Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Week 52: In which we puzzle over our area, I ponder the midpoint of my mission, and i am confused by a bear suit.

Written 22 May 2017
Weekly Letter

Sorry, this week this letter is kind of lame. I'm almost out of time.

Here's some of my letter to President Lewis:

This has been a really amazing week. We've found a lot of new people. We also received some revelation during Stake Conference about how to move things forward in this area. Honestly, it's kind of confusing. The ward here is very strong, there are several members very fired up for missionary work, there are plenty of people to work with, and we have a lot of support. Admittedly, there are no native Spanish-speakers in our ward, and very few people who speak Spanish at all, but even still, that's out of our control. Besides, we have been able to overcome some of the challenges inherent with that situation.

To be very honest, it doesn't really make any sense. There should be a lot more happening in this area! Everything is in place for it to completely explode with work! Things are happening, and we've seen many miracles, but it doesn't match up. It's not nearly as much as it should be, all things seem awesome. However, we feel the key here is helping members be better at doing their family history. We feel that will get us the support we need from the other side of the veil. That is one thing that this ward has struggled with a lot.

We are super excited to start working with members to help them be better family historians. We feel that will make all the difference in opening the blessings of heaven in this area. It's like this area is just waiting to explode with the work, and we have discovered the floodgate. We talked to some members who are already very good at doing family history, and they got really excited about this new approach. The spirit was super strong as we talked with them about how they can be even better at family history, and how that will open the floodgates to missionary work. It was surprising to them how we were focusing more on helping members be family historians, as opposed to getting non-members to do family history. Of course, that will help the members as well, but we've felt that, combined with continuing to try to do missionary work, as the members do family history, they will be more excited about the work of Salvation and their eyes will be opened. It's an indirect way to try to launch the work here. The members got excited, and mentioned that it was a new approach that no missionaries have ever tried in the past. We'll see how it works!

We also found an awesome less-active member who moved from Mexico a while ago and is going through some rough times. Her name is Silvia, and we're super excited to start working with her!


Elder Adams

[Questions from Editor Mom]

How was your week? - Fantastisch!
That's German for "fantastic!"

What are you learning/doing that you hope you can use/maintain throughout your life? - I'm learning to study my scriptures! I love it! Also, I've learned more about how to be easier to get along with. Also, I'm learning that beating around the bush is dumb and gets you nowhere. I've lost patience with being misunderstood because I'm not clear about what I'm trying to say. There is a place for things like that, but there is also a place for straight up honesty. I like something I heard from a fantastic missionary in the mission: "The difference between being bold and being overbearing is love. You can never be to bold if you're loving." That means, I think, being a little more assertive. However, there is also a place for being carefully diplomatic. I'm definitely experienced at that too.

Have you learned anything about yourself or anything else that took you by surprise? - Well, I've figured out that being stubborn is not a good thing. I thought it had its place, but I've learned on my mission that there is a very wide gulf between being stubborn and being steadfast and immovable. Stubbornness is always born of pride. Being loyal, steadfast, and immovable are born of love. It's a subtle difference, but it makes all the difference. Being stubborn makes it harder to receive correction and much easier to justify yourself.

Any experiences with music lately? - Well, I just played cello in Stake Conference yesterday, so yeah. President and Sister Lewis were there. It was honestly a super simple arrangement, but I just tried to make it super lyrical and cello-y, and it worked! Everyone loved it. The President of the Portland Temple was there too, and he and his wife liked my playing a lot. It was a pretty cool experience.

How do you think the second half of your mission might be different from the first (aside from the obvious, like the fact that you will serve in different areas with different companions)? - Well, I'm honestly already in a much better position to bless others at this point, since I feel I have become a far better missionary than when I started out. I feel I will have more opportunities to help others with the things I've learned. Overall, though, I think it's always been like that; the main difference is it's at a different level.

Any fun conversations or funny situations? - Well, if Elder West and I are driving somewhere far away, or it's P-Day, or it's in the evening, we tell each other riddles. Our favorites are called "Stories with Holes". Basically, in these riddles, something happens, for example: "The man ran home, where the man with the mask was waiting for him." The other person can then ask yes or no questions to try to find out what actually happened and fill in the background. In that particular example, after asking a lot of questions, you realize that they were playing baseball, and the batter was trying to run home, where the catcher was waiting for him.

