Monday, June 27, 2011

Hello Everyone!

So, we had a pretty interesting thing happen to us this last week. One of the elders in our district got sent home. So, the other elder from Rockland is coming up and joining us in Belfast. I'm back in a trio again. It's pretty intense. We had to rearrange the apartment so we could fit him in. Our beds are now in the living room, the bedroom is now the weight room/ my study room, and it's gotten pretty crowded with all of us in there. But it's going to be really fun. Elder Nicholes is a great missionary. He's been out for a little over a year, and he really knows his stuff. Plus, he sings too. This morning for comp study, we sung "How Firm a Foundation" with a 3 person harmony. It sounded really cool. We're thinking of standing on a street corner singing hymns for all the tourists for a finding activity. It was really sad seeing the other elder go home. It's the 3rd time I've had to see an elder tell us he's having to go home. So, once again, I need to say this- young men- DON'T MESS AROUND WITH GIRLS!! You won't get away with it. It'll haunt you on your mission, and it'll make you miserable. Seriously, seeing these elders say they have to go home for this stuff is one of the saddest things I've ever seen. Also, Young Women- DON'T HELP THE YOUNG MEN SCREW UP!! Keep them focused on their missions and don't give them stuff to reflect back on constantly. After several months without girls, all they'll have to think about is things they did in the past, and those memories can really distract from the work. Anyways. I'll get off my soap box. Just remember Jacob 6:12- "O be wise; What can I say more."

But yeah. Having a trio will take some getting used to. But I'm excited to see what happens. Plus, it'll only be for two weeks. The transfer ends next weekend. Yikes! And you nailed it Dad. I won't be able to write on the 4th of July. The library will be closed. But I'll come back the next week with the results from transfers.
District meeting this week was really cool. The entire conversation was based around how to truely convert people. Baptism and conversion are completely different. In our mission, baptisms are rare enough (about 15 a month for the entire mission), but many of them end up falling away. Turns out that in Rockland, none of the people who have been baptized in the last 5 years that were found by missionaries are currently active. Zero. The discussion was about how so many missionaries baptize without seeing conversion. I made a vow to myself that I wouldn't baptize unless they understand that this is an eternal committment. So, to answer many of your questions, no, I haven't had any baptisms yet. But I am seeing conversion happen. And that's what I feel I'm really out here to do.

We've been having lots of success with Peter and Rose this last week! On Wednesday, we went over and did service for a while on their farm and taught them a lesson on CPR- church, prayer, and reading the scriptures. We really emphasized church and committed them to come. They did, and stayed for all 3 hours! It was awesome. The lesson in gospel principles was on baptism, the members all got to meet them, and they really enjoyed themselves. They're really moving along. We're going to be teaching them again on Wednesday, and they invited us over on Friday with two couples from the branch for pizza. Peter and Rose both lived in Italy for a while, and they built themselves a stone oven. She's way good at cooking. I can't wait to see the stove in action.

 We're also seeing lots of success from Molly and Malachi. He got a job and is working basically all day, every day, but they're inviting us to come over whenever they have free time. We talked to him about coming to church, and he said he'd talk to his boss to get Sundays off so he can come to church regularly! Molly is really excited about it. She's reading the BOM, checking out Mormon.org, and wants to learn more. They're both super solid. I can't wait to get them going too.

Belfast is awesome right now. Beautiful weather, the work is going great, and I'm learning and growing every day. I can already tell I'm a different person now than I was when I left, and I can't wait to see what the Lord shapes me into through the next several months. Time is flying by- I'll be home before we know it! Love you all. Talk to you in two weeks!

-Faithfully,
Elder Esplin

Thursday, June 23, 2011

 I've really wished  I could go fishing. Dad, close your jaw. Everybody here talks about fishing all the time. I'm glad I've had the experiences fishing, hunting, and camping. It's lead to a lot of conversations with members and tracting. Earlier in the week, we saw two gentlemen fishing off a bridge going over the bay. I talked to him about fishing for about 10 minutes and segued into a gospel lesson. It was pretty sweet. Good memories to have!

From the sounds of your emails and the letters from friends, STG is getting really hot. It's been super nice over here. I really don't mind the humidity. It makes me sweat a lot more, but the heat is much more bearable. It was in the 70's this week. Gorgeous weather. I've been eating it up.

I had lots of really cool experiences this week. Missionary work was adequate, but I had lots of unique experiences that lead to great personal insight. For example, I realized the value of home teaching this week. We've been working with a less active a lot the last few weeks. Recently, he lost his job and stopped coming to church. We went teaching with his home teacher to see him. We were planning on teaching a lesson on Patience, which we felt was good for his situation. But his home teacher went off on tithing, which was the lesson assigned for home teaching. At first, I got really anxious- that wasn't what he needed! But, as his home teacher continued, the things he shared really buoyed his spirits. He offered him a blessing and a ride to church, and left promptly. The less active had a huge smile by the time we left. It showed me just how important home teaching is in the strengthening of Christ's church.

