Week 33 - North Oklahoma City - February 18, 2013

Mi Querida familia,

First off, thank you so much for that Valentine's Day package you all sent me. It meant a lot to me to receive a letter from all my brothers and sisters. You're all having such unique experiences and reacting to them in different ways it's very entertaining to watch. But one thing that is in common is that you all have so much faith and optimism for the future. Maybe you didn't have a valentine this year, or maybe you twisted your ankle, or maybe you just don't know what to do with your life...but nonetheless you all know who to rely on in times of need: and that is your Heavenly Father, and as well our family. 

This week I've especially gained a testimony about eternal families. Elder Mendoza and I taught a lesson yesterday to Luiz and Celia again, and this time it went a little differently. We more fully explained that Christ originally organized his church, the apostasy the followed and the need for a restoration. Luiz still refuses to believe. He said a lot of things last night that were hard to hear, but the one thing that really hit me was when he talked about how he thinks he already has all the happiness he needs in his life...he has his family and that is all. As I listened, I felt impressed to tell him that we are here to help him have an eternal family. I did so... and we found the source of Luiz's confusion. He said very clearly "No creo en la vida eterna." He doesn't believe in Eternal life or the fact that we will live with our families after death. He said this infront of his wife. 
I was devestated and in that moment I felt the Spirit work through to bear what felt like one of the most sincerest testimonies I've ever given. 
I know that families are eternal. There is no way we would such treasured realitionships here on earth just to have them end with something so trivial as death. God has restored the preisthood authority to enable our familes to exist beyond the grave. I think I started to cry when I bore my testimony to Luis and Celia. It was a special experience for me because I know the Spirit was testifying to my words. I got the opportunity to say "as a representative of Jesus Christ, I promise that this life is not the end. Christ was resurrected so that we can be resurrected one day as well. 

Needless to say, Luis didn't have any comeback and we were able to focus on inviting Celia to be baptized. She said she needs to study more, so we are going to focus on visiting more with her rather than Luis. He still is pretty closed-minded...but we feel we need to start helping Celia progress in the Gospel because she knows our message is true, she just needs member friends so that she doesn't have to take this journey alone. 

I think this was the highlight experience of my week, but here are some other things that happened as well.

Tuesday, we had a huge snow storm. The whole mission was closed and we couldn't leave our apartments. So we spent the whole day eating, watching "The Testaments" catching up on our Book of Mormon studies, calling people and getting caught up on our sleep and such. I almost went crazy. It was a nice break, but at the same time I hated being inside for a whole 24 hours. It was so boring. 

I went on exchanges with Elder Dalia this week and we had an appointment with an inactive member who moved back in. He's made some mistakes, but he seems very willing to repent and come back. Elder Dalia is a great missionary. I learned a lot from him on exchanges. He's had some experiences in the mission that really helped boost my confidence and excitement for this work. 

We had a Stake Conferance yesterday which featured a satellite broadcast with President Erying and Elder Scott, a member of the 70 and a member from the Primary Presidency. 
Elder Scott talked about the Sanctity of Womenhood and Elder Eyring talked about the power of prayer. Very inspiring, Elder Scott's talk really stuck out to me. He literally said that it is a priesthood responsibility to treat women with respect. He encouraged that all priesthood holders should express their gratitude to the women in their lives. 
He also said that priesthood holders need to be bold enough to firmly say "I will not seek an eternal companion who is overcome by worldly trends." I echo Elder Scott's words. I value virtue, chastity and modesty, and the mission has strengthened that resolve. It's my belief that your testimony and commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ is what makes you beautiful.

Have a great week everyone, I wish I had more time to write. But that's all I have for today. I love you all and wish the best. Keep reading the Book of Mormon and praying to know if its true. The Lord strengthens us little by little according to our dilligence.

Con Amor,

Elder Powley

Week 32 - North Oklahoma City - February 11, 2013

Mi querida familia,

It's been an awesome week out here in the North. We had a lot of lessons with member presents and we're are starting to see investigators progress more. Not many are ready for baptism yet, but people are slowly making the small steps to change their lives. 

The memorial service we had for Sister Smith was very touching. President and Sister Taylor spoke about the Plan of Salvation. Our mission President is incredible. He didn't say anything new or out of the ordinary, but when he spoke you could tell that the Holy Ghost was his companion. He spoke with power and authority and this is because of the conviction of his testimony. It was a reminder to me how we don't have to be over the top when we teach people. WE just need to speak sincerely and nothing but the truth. I was offering a prayer with a lady on the street this week as well and after the prayer she complimented me by saying that I was really good at giving prayers. I didn't say anything special but rather the desires of my heart and for her safety. the Spirit testifies when we are sincere. When we  truly love the people we teach, they can see that and desire to keep commitments such as reading the scriptures and coming to Church.

