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!!
Elder KC Esplin