In-Field Week 8 – An Attack, a Reference, some Disgust, and a Baptism

Fun fact: Port Arthur is blowing up…with investigators! Welcome to the email, the one I send every week even though it always feels like I just sent one yesterday. This weeks is a large one, so grab some candy, lean back in that chair you’re sitting in, and get ready for this.
Before I start off this email, I’ve noticed something being down here in Port Arthur. According to literally any Spanish missionary that has served here, Port Arthur has not really been a place to find new investigators. It’s usually kind of a stale area. But since I’ve arrived, we’ve completely blown up with new people we’re teaching, new investigators, references from place you’d never expect (more on that later) and all the sort! I don’t know if it’s something I did or the area is just ready, but all of Port Arthur is suddenly interested. Let’s see what happened this week.

Lunes, after p-day, was the attack of the mosquitos and we apparently missed the reminder not to go. Elder Trent and I literally stepped out of our car and we each had like thirteen mosquito bites in five minutes. However, despite the attack, we got a new investigator out of it. Not sure if it was a win-win or lose-lose situation but either way, God truly is aware of us and our situations!

Martes en la mañana, I woke up and my ankle was like “nah fam. You aren’t going anywhere right now.” After much wrestling, both physically and with words, we reluctantly decided to stay in our apartment for the morning. But I was determined to make it out of the apartment for the afternoon because we had a LOT of appointments. Also, we had interviews with President Hewlett and there was no way I was going to miss that.
A lot of our day consists of contacting, so that’s what we started doing after our interviews. One of our new investigators wasn’t home but someone else was. He wasn’t too interested in the gospel but was nice nonetheless. Right after that, we found a new investigator. We just knocked on this door and this lady was holding her one-week-old son. We shared the message of the restoration of the church and the Book of Mormon and asked to come by another day, which she accepted!
After that, we went to the area where the mosquito attack/massacre occured. We went to knock a contact’s door; he wasn’t there. Hmm, well we’re here. What do we do now? So we do what we always do, we start tracting. We walked like twenty steps and said hi to this guy sitting on his porch. We introduced ourselves and asked if we could share our message, to which he accepted. We didn’t have any spiritual warnings or promptings then so we sat with him on his porch. As we started to teach, he asked us a question. Now my Spanish…it exists for now so I didn’t understand the entire twenty minute conversation afterwards but what I picked up on was that he was a Catholic, a staunch one too. He asked us why we didn’t believe in Lady Guadeloupe. We believe in Jesus Christ, why not her? That question kind of stumped me for a minute. He then continued, asking this question again and again. Finally, after a long time, he told us that Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost and Heavenly Father are all one being, referred to as God and we were completely wrong, that our religion was false. Woah, hold it right there. We all have our agency but excuse you. So I whipped out my Bible, which I hardly ever carry with me, and flipped to Acts 7:55-56. It reads “But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” Clearly, there is a difference between them. He then looked at me in disgust and said “Well, that’s not the correct Bible. That’s just your church’s Bible.” It’s a good thing we left right after that because I was about to start an argument. I don’t know why that made me angry. Either way, I think the lesson here was patience, but I did learn a lot about charity in the moments after as the Spirit taught me about loving others. So yeah, probably don’t do what I did there (expect learn from the Spirit, always do that).
After my temper cooled, and I was sufficiently taught by the Spirit, we had a great lesson with the new investigator we met yesterday. He seems to be doing well so we’re steadily teaching him more and more about the gospel.
Later, we met with the members grandson that came to stake conference with us. His name is Dalton, and he’s actually done all that we’ve asked him to! And he has questions! I love answering questions and being able to teach people based on that.
And finally, we had dinner with a part member family and almost recommitted someone to a baptismal date. I say almost because she asked for some time to think on it, so we agreed to that.
Oh, almost forgot something here. We received a reference for someone in our area and there was a note with it that asked us to message them on Facebook. We don’t have access to Facebook here, but we do have access to Facebook Messenger. So I opened it and managed to find one of them and sent them a message. We sent some messages back and forth and it turns out, these missionaries are in Spain! They are teaching this lady’s daughter over there and she’s been talking to her mother about it over the phone. So we promised to pass by as soon as we could and let them know how it went.