After the memorial service, I got to talk with some of my old companions. What a treat! It was like a big family reunion. I suppose the joy I felt talking with them is only a taste of how we'll feel on the morning of the First Ressurrection. While I was talking with Elder Vance, he updated me on the progress of a former investigator of ours when I was serving with him and Elder Chapman. 
If you can remember, we found a man named Carlos back in November. He was golden ready to get baptised...and then he moved Kansas a week before his baptism! We were devestated. 
But Elder Vance got a call from him. Turns out the missionaries found him (the organization of the church is a miracle) and he was able to continue recieving the lessons and he was on his way to being baptized. Fruits of our Labor! Wahoo! I was pretty happy. Imagine if we had not found and taught Carlos while he was here in Oklahoma? I'm sure the Lord could have made it so he could hear the Gospel, but he decided to do it through Elder Vance, Elder Chapman and I. We were instruments in his hands. 

Other fun experiences this week: We had an intense lesson with Luiz. He had been researching the church and had found a lot of online stuff that discredited the Church and more specifiaclly the Book of Mormon. His biggest argument was that there was no physical evidence of entire civilazations being wiped out, or temples bieng built. He als watched a certain hour long movie made by apostate members of the church. 

BUT HE HAS NEVER READ THE BOOK OF MORMON! This was our biggest point we made to him. He didn't like it. In the end however, he committed to read the Book of Mormon. WE also shared Alma 32 with him about how faith is to hope things which are not seen which are true. Signs never convert. Physical evidence never converts. I am so grateful for my testimony of the Book of Mormon. Its one of God's greatest gifts to me. I don't need physical, historical evidence to know its the Word of God. The holy Ghost has manisfested it unto me. 
We look forward to meeting with him this Friday to see how his reading went. 

Luiz's wife Celia is who we want to start focusing on. She reads...she doesnt understand, but she reads and is more humble. Hopefully, we can have permission to teach her and prepare her for baptism. 

We also met with a family this week who asked us if it was possible for someone to be possessed by an evil spirit. Whoahh! Over our heads there. We said we couldn't really answer that one, but that we know in the Bible JEsus truly did cast out evil spirits from people. We're going to give him a blessing later this week with a member in the Branch. 
But this family is awesome! The Dad is really humble and knows he needs to change. He reads, prays but still needs to come to church. 

Today I was reading in Alma 36. I love this chapter. The structure is so interesting. It's structured so that the very center idea is the Atonement of Jesus Christ. For those who don't know this is the Chapter where Alma is telling his son Heleman about his conversion when he went about destroying the church with the sons of Mosiah. Its incredible! As I read it, I understood more and more how personal one's conversion is and how possible it is to be Born Again. 

Being a missionary is so amazing. Things are slow and tedious at times, but you just need to look at things positively. I have a great companion who can help me stay optimistic and have fun with. We can talk openly and keep things focused yet casual at the same time. 

Every one preparing for a mission has a lot to look forward to. The most important thing I'm finding is that my testimony is becoming solidified in a way that wouldn't be possible if I didn't go on a mission. 

The gospel is true! The Church is true! The Holy Ghost is real! Work is required. 

Con Amor, y hasta luego!

Elder Powley

Week 31 - North Oklahoma City - February 4, 2013

Mi querida familia,

It's been a tough week here in the mission due to the unfortunate event that happened this weekend with Sister Smith. It's such a hard case. Sister Smith was actually training a new young sister; the accident happened two days after this new missionary came into the mission. Sister Smith actually served in my zone for a few weeks when I first came to this area, so I knew here a little bit, not too well, but I did know her. 

We were all shocked when we got the call. Our new district leader, Elder Orellana (from El Salvador) actuall was her district leader in his last area. He and her were actually pretty good friends, so he's taking it pretty hard. We went out to Taco Bell on Saturday to go comfort him. I actually read in the recent Ensign an article about how to talk with people who are grieving. Surprisingly, the advice I found said not to talk too much...but rather listen. Specifically, let them talk about their favorite memories of the person who passed away. Don't rush the grieving time table, but share love and concern for those that are sad. So I did that and I just simply listened to Elder Orellana talk about his memories of her. As I lisitned, I felt more love for him and I felt like I understood him more.

I think we can apply this principle with our own lives. We shouldn't be quick to try and "fix" everyone's problems with our own experiences and advice. If you want to help someone...listiening is the first and foremost thing you must do. Then as you listen, the words to speak will be given to you in the very hour that they need to be given. I've had this experience a few times on my mission and I can testify, that when you listen to the person who has concerns, and then listen to the Spirit (feelings which are motivated by love and concern, not judgmental or condemning) then your words can have a great effect on people. 

