Monday, August 29, 2016

Week 14: In which I make pepper omelets, find cheap food, and meet Anataly.

Hola, mi familia y amigos! Un chiste, pero solo en Espanol. Los siento si no pueden entenderlo, pero a mi me encantalo: Que hace un pez en agua? Nada! Hahaha!
Hello, my family and friends!  A joke, but only in Spanish.  I'm sorry if you can't understand it, but it delights me:  What does a fish do in water?  Nada!  Hahaha!  (Nada has two meanings: both "it swims" and "nothing").

Okay, sorry. That joke really only works in Spanish. If you don't speak Spanish, I guess you have to just take my word for it.

Man, time really flies, doesn't it? It's pretty crazy. I finally learned this last week how to make some pretty good omelets. The best thing is, we've got these peppers that the people here keep giving us, maybe as a show of our strength? I don't know. Anyway, we've got a few chile de arbols sitting around. We've also got some ghost pepper salsa (it's actually not that hot, but it is very delicious). So, I've been sticking either ghost pepper chile in my omelets or dicing a couple actual chiles and throwing them in. With cheese, it's unstoppable. I have also been really enjoying my lots of fruit (and, naturally, a few fluffernutters).

We finally found out about a place to buy food that is waaaay cheaper! We can get as much fruit as we want, and all sorts of awesome stuff! I mean, we have so many eggs now! It's so exciting! Actually, come to think of it, you can probably tell, if only by the fact that ever sentence in this paragraph ends in an exclamation point!

Here in the mission are so many opportunities to learn about ourselves and try to improve. I wanted to share an excerpt of the weekly letter I wrote to my Mission President, as it really illustrates this very well:

One thing I have noticed I really need to improve on is patience, specifically with myself, but also with others. Because I am better at some aspects of that divine virtue than others, I hadn't really noticed it when trying to identify what I should work on next. For example, it's very hard to upset me. I rarely have trouble being patient with my companion, but I have noticed that I have trouble being patient with myself sometimes. On a related note, I sometimes think to myself why certain investigators aren't progressing, or acting, or why it's hard to meet with them, or any number of things. While I always recognize their agency, I have found I often start thinking that I or our companionship had done something wrong. While it's true that sometimes we make mistakes, I am beginning to learn that despite our weaknesses, the Lord will always make up for the difference. If an investigator doesn't progress, and we have done all we can do, then they were not ready. We have done our part for now; if the Lord wills, they may be given another opportunity after they have been more readied.

We have had an interesting experience with a new investigator named Analy. Last Monday, we decided to knock her house. She had left her car lights on, and when she answered, we let her know. After she thanked us for letting her know, we proceeded to introduce ourselves and our purpose. When we asked her how she felt about God, she responded that she has been going through a rough time, and that she was starting to believe that God wasn't listening to her prayers, and maybe even wasn't there.

We then began teaching the message of the Restoration. At the end, she was in tears. She said that she know knew that there was a God and that he listened to her prayers, for she had prayed just that day for Him to send someone who could help her feel closer to Him and answer the questions of her soul. In that lesson, she promised to read the Book of Mormon and pray if it was true, and also to have another visit with us. Finally, she also accepted the invitation to be baptized.

It was incredible! From that experience alone, my testimony that the Lord is mindful of each of us and prepares us all grew by leaps and bounds. We had only just met Analy, and yet she already seemed ready to listen to our message!

However, it was not over yet. As often happens, it seems, when someone agrees to baptism, the trials are multiplied tenfold to stop them from making such sacred promises. The worst thing is, Elder Aguirre and I haven't been able to contact her at all since that first lesson. She has seemingly fallen off the face of the planet. To make matters worse, she has a relative in the house (we think a brother) who is not only not interested, but very hostile to us and to things of God in general. We have no idea if she's read at all, because she is never home. That experience has tried my patience greatly. I may not be impatient per se, but I have learned through that alone that patience is something that I definitely need to work on.