Another really cool experience- we met a foreign exchange student in the soup kitchen from Azerbaijan. He wanted to hang out, so we went over a few nights ago. He wanted to share with us more about the Islam religion. He showed us a video and shared his beliefs. We then showed him the Restoration DVD and shared with him the BOM and our beliefs. To end, we said a Christian prayer and he said an Islam prayer. They pray by pointing both hands towards heaven, as if they are begging. They then pray for whatever they wish. It was really cool seeing the similarities between Mormonism and Islam- there is actually quite a bit in common! But I'm realizing more and more what other religions believe and how similiar we all really are.

One last thing- as we were coming home one night, Elder Brown had a prompting to stop by a member who just moved in. As we talked, we learned that his wife wasn't a member and he had been recently excommunicated. We got to know eachother and we offered to teach a lesson. As we asked what he's like to hear a lesson on, he said "obviously you aren't prepared. Let me see your scriptures." He then whipped out a scripture in Ether and shared about the importance of faith. He then turned on us as missionaries. In essence, he said "You guys are representatives of Christ. You have the power to raise valleys and level mountains. You can perform miracles and have a commission to bring people unto Christ. You bear his name. You better not take it lightly or mess it up." Me and my companion hadn't had the best day, and as we went home, we felt thoroughly rebuked. But, I know Elder Brown received the inspiration to see him for a reason. I needed to hear those words, and I've taken that message to heart to improve myself as a missionary. But I want to add the fact that everything he said is true for all of us. We all have taken Christ's name upon ourselves. Hopefully we take it seriously and don't mess it up.

I'm getting kicked off the computer. I better run. I love you all! Take care, and I'll talk to you next week!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Pictures of KC enjoying Belfast

KC, as usual, making the most of everything!
The greenery is overwhelming.  Wildflowers grow everywhere.
Wildlife in Belfast

A beautiful view of the ocean, and a lighthouse hard at work.

This picture says it all, Belfast has all the small town charm a person could want.

Taking a break!

What can I say, but WOW!

Heading home, after a good day serving the Lord.
First time eating fresh Maine Lobster,  Indescribable. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Hello Familia

It was great hearing from you all! It was tough going a week without emailing. Dang holidays are always on mondays. I love hearing from you all and getting a chance to send some experiences home. Isn't technology nice?

Transfers were last week, and I dodged the bullet!! I'm staying in Belfast!! I'm stoked. Elder Brown is staying with me. The entire district stayed the same actually. We're really excited. We all get along really well. Probably too well at times...district meetings and exchanges gets pretty crazy sometimes...But it's a lot of fun. Elder Brown and I have been focusing a lot on setting specific goals for ourselves. We're really trying hard to change and become not just better missionaries, but better people. The results have been a closer relationship between the two of us, which means better teaching and studying, which is leading to greater success in the area, as well as changes in ourselves for the better. So yeah. This week has been probably one of the most enjoyable weeks thus far on my mission because of the change of attitude and renewal of enthusiasm (despite the lack of mail...the mailbox was empty every day this week for both of us. It makes the walk back from the mailbox quite sad and lonely...ok. There's my shameless guilt trip for more mail).

We experienced a serious miracle this week. It was incredible. On Wednesday, we were making contacts in a little town called Knox, which is a half hour from our apartment. We suddenly get two messages- one from the Zone Leaders, the other from the Branch President's wife. We listened to them and learned we had a tornado warning in our area and we were advised to stay close to our apartment for the night. Pretty epic, eh? So, we drop what we're doing and head back. We had plans to meet with an investigator, Matt, that night, so we figured it wouldn't be a big deal. We returned to our apartment and were trying to decide what to do for the night, when Matt called to cancel the lesson that night. Apparently, he didn't want to ride his motorcycle through a tornado. Weird. So, since the storm wasn't there yet, we decided to go try a potential investigator, Malachi, we found street contacting about two months ago. He has never been home every time we tried, so we figured we'd give it one more shot. On our way, we found a guy building a porch in his front yard. We walked over and offered to help since a storm was coming. He accepted, and we build a porch with him for a while. Good skill to have, porch building. We soon ran out of wood and took off to see the Malachi. As we approached his apartment, we heard voices on the other side of the door. We had him. We knocked and he answered. He was enthused to see us. Apparently, he had been in jail the past month and had gotten back just that morning. He rushed us in, and we talked with him and his girlfriend for a while. He told us that while he was in jail, he did lots of thinking and praying, and received revelation that he needed to turn his life around and make God a bigger part in his life. He said he kept thinking back to the time we stopped him on the streets and about the message we briefly shared he said "I don't think it's a coincidence you are here right now, the same day I got back from prison. I think this is a sign that you have something I need to hear." His girlfriend (Molly) agreed and said she wanted to change her life as well. We gave them copies of the Book of Mormon, and made a return appointment for the next day.