In other news with our investigators...we've had a tough time staying in contact. Emily (our one baptismal date) all the sudden got super busy and can't meet during the week anymore. She's still interested though. It's funny but ever since we set the date with her, she's had all these problems come up: ex-boyfriend trying to gain custody of the kids, school, work, more school. Satan is really trying to slow down her progression. All though as missionaries we can't do much to make all these problems go away, we can be patient and still endure with understanding that people have lives to keep in order as well as make a significant life change by following the Gospel. 

Other than that, we haven't had too many stand out experiences this week. Elder Mendoza and I have been trying our best to hold on to the few investigators we have. Unfortunately, we have missed out on a few opprotunites to invite people to baptism in the first lesson, due to time. There is a differnece in walking out  of a lesson when you invite someone to baptism and when you didn't. You feel more like a missionary when you do invite people. That truly is our purpose out here...to help people accept this message of the Restoration of the Gospel. It's hard and slow, but worth evry minute.

Thank you so much for the pictures of Jane! It looks like she really liked that Birthday cake. I was waiting for someone to shove her face into the cake when she took a bite. That's actually a hispanic tradition out here:) 

Looks like things are going well. Keep reading the scriptures and praying! I've really come to love studying the scriptures in the morning. When I don't get to study (or inadvertantly fall asleep), there is a signficant loss of the Spirit when I go out to work that day. 

I love you all and pray for you often!

Con Amor,

Elder Powley

PS. Elder Mendoza and I finally applied the Doctrine of Christ and cleaned our apartment!!!! It's a miracle!!! All it took was a little faith, repentance baptism by water and of the Spirit...and now we just need to endure to the end and keep our apartment that way!

Week 30 - North Oklahoma City - Janaury 28, 2013

Mi Querida Familia,

What a week. The weather has been crazy. It was about 70 degrees on WEdnesday and then Thursday it dropped back down to 30, and now today we're back up in the 70s. It feels good to finally not have to wear a suit everywhere. 
It's probably been one of the most successful weeks according to the numbers. We set a baptismal date for the first time in a transfer and a half with a single mom named Emily. She has three kids and is working on getting her GED. She accepted a baptismal date on the first lesson, which really surprised Elder Mendoza and I. We really hope she'll progress, her fmaily could really use the gospel in their lives. Well I guess everyone needs the Gospel but she's the first one that's really softened her heart to baptism.

We've had some inspired tracting moments. For example we felt inspired to go to this one corner street, turns out the first house we knock is hispanic (and we're tracting in largely american neighborhoods). Even though this man ended up completely rejecting the Restoration yesterday (he wouldn't even take a Book of Mormon). I still think the Lord led us to this man to raise a voice of warning. 
But the funny thing is this, as we were riding to his house, I felt prompted to later that week go tracting on another street. We go try this street and we contacted another lady who had met with the missionaries before and was interested in us bringing by a Book of Mormon. The Lord works through our thoughts in small and simple ways. Just last night, we found another potencial investigator simply because I looked at the house, noticed that it was painted bright blue and had a Dora the Explorer sign on the porch. In my mind, I thought "Oh it must be hispanic." We knocked on the door, and it turns out that the lady had met with missionaries before and has family members who are members in the South. She loves the missionaries and spicfically said "Siento algo muy fuerte cuando viene" (I feel something very strong when you come). She mentions how she's seen us ride our bikes a lot and each time she sees us, she feels super good inside. 

Imagine if I hadn't felt like knocking on this door because it was painted bright blue and had a Dora the Explorer sign on it? I know its a stretch, but the Lord many times works through our natural thought processes. As long as we are being obedient, we will be led to where we need to go and what we need to say. 

This reminds me a scripture I read this week in Alma. There's a verse where and angel talks to Alma just as he is leaving the city of Ammonihah after facing serious rejection. The angel says to Alma (and I paraphrase here a little) "Lift up thy head and be of good cheer because thou hast great cause to rejoice because thou has been faithful in keeping the commandments." 
The principle here is that it doesn't matter how much rejection we face: we can find happiness in being exactly obedient. 

So Elder Mendoza and I are going to to serve another transfer here in the North OKC 4th branch! I'm pretty excited, we work really well together. I've been able to improve with my spanish a lot while with him, and also learn a lot about not over-thinking too much. 

I'm glad the family is doing well. Send me pictures of Jane's Birthday and give her a big hug and kiss from me:) 

Have a great week!

Con Amor,

Elder Powley