I love the great learning experiences here. There are so many awesome people here! It's really interesting to me that sometimes people don't even want to listen. I sometimes wonder if I would be the same way. As missionaries, we really are only here to serve people, share our message, facilitate understanding, and invite others to find out for themselves if the things we share are true. Thing is, I have a testimony that the message we do share is true. It's a message that has brought me a lot of happiness. All I want, and all any other missionary I know wants, is to see others experience that same happiness. I didn't choose to leave my family, my home, and people I love dearly simply on a whim. I didn't choose to follow this gospel on a whim. I found out for myself.

I love you all dearly, and wish you all the best!

Elder Adams

Monday, August 22, 2016

Week 13: In which I visit Ricardo, meet Elder Aguirre, and contemplate armies of Chihuahuas


This was a super cool week. We finally got to talk to Ricardo again, and he's just so cool! He finally opened up to us a bit, and we were able to talk to him again about the restoration. As it turns out, he had some doubts and questions, but the spirit in the room was strong enough that what questions he had seemed to dissipate with no effort. He's super busy all the time, so he has had trouble reading and praying, but when we invited him this last time, he just said he really did want to get an answer and that he would read and pray that night. He's so cool! He's really open, and willing to experiment. I think his biggest challenge will be finding time to keep too many commitments.

I have some relatively sad (don't worry, not THAT depressing) news, which in some ways doesn't come as a huge surprise. Kenia, the awesome person who had decided to get baptized, has been completely impossible to contact for a week. We've tried by her house a lot, but she didn't keep her first appointment and hasn't been opening the door for a week. We know she was there at least 2 of those times (including the appointment). We ended up deciding the best thing to do was to just hold off on trying to visit her for the next week. We're hoping that we can then return, try to set up another date (she had the 3rd of September as a date before, but we have to change it), and try to help resolve whatever concerns or questions she may have. I am confident that if she continues trying to find the answers she wants, she will be very well off in the Lord's hands.

Oh, yeah! I also have a new companion, Elder Aguirre. He's so awesome! I am so excited for this transfer. He's from Colorado, but was born in Chihuahua. He'll get along with all of the chihuahuas in this area, that's for sure. Man, I think sometimes here they have a different philosophy for guard dogs. Sometimes, there will be a massive, threatening Rottweiler, German Shepherd, or Pit Bull. However, the vast majority of the time, people substitute quality for quantity. Some yards have entire armies of chihuahuas, completely undisciplined, but readier than anything to attempt to bite your ankles off. 5 chihuahuas is about the average.

I didn't see this, but I heard a story from another missionary that he personally witnessed. Once, there was a group of 5 or so chihuahuas chilling in the middle of the street. They were super friendly to each other, but a mean bunch to anything else that moved. Before long, another little chihuahua gang rolled around the corner, and the first group proceeded to instigate a chihuahua war. The leaders went at each other, and the other dogs followed suit. It was, according to the other missionary, a little chihuahua gang war in miniature. I guess that was a rough neighborhood, at least as far as chihuahuas were concerned. I'm going to have to get a picture of one of the highly trained and greatly feared chihuahua private armies to send. One of these days.

I also found out something pretty cool last week. Remember Bob? The prospector guy? Well, turns out he is hard core. Some of you may be familiar with an event known as the Iran Hostage Crisis. Well, apparently Bob played an important role in that. He was, for several years, leader of a Special Ops squad. He had an office in the pentagon. Well, during the Hostage Crisis, he flew in on a civilian airplane, completely unarmed. He then just strolled into the office of the President of Iran, looked him in the eye, and said a line worthy of a movie: "I'm not armed right now, and I'm not here to cause problems. But if you continue to cause trouble, I'll come back and there'll be a bullet through your head." He said the president was always nice to him after that.

This week has been super fun. I know I've said that before, but it's so true! I just keep learning more about this work I am trying to do. I love the people here so much! They're all just great. I don't even mind the chihuahuas, despite the fact that they think when we walk away that they chased us off. We are trying to find a lot of people right now, and have begun focusing on helping the members discover the joy that comes with this work. Right here, right now, there is no other place I'd want to be.

Elder Adams

Okay, picture time!
This was my companionship with Elder Wunderlich in a nutshell:

The next one is a relatively normal picture...