 The next night, we taught the Restoration. The Spirit was really strong and they ate it all up. Then it came time for the First Vision. As I related the words of Joseph Smith's experience in that grove of trees, tears filled my eyes and my voice started to shake. I looked Molly in the eyes the entire time, and tears began to fill her eyes as well. After the lesson, they accepted a baptismal date for next month and committed to come to church and meet tomorrow. It was so awesome! The Lord led us to someone ready to receive the Gospel, and he guided our words and thoughts by the Spirit, and I really feel we have the message that will change their lives. I seriously love missionary work so much because of these experiences. I've really started realizing that the role of a missionary is more than to teach or to convert- it's to help others feel the peace that comes through Jesus Christ. And that's something worth giving up two years of your life to do.

That's about all I got for now. This week has been incredible, and we're fired up for this next week. We set some really high goals and standards for ourselves. it's going to be exhausting getting it all done, but we know the Lord will help us. Love you all, hope all is well back home, and I'm excited to hear from you next week!

Howdy!

Man, what a week. Lots has been happening. I'm exhausted, but in a good way!
 This last week, I had the chance to give service to Peter and Rose on their farm. We
helped them build a chicken fence. We were using staples and hammering
the wires into stakes. It makes me grateful I had the practice out on
the ranch! It feels good to get out and do physical work sometimes. As
much as I love missionary work, it feels good to wake up sore some
days.

 It hit 90 plus in the humidity this week, so I'm feeling it too. So far, I think STG heat is
worse. The humidity isn't as bad as people make it sound (knock on wood).

I had SO many cool experiences this week. So first of all, on Tuesday,
we went to visit Malachi again. We talked a bit and the conversation
turned to marriage. He told us "You know, I want to get married again
for the right reasons. To me, marriage is a covenant." Can you say
golden investigator?? We'll be meeting with him with a member couple
tomorrow night. I'm stoked.

 The next day, we met with a lady named  Sherry. We tracted into her about two months ago and we haven't been able to nail down a time with her to visit again since. We finally got
in, she said she felt it was a sign that we were here and that the
message of the restoration was true and accepted a baptismal date the
next month. Yeah. That was awesome. Later that day, we went to visit a
potential investigator. We saw him back in April, and he said to come
back in June. So we did. And he's golden. He said he wasn't sure if he
believed in God. We explained our role as missionaries is to be a
guide so he can discover if there's a God or not. We taught him about
the Holy Ghost and prayer, and to close the lesson, he offered a
kneeling prayer. It was the first prayer of his life. It was such a
cool experience. We'll be visiting him tomorrow as well.

 On Thursday, while we were working in the soup kitchen, a new volunteer showed up.
His name is Haydarr. He's an exchange country from somewhere beneath
Russia. I couldn't understand the name of it when he told me haha. His
purpose in coming to America is to teach that Muslims aren't
terrorists like everyone makes them out to be. We had a very
interesting talk and I learned that 90% of the popular belief about
their religion here is very far off. In exchange, I told him about
Joseph Smith and our beliefs. We're going to be getting together later
this week to discuss religion more. That will be really cool. We also
had a solid lesson with Peter and Rose. We gave service to them for
two hours before the lesson. I mowed their lawn for most of it. I'll
never complain about STG lawns again. The grass is insane here. They
mow it twice a week for 2 hours a mowing basically. It's nuts. But the
lesson after was on prayer and the scriptures. The grandma, who has to
be in her 80's, told us how much she loved seeing us and that we're
"her boys" now. It was a warm-fuzzy kind of moment.

 Hmm...what else.  We had a BBQ with Matt one night on the beach. We shared the talk by
Dallin H. Oaks on "Desire." I love that talk. Everybody should read
it. It's got me thinking deeply into myself too. I've been doing lots
of deep thinking lately about who I am and why. I've discovered lots,
and set goals for who I want to become. I feel myself being
transformed, and I can't wait to see who I become.
I could keep going on about everybody we're teaching, but I better
stop now.

This week, we have 60 stop-bys scheduled. That's
investigators, couples, families, and less-actives. Needless to say
we're going to be very very busy this week. But I'm excited. Elder
Brown and I are seeing a transformation in our area lately, and we're
working it the best we can. I'm also enjoying the scenery. Now there's
wildflowers accompanying the green. The daffodils and dandelions have
come and gone, and now there's wild daises, lilacs, and buttercups
everywhere. I've honestly never seen anything like Maine. I love it.

Welp, I better get going. We're gonna go shopping for some real
ingredients. Elder Brown and I made a meal plan for this week and
we're going to try real cooking. The menu includes a roast, sheppard's
pie, and cinnamon rolls. Stay tuned. It's gonna be awesome. After,
we'll go to the church to play piano, write letters, and watch corny
videos about the Bible. We gotta clean the apartment and car today
too, so it should be busy. Hopefully that gives you a good pictures of
our P-day Dad. We have a dinner with a part-member family tonight and
then we'll go walk the streets. It should be a good day. Anyways, hope
you're all doing well! Love you all! Talk to ya next week!