Thursday, January 17, 2013

Round 2 in Waterville

But man, it sounds like you've had a really exciting week this last one. Lots of crazy things going on. I sure hope everybody hangs in there. Let me know if there's anything I can do to help!! Round 2 in Waterville. It's been nuts! When I pulled into the city on Tuesday, I started getting the butterflies like crazy. I felt like I was having a little mini home-coming. The entire first few days, I just kept saying over and over, "I can't believe I'm back! I can't believe this is real." It almost feels like I never left, I've just been gone on a long exchange. But I'll tell you what, we've been working our little tails off like it's nobody's business!! On one of our first nights together, Elder Esplin and I sat down to talk about what we could do to get the most done in the shortest amount of time possible. We decided that the most efficient way to do that is to work with less-actives. So that's exactly what we've been doing! Unfortunately, a few of the people who were baptized when I was here have since done less-actives-- Tammy, Sherry and Roger, Phil, and Jeff. Man, Satan sure does pound on those recent converts. Luckily, Diane and Dan are still going strong. So, the 5 above were some of our first stops, and I got pretty bold with them with some pretty surprising results. Tammy is now engaged to a guy who is preventing her from meeting with us, so she's pretty well dropped off the deep end...we haven't been able to get over there once because she keeps canceling on us. That one is a really hard one for me because she's one of the converts I got the closest to, and was basically the first one I really had. Sherry and Roger got offended by a ward member and stopped going, and Roger had resorted back to his Pentecostal background. We sat them down and had a pretty good talk about the Book of Mormon and their feelings about it. After a little talk, Sherry said she still considered herself a Mormon, but didn't go so she could be unified with her husband. Unfortunately, they're moving to Mississippi today so we won't be able to work with them, but we've already got them lined up with elders down there, and I'll be writing them a letter here shortly. Then we've got Jeff and Phil. We stopped by Jeff and Kathrine my first night to have a little chat. They said they had gone back to the Episcopal church. I asked them, "So, you don't feel Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon are true anymore?" They replied, "Well, we do, but we just aren't sure anymore." They knew that they knew, and there wasn't any getting around it. I bore testimony of how I came to know it was true and invited them to retake the missionary lessons. Kathy reluctantly accepted, but Jeff seemed very distant and said he'd make no promises. Then, yesterday, we went back over to talk again. and Kathy gave us the news. "Since you left the other night, I've been thinking a lot, and I was thinking more this morning." Immediately, my stomach dropped. I knew she was going to tell us she wasn't interested in our visits anymore. Then, she said," I went to church yesterday, and I just didn't feel anything. But then I compared it to how I felt when you were here, and when I go to the Mormon church, and whenever I do that, I feel all warm inside. So, I think I'm going to stay Mormon." I was speechless for a few moments haha. It came out of nowhere!! We eagerly confirmed that she had received revelation and talked about the Spirit for a while. She's not on track to come back to church and working to the temple! Jeff is still quite distant though, and excused himself when we were teaching. He knows it's true. He just needs some more time. I'm sure he'll follow Kathy if she gets active again. Finally, we have Phil. Phil got offended by some dumb thing ( I don't even really remember the full story) and stopped going. Can I just say that stopping going to church because you're offended is the stupidest thing ever??? Seriously, it's like being in a life boat in a storm at sea and jumping overboard because somebody else in the boat is annoying you or said something dumb. Anyways, I went to go see him about 5 months ago as we were passing through the area, and he said he had no interests in coming back and was going to his old church. He seemed very cold towards the church now, which was a big change. I responded by telling him about how much his conversion had meant to me and my faith, and how I knew he knew that this all was true, and the miracles he has seen is evidence of that. I could see in his eyes it hit somewhere deep, but nonetheless, he invited us to leave. So then my second day in town, we stopped by again. I was expecting the same sort of dialogue, but to my surprise, he let us right in. We sat and got caught up, and then he said, "You know, I've been doing a lot of thinking lately, and I think we've decided to come back to the Mormon church." Again, I was stunned. He said that over Christmas vacation, two elders came by his family's home while he was visiting and shared a powerful Christmas message that really touched them all. He said every since then, his girlfriend's heart was softened and she was consenting to let him interact with the church again. He said he wanted to come to church soon, and wanted to go teaching with us again! Again, another great miracle!! That's not the end of all the miracles we've been seeing either. We've found 7 less-active families, all who have accepted the invitation to retake the missionary discussions. We've gotten back into the home of the Berard family (one of my favorite families I've taught on my mission) who are very eager to start learning again and to get to church. We met with the Bishop my second night, and he felt he needed to call a spontaneous PEC meeting specifically about missionary work and what the ward could do to better help the missionaries. They invited me up during sacrament meeting to bear my testimony. Just overall, things have hastened SO much. It's been amazing. Time is going to go WAY too quickly. We have so much to do, and such little time to do it all in. I love being back, and I'm so excited to see what will happen over the next few weeks!! Ok I better go. Love you all! Have a great week, and I"ll look forward to talking with you all soon!! -Faithfully, Elder KC Esplin