However, the last one we did, Elder West told me: "A woman walks into a cave, picks something up, and dies." I asked question after question, eventually finding a very interesting and intricate backstory involving a sensationalist nature reporter who picked up a cornucopia (which was hiding a dead flower and an arrowhead) and got killed by an insane escaped convict wearing a yeti costume. There was a lot of intrigue as well, which led up to this very odd climax (the reporter had been a witness at his trial, before he went insane, and was formerly his boss at the same company). I was getting very confused, because there seemed to be no end to this insanely complicated story.

As it turns out, Elder West was simply alternating between answering "yes" and "no". My train of logic had led me to this strange and fantastic situation. Talk about a major twist!

At one point, I learned she was killed by a man in a bear suit, but later found out it was actually a yeti suit. In confusion at this new revealed information, I exclaimed "That's not a bear, Elder!" That has now become a running catch-phrase in our companionship.
How is the finding going? How are your investigators? - The finding is going great! We have some awesome new potential investigators. Many of our current investigators have kind of hit a slump of progression, but some other amazing things have happened, and we think we know what to do to catch this area on fire!

Any nice surprises this week? - Well, we received some revelation during Stake Conference Saturday about how to make things really pick up in this area. That was definitely a nice surprise. Also, we found a less-active member we didn't know lived here. She was baptized in Mexico.

Do you have any mission traditions besides singing "Called to Serve"? - Mission traditions? Probably, but I can't think of any.

I'm taking our sister missionaries to Plimouth Plantation tomorrow, so won't be at a computer to respond much, but I'll keep an eye out for your email. Can't wait to hear from you! - Aww, lucky missionaries! We look forward to going to a cool drive-through private zoo today. Enjoy!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Week 51: In which we pull morning glory, I attend zone conference, and I call my mom

For Lack of a Better Name

Hello, my beautiful family!

I am sitting here today, and I'm super happy to be writing you all. Elder West and I have had a really cool week.

We've been going back for a couple of weeks to help a man named Rafa out with his yard. Well, it's not really a yard, but more like a mountain of weeds. You see, his wife got Leukemia, and so he's been understandably swamped (ironically, literally) with chores and weeds. Neither of them has had the time or the strength to keep up. However, we found him walking down a street we felt we needed to be on, and then after offering to help him, we felt like our work there was done. We've since gone back with service clothes several times and have helped him clear it up a bit.

What happened is a tree fell in his backyard, and morning glory grew up all around it. The fallen tree gave the morning glory a lot more volume. Then, some really nasty long grass grew up everywhere, giving the morning glory extra added support. We have been destroying that, and we'll go back tomorrow.

We've been focused on finding more people lately, and there are a lot of really cool potential investigators to go by and draw from! We're super hopeful.

Sorry, there's just not a lot to say. I was super grateful for the opportunity we had to talk a little and see each other yesterday; it was a real treat.

I love you all!


Elder Adams

Questions from Editor Mom

Thank you so much for calling this afternoon. I know it's the mission norm, but it was great to see your face and hear your voice. And I still have questions--do you believe it? :-) - Knowing you? Yes, of course! ;-)

How was church? Did any investigators show up? - No. Sadly, no one came this week.

Was it fun and uplifting for you to call? How do you feel after the fact? - It was definitely uplifting! I feel more energized and ready to get out there and kill it. I'm super happy you are all doing so well, and I'm super grateful for your support and encouragement.

How many people are in your district now? - 8 missionaries in total, with Senior Companion listed first:

The Dalles 1st Ward (English): Elder Putnam, Elder Hunt
The Dalles 2nd Ward (English): Elder Bird (ZL), Elder Poloncic (ZL)
The Dalles Spanish (Spanish, attends 2nd Ward, area covers the entire district): Elder West (DL), Elder Adams
Goldendale (English): Sister Grigg, Sister Wadman
Tell us about zone conference, please. - It was awesome! We have an increased focus on fine-tuning obedience. See, our mission is generally super obedient, but we're not perfect. Therefore, we decided that in order to be even more successful, we should focus on increasing the level of our obedience to a new high. I'm personally pretty excited. It's mainly stuff like increasing our sense of urgency about the work, being more consecrated, and avoiding even the appearance of evil. I personally feel this will help us a lot in this mission to be even better ready to take advantage of the opportunities given to us.
Are root beer floats still your treat of choice? - I haven't had them for a while, so I guess the answer to your question is no. I'm trying to be a little healthier, but I still am tempted to get them on occasion. They are certainly a really good treat.

