated a new study program during the conference. By next May, our mission is going to experience a 65% increase. This means more areas, more missionaries, more companionships, more apartments and more biking:) There was a great sense of excitement as President made this announcement  The number of sisters in our mission is jumping from 17 to 56, and our mission size is jumping from about 135 to 216 or something like that. 
And so to prepare for all of the incoming missionaries, who will be spending less time at the MTC, we all need to be ready to train. So President Taylor is going to have us read the whole Book of Mormon and Preach My Gospel from now until March. 

Which brings me to a fun little analogy President Taylor used during the training he gave us. He asked us a serious question: "If I told you I had a book titled "How to Find the Woman of your Dreams in 90 Days" would you read this book? We all sheepishly nodded yes. He asked us if we would study it in depth, taking notes and really applying the principles taught in the Book. We all enthusiastically nodded yes. He then pulled out Preach My Gospel and said, this is that book. It has everything from Recognizing the Spirit, making commitments, and coming closer to Christ to Daily Contacting, careful planning and so forth. It was awesome. Needless to say, we're all very geared up to become Preach My Gospel Missionaries. 

As far as our week goes, Elder Morrell and I have been trying a little harder to do Daily contacting as prescribed by Preach My Gospel. Obviously we haven't been able to keep in contact with all of our investigators. It's been hard to see some of the people we thought were strongly progressing two weeks ago stop having time to see us. It's been hard.

But nonetheless, we met the Vasquez family this week... and we've made it a point to contact them whenever we are in their neighborhood, even if its not a full lesson but just a few minutes to say hi... because honestly we love this family and desire them to come closer to Christ. We contacted this family 4 out of the 7 days last week in person and the difference has been incredible. Our trust with the family has grown immensely and the kids even go as much to ask when we will be coming back the next time. 

That's another thing, we also focused on teaching the children. We had a lesson with this family and taught them the 10 commandments using the hand signals and we involved the whole family. The effect was very warm and delightful. And we established a stronger relationship.

And then it gets better, we've successfully had a member present at every lesson so far we've had with them. The members have made the difference. The father of this family really connected with two members of our branch when we brought them over. I'm starting to see that the role of the missionary is partly to help members meet people outside of the branch. Once members start meeting people, the missionary work starts to have meaning for them and they want to come out and help. 
We plan to invite the primary president to our next appointment this Wednesday and hopefully we can start seeing the mom gain a few friends. Needless to say, we are really excited for this family and hope to see them progress. So far Elder Morrell and I are trying to really apply "Preach My Gospel" to this family because we don't want to lose them. 

In other news, the sister missionaries in our district had a baptism yesterday. It was a great experience for the Branch because I don't think the Branch has had a baptism for quite some time. Hopefully this will help kick start the missionary effort in this area a little bit. 

Well, that's about it for this week. If anyone has any fun ideas about how to teach the Plan of Salvation, the Restoration or the Gospel of Jesus Christ to children, let me know. 

Con Amor,

Elder Powley