...And the next is not.

 Proudly presenting... Elder Aguirre! (with Elder Call)

 Yep, these are our Zone Leaders.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Week 12: In which I lose my trainer, we challenge a lack of faith, and explore an abandoned mine.

Alright, time for some crazy news! Despite the fact that I'm not finished with my training yet (not for another transfer), Elder Wunderlich is being transferred to a different zone in the mission. He's being made a zone leader up in Omack. Same stake, different zone. He'll be by here every once in a while for the Mission Leadership Councils in Yakima (the Omack zone leaders stay the night with us the night before because it's so far). I'll be finishing my training with Elder Aguire (or Aguirre? I'm actually not sure), who was actually training my MTC companion this last transfer.

This last week was really, really slow. It felt like wherever we tried to go, everything fell through. Our lessons fell through, then our backups, then no one wanted to talk with us. It was hard, but that has never discouraged me. I know that some weeks will be slow, and others will seem like miracle after miracle.

In an effort to find some more people, we went to the hospital this week to try to arrange to help out and talk to people who are going through a crisis. That might help with finding, although I'm not sure how eager the hospital chaplains were to let us help a lot. They were definitely nice, and very accommodating. They seemed very glad to get our contact information.

Bit by bit, we're trying to get better at planning together. We're trying to implement all of the points in Preach My Gospel. We still need a lot of practice for it to truly become natural and a habit, though.

I think one of the most powerful experiences this week was when I was on exchanges with Elder Brassanini. That happened to be the day we had planned to go by one of our investigators. We hadn't had a proper appointment with this particular investigator yet, but so far, he had seemed pretty wishy-washy when it came to keeping commitments. When we finally met with him and his wife, it became abundantly clear after only a few minutes that there was zero faith in either of them.

In a rare experience, a lesson that could have been extremely uncomfortable was very powerful. It was not a usual lesson, but a loving cry to repentance. They both kept saying "Yes, yes, we have a lot of faith. Heaps of it. We are very devoted followers of Christ. We're Catholics!" At the same time, the wife said "I'm a Catholic. I don't really care if I'm wrong or not, that's what I am and I don't want to change." Now, there's absolutely nothing wrong with being a Catholic; that's great! What saddens me is that so very often, people are afraid to even experiment with new things, out of the fear they might be wrong. Why can't we all be more open? I sincerely hope I would be!

These people, whom I love so dearly, were astoundingly unwilling to change. Despite knowing that such things are quite common, I was incredulous. Why would anyone be so, so closed to hearing a simple message? When their lack of true faith (as opposed to simple belief, which doesn't involve action) became clear, I felt myself speak with a power not my own. To be honest, I often don't like being as direct as we were with people. It often makes more enemies then friends. However, that lesson, Elder Brassanini and I were both extremely direct. In short, when they refused to pray yet continually professed their faith in Christ, we asked: "If you have so much faith, why not show it with a simple prayer? Is that so hard?" When they again refused and yet again spoke of the great faith they had, Elder Brassanini said "Then your faith is only with words and not actions?"

It was not your average lesson. It was very direct, without any beating about the bush. Without a miracle, we will almost certainly stop teaching them for the time being. However, I do believe that such miracles are possible. They were both doing some serious soul-searching during that lesson, of that I am sure. I saw it in their eyes. The spirit was also extremely strong, calling them to repent. The only question is, will they fight the spirit like they were clearly doing before?

Sometimes, I think we are too timid or polite to follow such inspiration. It's hard to say something as harsh as that to someone, even if done out of love for them. I know that as we try to be better and follow the spirit, we will have words put into our mouths. In two very different ways, it happened with Kenia and it happened again this week. With such miracles occurring day by day, my faith is growing continually stronger. I doubt I have ever had as much as I do now, and for that I am eternally grateful. I receive witnesses in my heart every day of the truth of this message. I only wish that people through all ages were not so stubborn in their hearts and quick to do evil. I hope that I will be able to be the Lord's tool in helping to sift those faithful few from the proud masses. I am not perfect myself, as I will be the first to admit. Still, I know that with the Lord's help, we can strive to be better every day.