Miércoles we volunteered at the soup kitchen again. This is a recurring thing that we do every week and it’s honestly a lot of fun.
Later, we visited our reference from Spain. Her name is Yuli (pronounced Julie) and she is such a kind person. She is ready for the gospel. On a whim, we invited her to our English Connect class that was going on that night. She said she would come.
After that, we had dinner with some less active members. They have a brand new baby girl and all she wanted to do was stare at me during dinner. So I was smiling at her (playing as much as I can as a missionary) and she was so happy. She didn’t like it when we had to leave, and I felt bad but the Spirit spoke peace to me and I felt better after that.
Next was English Connect and Yuli showed up! She participated in one of the classes and then had a very basic conversation with us in English after that. It was so cool to watch that change occur in her. It reminded me that this is probably how it’s like with me learning Spanish.

Jueves I found out that while we have a lot of Spanish members, more than half of them are less active, non-active, or have apostized from the church. It kind of hurt my heart that we had that many. But, once again, it is their agency and I don’t have control over that.
Later, we went back to Yuli’s and, with our knocking, woke her up from a nap. Oops. We didn’t talk for very long but we did set up a return appointment.
After, we had some time so we decided to go knock on this door that had a live peacock on the front lawn. We knocked on the door and were about to turn away when the door opened. For us, it is habit to start by saying something along the lines of “Hola, estoy Elder Thacker de la Iglesia de Jesucristo y tenemos una mensaje a compartir con usted. Cuál es su nombre?” This man didn’t hear us very well at first and said “Well, what’s your name?” We responded in English and asked again. He said “That’s not important to you. What do you want?” We explained again and he said, with much distaste for us, “I don’t need your message right now. I am a devoted Christian and don’t need you.” He then closed the door. And that’s the story of my first closed door! Whoo! Also, agency once again.
Next, we found a woman who wouldn’t open her screen door because the cold air hurt her eye? I’m not sure either, but she accepted a restoration pamphlet. Yay!
Then, we met with these investigators that haven’t been taught in about two months. Oops. Anyway, we taught them the plan of salvation and they really enjoyed it.
Finally, we finished out the night by teaching Dalton about baptism. We extended a date but he wasn’t quite ready to accept that yet so we’re giving him time to think about it before making a decision.

Viernes we woke up to 37° weather. I’m not going to say it was chilly, because I know it’s worse for everyone back home, so we’re going to leave it at that.
Then we had an unexpected phone call. A person back in one of Elder Trent’s areas is getting baptized! However, it’s over in Pasadena and we’re in Port Arthur. That’s like an hour and a half drive one way. I was like “there’s no way we’ll get there” but Elder Trent was determined. After many calls, texts, and waiting for responses, we somehow managed to get a ride over there! The Spirit chastened me afterwards and gave me similar words that Jesus gave Peter in Matthew 14:31 “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
Next, we full sent it to a town in our area fourteen miles away to visit our branch president. After that, we came back a little closer to our area and had an awesome lesson with an investigator. We could tell that the Spirit was there and was working with him. He really enjoyed the lesson and asked us to come back so we set up an appointment.

Sábado we used our bikes because we have to. But it wasn’t terrible; my foot seemed to be okay with it but we’re still being careful with it.
Later, we met with Yuli and she gave us some empanadas! She also really wants to come to church but she works on Sundays. She’s going to see what she can do to free up her Sundays. She is also learning English so we’re teaching her in very simple English terms. When she doesn’t understand something, we’ll explain it in Spanish and then repeat it in English. She’s making a lot of progress in both language and gospel and is really liking them both! We’re excited for her.
Then, we had a late lunch with a member, followed by a lesson with a different less active member. After that, I got to meet one of the people that had a baptismal date, but work suddenly got in the way. Anyway, she’s super nice and wants to recommit but doesn’t know when because of work.