What are you most looking forward to in the coming week(s)? - You know? I'm really not sure. Probably personal interviews with President Lewis.

Do you want us to send you any specific pictures or stickers for decorating your planner? - Not that I can think of, but if you think of something that would be cool, feel free to send it! 

Elder Adams


Pictures posted by the Mission President's wife from Zone Conference

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Week 50: In which I teach karate, visit three drunks, and color my scriptures


sent 8 May 2017

Buenos dias!

This has been a pretty exemplary week. For exercise time, I've started teaching Elder West how to do some karate, specifically Sanchin, which is the first Kata from Uechi-Ryu. It's been fun. He's getting really good!

We have been teaching Jorge still, and he successfully quit smoking! He's now reading the Book of Mormon every day, and said that if he gets an answer, will be baptized on May 27th. We're pretty excited! He didn't come to church, which was really sad, but we're still working with him to try to prepare him. We're also working on finding more people, with an increased focus on that this week.

Some interesting things happened this week. First of all, we knocked on the door of what turned out to be 3 super drunk people (not violent, just super stereotypical). We ended up talking to them for a while, trying to get away so we didn't lose time (which is precious as a missionary). However, it was pretty priceless. One of them got super emotional and told us: "Consider me... your father. Anything I 'ave, just come overr and I'll give it to you. Srrusly." He liked us a lot, and said a weird sort of prayer for us. It was pretty entertaining, even though we were sad these three men had been brought down to that low (they said that's what they did... all day... every day. They just sat around and drank beer.)

We also had a crazy conversation with a lady named Chloris. She was awesome. She was a self-proclaimed atheist, and asked us a ton of super hard questions. She had pretty much every intellectual concern in the book (there isn't really a book, as far as I know). Elder West and I had a really fascinating conversation with her, and invited her in the end to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it.

Quote of the week (we have a quote wall):
West: Have you taken your meds yet?
Adams: No, but life is so much more fun without meds!
West: Actually, that's true.

(Don't worry, I did in fact take my meds)

Love you!

Elder Adams
Questions from Editor Mom:
Hope you've had a good week. Did you get the package with the boots? Do they fit? - Yes, they do! I was worried at first, because I hastily tried them on with really thick socks. However, I soon discovered that they are just perfect! I'm wearing them right now.

Are you finding a pool of investigators there? - We would, except we're not allowed to swim. Yes, we're finding some more people. We're working on finding some people who will more often keep their return appointments, though. That's the biggest struggle right now.

Do you notice any cultural differences between Oregon and Washington? What differences do you notice, in general, between New England and the Pacific Northwest? - It's drier here, but that's not the case further towards the coast. Most of the mission is a lot like Idaho, terrain and weather-wise, and many people here are really conservative farmers. The Dalles is the most liberal place I've seen here, but is still pretty conservative compared to Mass.  However, I would describe The Dalles as pretty much a mix between Wenatchee and Lowell. It's the place most like home I've seen so far. Not a lot of really profound cultural differences, except for the obvious differences in Hispanic culture and a slight tendency here to be a bit more wasteful with stuff, but that's not very profound. It's just less environment-oriented (like tons of recycle bins and stuff), and more farming and industry-oriented. 

Any interesting insights in your studies? - Well, I decided to read the Book of Mormon through again and color-code certain things by highlighting them.
When God the Father speaks: Yellow
When Christ speaks (or is directly quoted): Red
When the Holy Ghost speaks: Light Blue
When Angels speak: Dark Blue
When Christ, or the Messiah, is directly mentioned or referenced: Orange

It has led to some crazy insights, in combination with conversations as a companionship and with others. Mostly, it is insights about teaching simply, the way the Spirit works, and other zany things.