Alright, now for what we did for fun last Monday! We went up near a little town called Leavenworth to hike. To save my mother the effort of looking Leavenworth up and stalking me, I'll just tell you basically what it is. Leavenworth is a little town in the mountains that is very... German. It's advertised as a "Bavarian Town". It's not like an actual town in Germany, but it has tons of signs in German, at least one little bakery, and a bunch of German restaurants. It's a kind of fun place, even though we only drove through to get to our hike.

The hike was gorgeous. It was drizzling a bit, but it was a fantastic mountain view. We also went through a really awesome abandoned mining tunnel. It went through a mountain. Picture time!
 These two are from Leavenworth:

This is the river we saw on the hike:

These next few are the abandoned mining tunnel:

This is us emerging from the other side of the mountain:

This is the bridge we crossed on the hike:

Basically, it was awesome. Most Mondays we just spend playing chair soccer or something as a zone. This last week was pretty awesome, though.

Much love,

Elder Adams

Monday, August 8, 2016

Week 11: In which Kenia accepts an invitation, our neighbor thinks we are CIA, and I deal with a discouraging weekend

Dear family and friends,

I love it here! I can't say it enough. Really, one of my favorite things is all of the learning experiences and chances to meet and (try to) help so many people. It doesn't matter to me if a day or a week is disappointing, I still love it. It is from opposition that we stretch and grow. To be honest, this week was in some ways disappointing. From Friday through Sunday, no matter how hard we tried, every single one of our appointments and backups fell through. There was almost no one on the streets. As a result, we pretty much walked from place to place on lonely streets, and were hardly able to see any tangible results. Such a situation could have been extremely discouraging, but it wasn't too bad for me. Things happen! I was buoyed up by the spirit of the work and by an incredible experience just days earlier, on Wednesday.

Elder Wunderlich and I had been teaching a wonderful investigator named Kenia. She has been keeping all her commitments, and once even told us that she would never have opened the Book of Mormon had she not believed us. We prayerfully decided that it was the right time to give her a church tour, and set plans with her to have one last week.

Alas, it was not to be. Her job got unexpectedly demanding, and she was expected to work afternoon and night shifts Mon-Fri, and all day on Sundays. We were crushed. We did take the time to visit her once after our personal and companion studies, but we didn't know how we could continue with such a seemingly insurmountable obstacle in view. We both prayed and prayed for some sort of miracle, and hoped with all our hearts that a way would open for us to continue to teach her and help her progress.

As we were walking by her house Monday evening, we were surprised to see her sitting on her porch! It was exactly during the time that she was required to work. Curious, and wanting to know what was going on, we stopped and talked for some time. As it turns out, her job was downsizing, and she had been laid off just the day before. Both my companion and I were shocked. I don't think either of us knew what to think. It was a terrible time for her, and yet also exactly the kind of miracle we had been praying for. We offered to do what we could to help, and set up an appointment for a church tour on Wednesday.

When the time came for the church tour, we began setting up early to be as prepared as possible for the church tour. We were caught off guard, however, when she arrived a half-hour early for the appointment! We began trying to teach about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and introduce the building in an attempt to stall for the member to arrive. We felt completely unprepared and very unsure. After a brief tour, we decided to show Kenia the chapel. As we entered the chapel, we began talking about the sacrament and its significance. At that moment, the wonderful member arrived just in time to testify of the sacrament. We were still on our toes, but we were thankfully going a little more according to the plan now.

We then decided to show her the baptismal font, where we would talk about baptism, why it needs to be done with the authority, how it's done, what a service is like, and many other things. Our plan was to follow that up with an invitation to baptism. However, shortly after we talked about Christ being baptized by John the Baptist, our plan was turned on its head. As I opened my mouth to talk about the importance of authority, I couldn't speak. I knew it wasn't the right thing to say. I tried a couple of times, all unsuccessful, to talk about priesthood authority. I then felt slapped around by the spirit a bit. I knew for a certainty in that moment what to do, for it was as if a voice whispered to me "Just invite her already."

