Monday, July 25, 2011

It was great hearing from everyone

This week was a little off the norm. On Tuesday, we had a huge missionary meeting in Bangor with all the missionaries in the zone. It was about 8 hours long. It was a training on how to effectively use forms, having effective daily planning, and making charts to improve key indicators. It was about as exciting as it
sounds. But one exciting thing we found out- we'll be getting texting on our phones in a few weeks. That'll be exciting to see how that goes! Also, I finally got the chance to meet some of the few sister
missionaries in the zone. One actually just got here from Santa Clara. She graduated from SCHS in 2007. She knew Kirk and Kayla. Her name is Sister Jenkins. Her companion just graduated from USU. It was cool talking to them. Anyways, the rest of the week was a little slow. First, because we were taking time to get our training started. We made two huge posters, one with a list of every referral received, who
to get referrals from, part member families, every former taught in the last 10 years, potential investigators, streets to contact, and finding ideas we want to use, etc. The other was a list of every less
active member we want to work with. To get that one going, we called every member on the directory. Yes, all 175 of them. That was exciting. But now that it's going, it's making our work a lot more
effective. It was just really slow to get started.

 The second reason why the work was slow was because of the heat wave that hit up here. On friday, it hit 100 with high humidity. We were outside moving a piano at the hottest part of the day. That was exciting. Nobody was home during the heat wave. Nobody. We spent all day knocking on empty
houses. But I'm officially stating that I think STG heat is worse than humid heat. It really isn't that bad.

Anyways, despite the slow week, we still had a lot of good things happen. We taught the Plan of
Salvation on 4 different occasions, all to solid investigators, which was awesome. Rose, Roger, and Malachi all came to church, and all three of those are progressing very quickly. Hopefully, they'll all be
getting baptized either this transfer or the next. Good things are happening in that area. This week should be awesome too. We've arranged for a member lesson with every investigator, have 4 member
meals lined up, and we're going on exchanges today until Wednesday. I'm getting a greenie here in Belfast. That'll be fun. So yeah. That's a little brief on the work.

In other news, we had some cool random things happen. I had my first encounter with fireflies (or lightening bugs as they call them in New England). They were so cool!! There was a huge field with them
everywhere. So awesome. Also, I ate Maine lobsters numbers 2 and 3. A Baptism preacher from Vermont came through to see Elder Hess (he came from Vermont) and he took us out to lobster. He bought us two 1 1/2 pound lobsters each. It was a lot of lobster. I think it's an acquired taste, and I haven't quite acquired it yet haha. But I will!

Also, we had an adventure when our fridge stopped running Monday night. The landlord acted quickly and got us a new fridge by Wednesday morning, but not before most of our food went bad. Cleaning out the rotting food was really exciting. We loaded it up in the car and took it to the church. The car may never be the same again. That was an experience. I also made cinnamin rolls from scratch this week too.
They turned out not good haha. I know what I did wrong though, so I'll get it right next week.

 I have still been having lots of  opportunities for music. I have another weekly opportunity now. Last
transfer, Elder Brown and I would sing a hymn every week to an old Quaker lady in the Soup Kitchen. She'd sit and wait for a while while we did dishes until we could sing. But now that Elder Brown is gone
and Elder Hess refuses to sing, I've begun singing solo to her. Let's just say I'm glad she's old haha. I sung "Come Thou Fount" to her, and we all felt the Spirit. It was a really cool experience. But yeah.
That's about all I got for stuff I did this week. Lot's of cool, lots of not so cool. But it's all been awesome.

Quick little thought. This morning, I was studying The Gospel of Jesus Christ during personal study since we'll be teaching that to the 4 investigators we taught the Plan of Salvation to. As I studied that
and pondered on judgment, I realized a principle that is true in this life as much as it is an eternal principle- truely wanting something is manifested by desire and works. If you don't have those two things,
then you don't really want it. If you want money, you'll have a desire to get a job and actually go out to get one. If you want to keep in touch with a missionary, you'll have the desire to write them and
actually write a letter (hint hint). If you want eternal life in God's presence, you'll have the desire to become like Jesus Christ and you'll act accordingly. It's hard to describe in words, but the
principle is there. It was pretty cool. I've been thinking about it all morning.

Love you all. Stay cool in that heat! I look forward to hearing from you next week! Take care!
-Your New Englander
Elder Esplin

Monday, July 18, 2011

Hello Again!!