Domingo we had two investigators attend church with us! That’s one of those things that just doesn’t happen here. Did someone say miracles?
Then, we cleared out the entire afternoon to go attend the baptism in Pasadena. Remember, it’s about an hour and a half drive one way. Anyway, we successfully attended the baptism, I talked with missionary friends, and then we traveled back to Port Arthur. A pretty eventful day at first, but not after that.

And now it’s testimony time.
Ya know, I feel like telling you about some of my feelings while being out here on a mission. At first, in the MTC (CCM), I didn’t feel homesick. Like, the entire time. And I didn’t when I first got into the field. But then in-field week 3 hit and that’s when it hit. I had like an entire week straight that I was just like “I can’t do this, I’m not making a difference, I want to go home, I can make a difference somewhere else”. Things like that. But as I’ve tried to come closer to the Spirit and be strengthened through these times, I’ve found it to become easier. Granted, I still have some of those thoughts but they are significantly less frequent and less powerful. Notice how I said ‘as I’ve tried’. I fall short. We all do. It’s what happens when you’re human. And sometimes when that happens, we feel abandoned, alone, forgotten, unloved. We have thoughts of “I can’t do this anymore”, “It’s too hard”, and “I want to quit”. But I was listening to a BYU devotional by Brad Wilcox titled “His Grace Is Sufficient” and something spoke to me.

“…there should never be just two options: perfection or giving up. When learning the piano, are the only options performing at Carnegie Hall or quitting? No. Growth and development take time. Learning takes time. When we understand grace, we understand that God is long-suffering, that change is a process, and that repentance is a pattern in our lives. When we understand grace, we understand that the blessings of Christ’s Atonement are continuous and His strength is perfect in our weakness. When we understand grace, we can, as it says in the Doctrine and Covenants, “continue in patience until [we] are perfected” (D&C 67:13).”

Brad Wilcox, HIs Grace Is Sufficient“.

The entire talk is fantastic and I highly recommend a read or a listen. I love how it is just put into the simplest terms it can be. Repentance is a process, not just an event that happens. Repentance takes time and effort on our part. Another part of the devotionals says that “Jesus doesn’t make up the difference. Jesus makes all the difference.” I’m not going to keep referencing this devotional because I could just copy & paste the entire thing and not have to say anything, but I’m going to anyway. I can say, and testify, without a doubt that the Atonement of Jesus Christ works IF we let it. I’ve had times where I’ve gone to repent and then not done anything, or went to do the same thing again. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ won’t force us to do anything, we have the agency to choose whether we want to or not. It is up to us to decide whether or not we want to accept the help that is being offered to us. A blog post I was reading on the church’s website says this:

“And the Savior, much like a loving mother to a hurt child, succored me in the way only He can. He didn’t just call down into the muddy pit where I was lying, saying a few encouraging words for me to climb out; he climbed into the pit, lay in the mud with me, and said with perfect empathy, ‘This is really hard. It’s dark and cold down here. I’m sorry you’re going through this. I love you whether you’re in this pit or out of it, but let me help you out because I know you’ll be happier. I know the way, so let me help you.'”

Breanne Su’a, Discovering Christ’s Love in the Pit of Inadequacy

I testify that as we reach out for the help of the Savior, He will help us through these trials, tribulations, and the process of repentance. Even if we fall short, commit a sin again, whatever it may be, He is always there ready to help if we let him. I so testify of these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Todos tenemos debilidades en nuestros vidas, con pecado o dificultades. Yo testifico Jesucristo quiere a ayudar nosotros durante estos tiempos, especialmente en tiempos de dolor. Jesucristo sufrira para nuestros pecados.

Fun(ny) things:

  • So I use a diffuser at night and I went to asked Elder Trent what oil we should diffuse that night. He alluded to Lavender and, out of tiredness, I said “That sounds like a great smell.” Then I couldn’t stop laughing. I still don’t know why that was so funny right then.

Elder Thacker