So I did. I opened my mouth, which had been dumb before, and broke through my stupor of thought by speaking what I really knew all along I had to say. In that moment, her eyes lit up, and as I spoke the invitation, she kept nodding. After a brief pause to ask why she would need to be baptized again (followed by a brief explanation of priesthood authority), she answered without hesitation. It was a quiet, yet determined, yes. The spirit was like a tidal wave filling the room as we testified with the member of the great blessings attending baptism. She felt it; I know she did. I could see it in her eyes.

Also of note is the fact that several members have since forwarded her several very promising job opportunities, which she is looking into.

While my experience is admittedly lacking, Wednesday was the first time on my mission that anyone has agreed to be baptized. I know full well that many of the greatest challenges lie ahead, but I also know that with the help of the Holy Ghost, she can be ready.

While the rest of the week has been somewhat hard, my testimony has grown because of my experiences with Kenia. It is very apparent that the Lord is very, very aware of her. I know that he is, and he cares for her a great deal. I continue to hope that with the help of the spirit, a precious daughter of God will be brought back into His fold.

Well, that was a lengthy telling of a single story. I've got one more, and it's a little funnier.

So, we've got a guy living in our apartments who is a bit, well, touched. I've heard him randomly yelling German at the sky before, and we've had a couple more interesting encounters as well. Last night, he looked at us four missionaries as we were returning, and said something rather odd. We didn't even respond, we were so surprised. I'll do my best to paraphrase accurately: "Hey! You guys! When are you going to admit to being CIA? I know you're CIA! I've got satellites; just look up and say 'Hi, we're CIA!' Just do it, so they can see your faces!"


So anyway, we were leaving the apartment this morning, and we ran into him again. Before my companion and I got there, he told the other Elders that he knew they were CIA, that he had recently become owner of the apartment complex, and that he wanted us all to vacate as soon as possible. As I began helping Elder Call to back out of the parking space, he began hailing Elder Brassanini. In an attempt to settle the issue, the poor harried Elder tried to use a futile call to reason. In response, the man simply said: "Do you know how I pegged you as CIA?" He then gestured to me, causing me to think along the lines of "Uh-oh". He then went on to say it's because we back each other out of parking spaces. "I know it makes sense, and it's just smart; that's why the CIA does it!" Elder Brassanini responded as such: "Would it help if I told you we're really not CIA, and that's just Church policy? We belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints." The guy just said "Yep. Uh-huh. Sure." We then left.

So, it's been a somewhat interesting week. Awesome experiences... and weird experiences. Just about normal out here.

I love you all a ton! My love for you is not in any way the square root of negative one. I love Wenatchee, too.

Finally, I'll end with a little saying shared by a fellow missionary in the MTC, which I constantly strive to follow: "Be the Lord's tool, not a tool." Have fun, stay strong, and keep on being awesome. Also, thanks for sending me a lot of cookies. I'm going to enjoy them... with other missionaries, of course. Our apartment will try to save some for the sisters in our district.


Elder Adams
BONUS: A Tour of our Apartment
I'm not gonna lie: our apartment isn't that bad at all. The one thing, though, is that some earlier Elders (I promise not me), umm, accidentally punched quite a few holes in the wall. I think they body-slammed the wall a few times while wrestling or something. That's the only thing that could possibly do that kind of thing, I think.

Okay, now for the virtual tour!

Here is the living room, eating, and sleeping quarters. My bed is the top bunk, but is not in the picture. It's off to the right, at a right angle with the bed in the picture (for the other companionship):
This is the living room again, but looking into the kitchen this time:

This is the kitchen. There is a second microwave, an oven, and a stove not in the picture.

This is the main hallway going off of the living room:

This is... the bathroom!

This is the study room of the other companionships (complete with Elder Brassanini):

And this is our study room (complete with Elder Wunderlich). My desk is on the right:

Bonus #2:
[Editor: Elder Wunderlich's mom sent us a couple of pictures of Ben & Elder Wunderlich helping some people move last Friday.]