I've had such an awesome week. Seriously, so much good stuff has been happening!
Some highlights include:
  • We had 6 investigators at church! 2 of them were totally unexpected. They just walked in. They're a couple from Jamaica living in Portland. They drive by the church every week on their way to northern Maine and said they felt the spirit every time they did, so they want to start coming to see what we teach. How awesome is that??
  • Malachi and Molly both came and loved it, as well as Matt. We also had an investigator we're teaching show up out of nowhere. He really enjoyed it too.
  • We also brought a less-active family back to church, and they want us to come back and see if we can baptize their dad, who isn't a member. So awesome!
  • We got to visit every investigator this week. We even got to see some twice. That normally doesn't happen because of scheduling conficts or work or whatever else. But we had some really solid lessons. They're all keeping their commitments, they're all interested in learning, and they're all getting close to baptism. The work is going great!
Some random little things that happened this week:

  • Accidentally ending up going off-roading in a Toyoda Corolla
  • Mowing the Branch President's lawn in the pouring rain
  • Making a techno version of "Armies of Helaman on the branch keyboard
  • Eating raspberries fresh from the bush
  • Getting to participate in the annual Belfast Celtic festival (which was crazy awesome)
  • Practicing the principles of "Flirt to Convert" with a girl in the Belfast Park, which ended up being quite effective
  • Getting a call from the City Council to potentially speak in a Council Meeting this week to petition for rights to draw the Plan of Salvation in sidewalk chalk around Belfast
  • Singing in a missionary quartet in downtown Lewiston as a finding technique
  • Hearing someone speak in tongues for the first time
  • Having a lesson with a Samalian (Muslim from Africa)
  • Defending the Book of Mormon from an attack from Jehovah's Witnesses
  • Throwing and stacking 200 bales of hay
  • Learning how to use a crock pot and making a roast for Sunday dinner
And so on. I know those probably don't sound like really crazy things, but as a missionary, man, I'm living the high life right now haha. I've really figured out a few things that have been holding me back from having fun out here. I mean, I've been happy, but sometimes, missionary work isn't always the funnest thing in the world. I figured out two things that have helped me out a lot in that area. First, I'm joking around a lot more with the people I meet. I've discovered that most New Englanders don't take themselves seriously and love to tease each other to no end. So, I'm fitting right in. It's really loosening people up to us, because they see that we have a sense of humor, and these people love to laugh. But It's always fun to land a good comeback. In the soup kitchen earlier this week, a man was really harassing us. I finally sat down to talk with him. He said to us "You guys always travel in pairs. You must be gay. Are you straight or are you gay?" I responded," We're straight. I'm sorry if I got your hopes up." That shut him up for a bit haha. Anyways, I've had lots of fun joking around with people last week. It's helped lighten up my mood a lot.
 
 The second thing I've really figured out is that I need to bloom where I'm planted (in the words of an article in last month's ensign "The Prison and the Dandelion (which is an amazing talk by the way)) and to live in the present. I figured out an analogy about life. It's like driving a car. You can either be looking in the review mirror looking at where you've been and what you miss, you can be looking down at a map figuring out where you're going, or you can be looking in front of you driving the car. All three are needed to get somewhere, but you should spend most of your time looking straight ahead and enjoying the view in front of you. So far on my mission, I've been struggling with constantly looking back and thinking about the good times back in high school or college or about friends back home. But now I'm realizing that that doesn't do me any good- I need to be looking forward. I can have fun and make even better memories now and in the future. Anyways. It's hard to put into words, but that perspective has really helped me get into the work even more, and great things are coming from it.

So a little bit about my companion. His name is Elder Hess from Boise, Idaho. He went to BYU before the mission, he is all about sports, doesn't like music, and is 6 foot 4. Needless to say, we don't have tons in common haha. But we're getting along great. We teach together really well, and he has lots of great ideas. I told him I'd love to play basketball with him if he'll teach me a few things, so we'll be probably doing that today. We're going to do some awesome things in the Belfast area. I can't wait to see what happens in the next 6 weeks.
Dad, to answer your question, I have been playing the piano a lot. I'll be playing piano at zone conference tomorrow. I've also played guitar for a group of high schoolers in the park, and I'm going to play the saxophone on a street corner during the art festival on a friday night coming up. I'm excited for that.

 We work a lot with less actives if we aren't working with an investigator or giving service. There are tons of less actives here. The branch has 250 members and only 60 come to church. This Saturday, we're planning on calling every member of the branch and inviting them to church. We'll see how that goes. But we spend most of the time teaching. It's a lot more enjoyable and productive than knocking on doors, although we are still doing that as well.

Well, that's all I got for this week. The work is going great right now, Peter and Rose, Malachi and Molly, Roger, and Dick are all making great progress and getting close to baptism and we have about 10 others getting there. This transfer will be the best one yet- half because of the work and half because of my change in attitude. Great things are going to happen! I know that the church is true, that God is working in our lives daily, and that every challenge we face provides an opportunity for us to become more like Christ. I know that's true. I love you all! Can't wait to hear from you next week!
-Faithfully,
Elder Esplin

Monday, July 11, 2011

Happy belated 4th of July

This last week has been so much fun! Working as a trio has been quite the experience. We got along great. A member lent us his guitar, and we all play and sing, so we wrote songs and sang every night. It's also been cool because we're covering not only Belfast, but Rockland as well, so we got to go on an excursion for a day down there. Man it's beautiful. Anyways, my 4th was awesome! We were lucky to have it fall on P-day. We spent the morning doing the typical P-day stuff, then we went to a member's home for a BBQ. We had some amazing food and then played guitar and sung pioneer songs and hymns together. After that, another member family picked us up and we went to go see fireworks. The cool thing was, it was right on the shore and it was foggy. We couldn't see the actual fireworks, but the blasts lit up the fog various colors. It was basically a light show in the clouds. It was so cool. It seems like the 4th of July is a lot bigger of a deal on the East Coast than back in Utah. There were thousands of people everywhere all day. It was a lot of fun. So yeah. It was an awesome 4th of July.

The rest of the week was pretty normal. We had an awesome lesson with Peter and Rose on Wednesday. We gave them service for about two hours pulling weeds. Never again will I complain about STG weeds. It took 4 people 2 hours to clear out a garden about 200 square feet. As we worked, Peter told us he was the Master at the local Masonic Lodge. He told me about the Masons and about the process to become one. I've decided I'm going to join when I get home. It sounds so cool. After service, Rose made us dinner. She's been trained to cook in Italy, so it was incredible. Then, we had a solid lesson on prayer. We addressed their individual concerns about praying and how to receive revelation, and the Spirit was very strong. They committed to pray together every day and pray individually as well. They came to church on Sunday, and they said they're feeling closer as a couple now that they're praying together, and Peter, who normally never prays on his own, said many prayers this week and felt they were answered. They're doing great! We think they're getting close to baptism.

The next day, we went down to Rockland and partied down there. Saturday, we had exchanges with the Zone Leaders. We had a great day in Belfast. We taught 5 lessons and found a new investigator. Woot! Then Saturday night was transfer calls. The verdict: Elder Nicholes is going District Leader on the other side of the mission, Elder Brown is going Zone Leader in Auburn, Maine, and I'm....staying in Belfast!! I was so excited to hear that. There's so much good stuff going on in Belfast right now, and I'm growing really close to a lot of our investigators. On top of that, right now is when Belfast starts firing up their tourism events. They had a huge art show on the water front this weekend, next weekend is a Celtic festival in the park, there's a Blues Festival in a few weeks, and every Friday night is art night. There's musicians on every street corner playing. I'm pretty sure I'll be busting out my sax on the street corner playing hymns in a few weeks. That'd be sweet. Anyways, I'll be getting my new companion tomorrow. We'll see how that goes!

So one last thing. This week, I got hold of the talk "Beware of Pride" by Ezra Taft Benson from Matt. Holy smokes, that talk rocked my world. Not only did it remind me how much I have to improve, but it made me recognize that that's really what I'm fighting most over here- Pride. That's why nobody listens to us or keeps their commitments. It's why people look the other way when we wave or cat call out of their cars when they drive by. I also thought about high school and how much pride was involved there, not only within myself, but all around me. I've also realized how hard it is to be truly humble, but how good life would be if we were to achieve it. I've done lots of introspection about all that this last week and have been setting goals about how to overcome that obstacle in Belfast, and also within myself. But yes. Everybody should read that talk. It's amazing.

Alrighty, I better go. Love you all! Hope all stays well back home. Stay cool! Talk to you in a week!
-Elder Esplin