BTW, because it's a companionship made up of Elder West and me, our conversations about how the Spirit works involved discussions about Flatworld. It was fascinating. It made a lot of sense, answering some questions of ours (which we both individually had) and being confirmed by the Spirit. It was pretty crazy, but given the explanation I just gave, probably a lot less crazy than you are thinking.
Funny stuff? - Well, we talked to three drunk guys for half an hour. That was pretty funny. We were trying to get away the whole time, but they liked us too much and didn't want to let us. 
 They were honestly hilarious, though.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Week 49: In which Logan makes cookies, Nephi takes a wife by surprise, and we get to know Elder West

Sent 1 May 2017
Here again...

Hello my wonderful family!

I have very little time today; we spent some extra time cleaning up the apartment more than usual and getting me a haircut, so I am unfortunately rather low on time. However, I wanted to tell you one quick thing:

Earlier this week, we took a priest named Logan out with us and met a very nice man named Mario. Mario's dad, Victor, texted us recently telling us he missed us and our visits. Logan got really excited about missionary work after that, and asked if he could come with us to the return appointment. He even made cookies! (Both for us and for Mario/Victor, of course). The lesson sadly fell through, but we were able to meet Victor and talk to him a bit. He's a very nice man, and very involved in the Catholic Church with his wife (they basically do the Catholic equivalent of LDS Family Services). However, we had time enough to read the heading to 1 Nephi with him.

However, he made 1 small (yet hilarious) mistake. Instead of saying that Nephi and his brothers "tomaron las hijas de Ismael por esposas" he said "tomaron las hijas de Ismael por sorpresa". That means instead of saying "they took the daughters of Ishmael for wives", he said "they took the daughters of Ishmael by surprise". Surprise! You're our wives now!

I hope you enjoyed that little story.

Love you all! Have a great time!

Elder Adams

--- Questions from Editor Mom:

How are things? Tell us about Elder West. What does he like? Do you have any common interests? Does he enjoy your sense of humor? - Elder West is such an awesome companion! He's from Dallas, TX, and is trying to decide between being an electrical engineer (you know, to build robots) or a genetic engineer. If I like something, you can be relatively sure he will as well (I'm pretty serious about that. Strategy games, XKCD, Rome Total War, Star Wars, Star Trek the Next Generation, you name it). We just finished playing a game of Go after he taught (maybe reminded?) me how. He won. I'm not sure he enjoys my sense of humor, but he does tolerate it pretty well... ;-)

How are things in The Dalles? Any interesting dinner appointments? Do you have dinner appointments most evenings? - The Dalles is great! This area has a lot of potential. We have dinner appointments almost every night, and we switch off every other month between the 1st and 2nd wards.

How's your morale? - It's doing awesome, thanks!

I'm sending you a package with some black footwear and some treats from Disney. If the boots don't fit, maybe you can find someone to give them to. They look a little narrow, but sometimes things that look narrow fit you fine. I guess it's just a matter of where they are narrow. - Sweet! I guess they'll keep me on the straight and narrow.
Tell us about enduring to the end. I think it has some positive connotations in the scriptures, because that's how the scriptures are, but sometimes when I think of "enduring", I think of a painful situation. I don't know why the word has that sort of meaning attached to it. - Actually, from what I have been told, the original Hebrew word is a little more like "Sanctification" and not so much "white-knuckling". I really prefer the Spanish version of "perseverar", or persevere. It's sometimes hard, but it is the act of allowing the spirit to be the refiner's fire, purifying and sanctifying us. Of course, it includes the painful experiences we go through, but it's more like striving for and accepting the long-term, constant, process of progression and sanctification by the Holy Ghost.

What was the bitter and what was the sweet of the last transfer? - It was bitter because my patience was bitterly tried with the situation we were in, the lack of clear progression from the people we were working with, but most of all, myself. It was a "trial of faith" (Ether 12:6), for sure. However, it was sweet because I had an amazing companion, some wonderful members, some great experiences, and I have learned a lot by passing through the bitter. It ended far sweeter than it was bitter.

Do you remember when you were set apart as a stripling warrior? Yep. That's your calling in life--to face difficult, seemingly impossible situations with faith and courage that you will come out on top. I am honored to be your mom.
- I do remember being called, although I don't recall being set apart. I do, however, know that so far as our faith and courage is in Christ, that Christ always wins. If we're on His side, of course we'll come out on top! That doesn't mean we don't have to fight; it just means that His side will always win. That "perfect brightness of hope" is what must fuel us day to day if we hope to make it.

One of the members sent a picture of Ben's district singing in church: