Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Thoughts for Mom's talk

Now, I gotta start with this. I'm trying to think of things I can share that won't take away from things I want to put in my homecoming talk! But, I guess it wont hurt to hear some things twice, right?



A few funny experiences to start I guess.



A few weeks ago, we were doing a workshop at a zone meeting on creating visuals based out of Preach My Gospel to find new people to teach. While elders and sisters were reading the paragraphs in Preach My Gospel and calling out things we could put on our visuals, me and my companion were writing the points up on small white boards at the front of the room. I was writing sideways because of the awkward position, and very quickly to keep up with the comments, so my writing was starting to slope downwards slightly. During a pause in the calling out, a missionary on the front row said, "Elder Esplin, your writing is making me have to slant my head to read it!" I turned over my shoulder and said to him, "Elder, you should already know that I have a tendency to turn heads."



That doesn't have much to do with anything, but you'd probably get a laugh from sharing it haha.



Ok here's some meat you can use Mom. Use as little or as much as you want. I'll probably share all of these in my homecoming talk.



Points for future missionaries and members alike.


Don't be fearful of change. Changing has a central purpose to our existance. (The parables of the acorn and the rubber band would both fit in here).

           -Application: In my second area (Waterville), there was a woman who had attended LDS services for over 10 years, yet wasn't baptized. She attended mainly because her husband was a member and she went to spend time with him. She was a practicing 7th Day Adventist, so she'd go to her church on Saturday, then go to the ward on Sunday. One night, she was praying because she was feeling torn-The church she attended was giving her a hard time because she would attend the LDS services, yet the LDS church was so warm and friendly, and she had many friends there. She said a prayer for guidance to know what the Lord would have her do. That night, she had a dream. She saw the faces of members of the church that she had known her entire life. Then she was suddenly in the presence of God, and she asked what way she should go. He replied that He had shown her the way and had dropped signs through members she had known her entire life. She woke up and knew it was time to fully investigate the church. She contacted us and asked to go through the lessons for the first time in the 10+ years she had been attending. The lessons were very intense. She was undergoing an immense conflict between the doctrines we were teaching versus the doctrines she had grown up being taught her entire life. But, she was firm in her belief that God had given her guidance to the faith and she was willing to stand firm in that revelation. She was willing to change her perspective from something she had been set on her entire life. But because of her faith in God and humility to do WHATEVER it took to please Him, she was baptized 2 months later and is, today, a faithful gospel doctrines teacher.



Another life-changing principle I've learned:


Don't put happiness off to another day.

      -In all honesty, when I first got out on my mission, I had a hard time adjusting. I went from being at the university I had always wanted to attend, having many close friends, spending time with my family, listening and performing music, all those things I had loved...to living in a strange place (Maine) with someone I had never met, spending all day walking through snow in freezing rain having door after door slammed in my face. More than once did I say to myself, "Man, life was a lot better back home." And the more I thought about the things back home, the less happy I was. I found saying to myself things like, "I'll be happy when we find a new investigator" or "I'll be happy when I get a letter from a girl" or "I'll be happy when I get transferred." In short, I wasn't happy because I was choosing to be happy on some other day than the day I was living in. But then I read a series of talks ("consecrate thy performance" by Neal A. Maxwell, "The Fourth Missionary" by Lawrence E. Corbridge [Dad, if I could give any advice to the stake to prepare missionaries, it'd be to have them all read that talk. It's not on LDS.org though, so you may have to hunt for it. Let me know if you can't find it- I'll get it for you], and "Bloom where you're planted," which was an article in some random ensign I read). The basic lesson I learned about happiness was this- it's all about where your heart is. My heart at that point in time wasn't on the present- on missionary work or the Lord. It was on the past- on the memories of the things I'd left back home! No wonder I was miserable- I wasn't even living with a heart- it was 2,800 miles away and two years into the past! I determined that the only way I'd ever be happy and be able to serve others effectively would be to learn to bring my heart to the present and to give it over to the Lord. So that's what I did. Every night, I would kneel and tell the Lord that my heart was his, that I'd go where he wanted me to go. I focused on making what I wanted to be what the Lord wanted. And as I did so, the Lord began to want exactly what it is that I wanted. Miracles followed. I saw lives change as soon as I was willing to pull my heart out of the past, into the present, and give it as a present to the Lord. It isn't a one time deal either- I have to work hard to keep it there. There are some times that I let my heart wander out of the Lord's hands into the hands of other things, and it's those times that I'm not very happy. But as long as I'm able to keep my heart in the present and in the hands of the Lord, I've been able to experience happiness constantly instead of on some unknown day in the future.



So. My advice to future missionaries and to everybody who will listen- don't let you heart reside in the past or in far away places. Keep it in the present and give it over to the Lord. You'll find that once you do, you'll be happy NOW instead of later.



Well, there's a few tidbits for you Mom. Hopefully they'll help. I'd write more, but you have over 75 letters to back track through! Hopefully it goes well- let me know what you shared and how it went! Good luck! Love you!



-EKCE

Hello Hello!!

Man, it seems like right when I log off the computer to go work for the night on Mondays, next thing I know, I'm getting back on to email again! It scares me how fast time is going by.; It's definitly a bitter-sweet thing to think about leaving the mission. So, I'll just not think about it =)

 I keep waiting for life to slow down a bit. I've even gotten excited a few times thinking that it would. Then, right on schedule, things come up to keep me busy! It's nuts. But, I guess it's good I'm staying busy- it's keeping me out of trouble. This last week was no exception to the busy life. Monday, as I said last week, was the day we got to pick up the new missionaries from the airport and spend the night getting to know them, answering their questions, and playing a missionary jeapordy game with them that we made. Tuesday, we got to have transfer meeting. It was fun seeing all my buddies again. I was asked to be part of a quintet and sing "All Creatures of our God and King" at the meeting, but our piano player showed up having not practiced and unable to play, so I opted out and played the piano instead. By the way, in case you're wondering, I didn't get transferred! So, that means that since Elder Baker wil be going home in 5 weeks, I'll be garenteed to stay here until mid-November, which I'm really excited about! Especially since we'll be having Elder Nash of the 70 come and do a zone conference, so I'll get to work with him for a few days. Anyways, that was Tuesday- Transfer meeting.



Wednesday morning, we had quite the experience. We were assigned to take the returning missionaries to the airport to fly out. We showed up at the mission home in our van ready to pick them up, but found out the flight had been delayed. So instead, we took one of the returning missionaries out with us to go finding new investigators in Bedford. As we started driving through Bedford, lo and behold, a black bear ran out of the woods, in front of our van, and into the woods on the other side (no, we didn't hit it. Sorry if I got you excited). We slammed on the brakes and pulled over the van to watch it. He stood there in the woods watching us, and we sat watching it. Then it took off into the forest and out of sight. It was quite the adventure! We then drove to our destination, which was vacant. We still had 15 minutes, so I told the returning missionary that this was his last chance to do missionary work, and I'd drive around Bedford and wait until he felt a spiritual prompting to stop the van, and we'd contact whatever house he felt we needed to do. We drove about 5 minutes and he yelled, "THAT ONE!" I slammed on the brakes and parked, and we jumped out and knocked on the door. A man answered and politely told us he wasn't interested and that was the end of the contact. We walked back to the van slightly confused, when we spotted a man walking in the road coming towards us. We stopped him and started talking. His name was Joe, and he was a VERY devout Catholic. We talked for about 20 minutes. He told us about how we were on the wrong path and needed to join  the REAL church, and we took time to teach him about the great apostasy and need for a restoration. We gave him a Book of Mormon, and he agreed to have us over to continue our conversation. So there ya go. that's the story of Catholic Joe.



We rushed back to the mission home slighly late, loaded up our 12-passenger van "Moose "with luggage and got them to the airport just in the nick of time. The rest of the day was spent teaching and preparing trainings. We did find a sweet couple on a door step. One was a Jew from West Africa, the other was an Italian Jehovah's Witness. I love the diversity of Manchester!



Thursday and Friday weren't as exciting. We were in meetings ALL day Thursday (from 10 AM to 7 PM) then drove to South Royalton to pick up the Vermont Zone Leaders and drove back. We then took reports until 11 PM. And that was Thursday. Wahoo.



Friday was Zone Leader Council. Elder Baker and I gave a training on goal setting. We called the training "Begin with the End in Mind." We talked about the trio of things we need in order to successfully set a goal and achieve it- Vision, Knowledge, and Desire. We also shared this quote by Bishop David Burton: "Discipline is the bridge that connects goals and accomplishments." I liked that one a lot. That night, we taught a 9-yr-old boy about applying what we learn by playing with corn starch in water. He's quite the hyper little boy! He'll be exciting to teach.



Saturday and Sunday were the only days we really got to work the area. So we did just that- work. We spent a lot of time stopping by investigators who aren't really doing anything and giving them the ultimatum of deciding whether this is something they want in their lives right now. We lot quite a few investigators. But, the hope is, because we dropped the ones not so interested, we'll have more time to find the committed in the surrounding towns. We're excited to get hardcore into some finding! We already have a few prospects in the town of Bedford so we're excited about that. Sunday night, we got to watch the CES devotional by Elder Holland. Mom and Dad, did you get to go to that?? It was given in the burns arena. I almost blew a fuse when I saw all the pictures of STG haha. I wish I could have been there! but it was a great devotional, and we think Kristina and Matt got to get some things out of it.



Welp, there's my week for ya! As I said before, nice and busy. This next week should actually allow more time in the area to work. We're driving up to Maine tonight and driving back tomorrow morning, but other than that, we have no outstanding meetings or anything like that. Just time to work in the area. It should be a great week!!



Ok I better go. Love you all, and I hope you have a great week!! Take care!!



-Faithfully,



Elder KC Esplin

Happy Labor Day!



Welp, it was, yet again, another crazy week! I'm starting to get used to it by now haha. But we did have some exciting things happen! On Monday, we worked in secret with Sister Wilkey to arrange to have President Wilkey's golf clubs brought to the mission office. Then, when he went to the bathroom, we snuck them in and set up his clubs and golfing clothes in his office. We then basically kidnapped him to take a break to go hit a bucket of balls. President was a big golfer back home, but never takes P-days so he hasn't touched his clubs since he got here. We've been going through lots of stress as a staff with a bunch of elders going home for health or not wanting to be out here. We thought it'd be a good break for everyone to go golfing together. So we got out! It was a lot of fun. That night, we worked till 9, and called it a day! Tuesday, not much happened out of the ordinary. Elder Baker had to get his authorization to drive our 12 passenger van, so I worked on a jeopardy game we would play with the new missionaries. It should be fun. That night, we taught 2 less-actives and Kristina (the one recently baptized). To one of the less-actives, we had a lesson on the importance of developing Christ-like attributes. We read from the first page of Ch. 6 of PMG about how Christ's invitation to "Come Follow Me" isn't just an invitation to follow him physically- it's an invitation to learn and become as He is. It was a really powerful lesson.



The next day, we drove up to Saco, ME (which is near Portland) to a district meeting. When we got there, we received the exciting news that the power was out. So we crawled around in the rafters looking for the power breakers. That was a good adventure! After, we went to Pizza hut buffet. One of the elders who I'm buddies with left his wallet, so I offered to pay for him in exchange that he'd let me crash at his house one night (he lives in southern California). So I got myself rooming for a vacation to California now! haha that should be good. Anyways, we drove back after the meeting and met up with President Wilkey for several hours to discuss the upcoming transfer. The rest of the night, we taught lessons and did random drop offs of goodies (I made some rolo cookies, we bought 2 liters of soda, etc) to give to people we knew who were going through hard times. That was a lot of fun.



The next day was our own district meeting. It was pretty awesome. Afterwords, we went in to the office to work on the interview schedules for President Wilkey. That took a while. As soon as we could, we took off to get to work. We had dinner at a members house with a lesson after about the importance of sharing the gospel through Mormon.org and how to use pass along cards to do so effectively. Mormon.org is one of the church's biggest pushes right now. Especially with Romney getting so much attention, it's proving to be a great resource in getting people interested. Also, with all the anti that is sure to come in the near future, it's the best way to help those who hear things that are false to get the real story from an official church website. So, if you aren't familiar with it, you should be! The church wants us to share the gospel using it!!



Friday was a breath of fresh air. We taught back to back lessons all morning. My favorite was with an investigator, Tammy. We had a powerful lesson on Plan of Salvation, and we really emphasized the Atonement as the centerpiece to it all. It created a great foundation for future lessons on faith in Christ. We had mission planning for a few hours that afternoon, then we hit the streets again to teach a few more lessons, along with another member meal.



Saturday morning, we started it off with a super intense lesson with Marshall and Nadja, a couple who live in Bedford. He is a retired general officer in the Air Force, and is good friends with Elder Carlson of the 70. He's an extremely logical guy, and has spent much time reflecting on the things of philosophy. Anyways, we had a lesson on the Plan of Salvation, and it got pretty deep. Luckily, I think very similarly to him, so I did my best to keep up with him. He was debating that if our Plan of Salvation were to be entirely correct, we'd need a path connecting the Spirit World back to Earth life so we could be reincarnated so we can properly develop to become like God. His argument was that "your current Plan of Salvation is like saying to a 4-yr-old 'I will judge you for the rest of your life from what you do today from 1 PM to 2 PM.' Then, when he breaks a vase, condemning him to live in a dark hole for eternity. Where is the justice in that?" My rebuttal was this: "I love to perform on the piano. Growing up, I played in recitals. Some of my piano performances were in front of 100+ people. One of my favorite songs to play, the Pathetic Sonata, takes 6 minutes to play. Yet, despite the short duration of the piece, I've spent dozens, if not hundreds, of hours practicing for just those 6 minutes in front of the audience. Once I'm on that stage, there's no turning back. No extra time for practice. I play the piece, and at the end, I'm judged on my performance. I can't go back and redo the song. I can practice and play another performance, but I can never go back and have that exact opportunity again. Our time now is the time to perform, not to intentionally mess up and look forward to the next performance." He took the point and accepted to mediate upon it. He also accepted to read the Book of Mormon in Alma 40-42 and agreed to have us back to talk more about Christ and the demands of Justice and Mercy. Man, I sure do love those logical discussions! After that lesson was over, we went to the office and worked on the plans for all the transfers. That took about, oh, 10 hours. Then we made the transfer calls, and hit the hay! Pretty exciting day if you ask me!



Sunday, we had two investigators at church! Matt came, and Flora came. After church, we had dinner with a member family, then had a lesson with Matt and Kristina, then another mission planning session until the end of the day. I heard this quote in church and I really liked it. "Working hands are holier than praying lips." -Nepali Proverb. I liked that one a lot.



So yeah! There ya go. Quite the week. As you can tell, there's been a lot of administrative things going on with transfers and preparation for this next transfer. But, we won't have any zone conferences or zone meetings (that we know of) to go to, so we'll hopefully have more time in our area. This was just a ridiculously packed transfer. Hopefully things can slow down and we can put more attention into our area! By the way, a fun little fact for you, this last month, we drove our mini-van for a total of over 2,500 miles. Pretty crazy, right?



Instead of giving the preview for next week, I think I'll just lay it all out next Monday. If I have to sit at a computer screen any longer today, I'm gonna lose all my hair.



But I sure love you all! I'll be excited to hear from you all soon. Know that I know the church is true, that Joseph Smith is the Prophet, and that Jesus Christ is the only path that leads to real happiness. Have a great week!!



-Faithfully,



Elder KC Esplin


Man, the craziness doesn't seem to stop!! This last week was one of the craziest yet. Monday, after reports and staff meeting and emails and all that good stuff, we packed up shop and headed up to Vermont. We set up the chapel that night, and had our first Zone Conference the next day at the chapel on the Joseph Smith Memorial grounds. It was a really cool experience. I'll talk more about what went on in Zone Conference in a bit. We got back late Tuesday night because were asked last minute to drive two elders back to their area a ways west of Royalton (and we decided to grab some Denny's a while later about a mile away from the Holy KFC haha). Wednesday morning, we got to work the area like normal, then at about 5, we left again to head up to Augusta, Maine. We set up that night, then had another zone conference up there on Thursday. After, we went out to dinner with the 18-yr-old harpist and the Wilkeys, then headed back to Manchester, just in time to do weekly reports! Friday we worked the area plus about 4 hours of planning. Then come Saturday, we made arrangements to take Kristina, her husband Matt, and one of the coolest members ever, Bro. Quindley, up to the Joseph Smith Memorial! I finally got to spend some time there to take the tour and take it all in. We watched a new Joseph Smith movie they had there, toured the memorial and the visitors center, and even went on a special tour of the foundations of the houses that existed on the Mack farm when Joseph was born there. It was a great day, and we could tell it had an impact on Matt. We got back just in time for 2 more appointments and called it a day.



Then came Sunday. At church, we received an elder who was leaving for Argentina. He had been serving here waiting for his Visa. Elder Morgan from Layton, UT. He went to USU, so we had a good time talking. We worked hard and ate harder at a members, and before we knew it, it was 9. We then had to do some investigative work about some mischevious elders in northern Vermont a few months ago, and finally hit the hay. Then this morning, we woke up at 4 something to drive Elder Morgan to the airport, and now we're finishing reports and doing email. Fun stuff right?



So. The verdict- this week was crazy, but so awesome!



The zone conferences we had were amazing. The theme was repentance. The main discussion was about how true repentance isn't about going through steps to obtain forgiveness- it's about having a change of heart, mind, knowledge, and breath. It's a process of not only turning from something, but also turning to God. We then broke into workshops of 8, where the zone leaders and us moderated a discussion about how teaching "faith unto repentance" (see Alma 34) is the most effective way we can, as missionaries, influence our investigators/less actives to keep commitments. My big take away that will impact me for the rest of my life is this- If a person truly believes in Christ and loves him, then keeping the commandments and having a desire to do the right thing will be natural and instinctive. Confronting problems case by case isn't what will change someone- helping someone discover faith in Christ which will lead to loving him will change not only their behaviors, but their heart. And that's what God is really after. I left those two conferences feeling very uplifted from just that revelation.



After the training on repentance, we talked about tithing. The big thing I got from that is that tithing has very little to do with money. God isn't so much after our money. What he wants is our heart. By loving God enough to give up our most needed worldly possession (money), we in turn sanctify our hearts to become more like Christ. When one realizes that by giving tithing, they are purifying their hearts to prepare them for the Celestial Kingdom, suddenly tithing becomes something they'll want to do. Once again, it's all about the heart. I think if I were to pick one thing I've learned most on my mission, it's the fact that it's all about our heart. But that'll have to be another discussion for another day!



There was lots of other fun parts about zone conference too. As always, it was great getting to see my friends from every part of the mission. I also really enjoyed playing the harp/piano duet of "How Gentle God's Commands." It sounded pretty good. I even was offered a chance to play the harp a bit, and it was surprisingly easy. I was able to play out of the hymn book after about 10 minutes. So, I might have to add the harp to my arsenal when I get home haha. It was a lot of fun. I also got to play the piano for two districts singing "Lead Kindly Light." That went fairly well too. We also really enjoyed spending the night with the South Royalton and Augusta elders too. One of the best parts- the South Royalton elders were given 7 gallons of Ben and Jerry's ice cream, so they gave us 2 gallons to enjoy. Score! It's wicked good. Then the Augusta elders hooked us up with a package of Oreos. They're not helping me keep my resolve to eat healthier...but you only live once, right?? I'm weighing less than the rest of my mission, so I can afford it!



So yeah. There you go. This last week was one of the craziest yet! But at this point, I'm getting used to the 'fast and furious' lifestyle. Next transfer, it should calm down a lot. No zone conferences or trainings, just zone interviews, and we're not involved with that beyond just having to create the schedule for them. So next month will be a month to focus in on the area, which I'm really excited for. This next week is filling up fast. We only have to travel to one district meeting, and the rest of the week will be spent here in Manchester. Yes! But it will be transfer week, so we'll be involved in making the arrangements to get everyone where they need to be. It should be interesting. But that's all I got! I'm excited for a great week to work hard!



Ok I best get going. Love you all! Know that I know the church is true, and that Joseph Smith is a prophet. The only way I can truly say that is because God has told me through the Holy Spirit, and there is no witness greater than that of God. Have a great week!!



-Faithfully,



Elder KC Esplin