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Back to Waterville

Hello hello!! How's my favorite family doing? Sorry about the shorter e-mail this last week. I didn't really get a chance to write anything longer. And unfortunately, today I won't have a ton of time either. I got an update literally about two minutes ago that the new missionaries are flying in in 40 minutes ahead of schedule, which is in 30 minutes, and we still have to set the trailer on the 12 passenger van and get things ready for them....so this may be kinda quick. Sorry!! So. You may be wondering what my verdict is as far as whether I'm finishing my mission in Bedford, or if I'll be going back out into the field. Well, that's been a roller coaster. I'll tell you the full story really quick. So at the beginning of this transfer, President Wilkey told me every time he saw me, "Teach Elder Smith well- I'll be sending you back out into the field at the end of this transfer." He talked about it ALL THE TIME. So I started getting settled into the though of going back out. Then, about 3 weeks ago, in mission planning, he told me, "You know Elder Esplin, with this surge of new missionaries coming in in February (25 coming in- by far the biggest group ever), we might just have to keep you around for your last few weeks. We'll need your experience for this." So, I shifted my views to staying, which I was really excited for. I really love the Bedford area, and I'd love to stay here until the end of my mission. That takes me to this last Monday. I had my temple recommend interview with President, and before the interview started, he asked me, "So. How would you feel about staying here for your last 6 weeks?" I told him I'd love to, and I thought it was a good idea. He responded that he felt that might just be what would happen, and that I could plan on that unless he had a strong spiritual prompting that that wasn't supposed to happen. So, I left confident that I would be staying. And in fact, we spent parts of Wednesday and Thursday helping President with transfers and, sure enough, my card stayed fast in Bedford. That takes us to this last Friday. We got a call from President asking us to come in to the office as soon as we could. He had just gotten back from the Boston temple with the outgoing missionaries, and said while he was on the road, he got a call from the MTC that a missionary wasn't coming out anymore so we had to re-do the transfer board (which we had spent a ton of time on earlier). Well, we got in, and the board was closed, which was unusual for when we were coming in to work on it. He started talking about the missionary not coming out anymore, but then said, "But I think i have that all figured out, but there were a few other things that I was unsettled about, and I received some insights about what needs to happen now. So, there's a few other changes on the board you might be shocked to see." Immediately, I had the feeling that this would involve me. He looked at me and said, "Elder, I know I've basically already told you you were going to be staying in Bedford, but while I was in the temple, I felt very impressed that even though we need you here, there's somewhere else you're needed more. So, I'm sending you back out into the field." It was a huge blow. I was sitting confident that I was going to be staying and had made plans in my mind about all I would do as an assistant, but now,my mind started spinning wondering what I would be doing the next 6 weeks. He saw my facial expressions and immediately apologized for the roller coaster of emotions I had been sent on, but told me, "I wouldn't be doing this to you if I hadn't been prompted so clearly by the Lord that what I was doing wasn't the best option." He then asked me what I was feeling. I responded, "Well, I think I'll be able to better answer that one once I find out where I'm going!" He smiled and, without saying a word, walked over to the board and opened it up. My eyes flew to the spot where I hoped my card would be, and, sure enough, there it was. Waterville, Maine. Yep! I'm going back for my last 6 weeks!!! I was in euphoria when I saw that. If I couldn't finish my mission in Bedford, that'd be my #1 spot I'd want to be, and somehow, I was being sent there. President then told me, "The Lord was very clear to me that that's where you need to be for your last transfer. There's some things there that only you can do. So, go back there and get it done!" Once that initial shock hit, I realized I should check to see who my new companion was. And here's the grand irony of it all: Elder Jacob Esplin. You got it. Elder Esplin and Elder Esplin. Waterville, Maine. 6 weeks to get it done. I leave tomorrow at 12:30. Stay tuned. It's going to be a wild 6 weeks!! Love you all! Have a great week!! -Faithfully, Elder KC Esplin

Hello and Happy New Year

It was great talking to you all on Christmas! Sounds like everybody is doing well. Mom, glad to hear you're feeling better. It's good to hear Grandma and Grandpa are doing well too. And Kirk Kayla and Ashton. It's going to be fun being home and with all of you again! I had a great Christmas and a great week overall. But we'll get to that in a bit. J is heading in to the doctors soon huh? Well, he's at the age when I got my colitis pretty bit. I think the anxiety meds help me out a lot. They aren't powerful, but they're enough to keep me mellowed out. And my mission has proved to be the healthiest time of my life. Maybe J would benefit from going on the robinul that I'm on. I don't know what'll work best, but what I'm doing now is going really well. Keep me updated on what ends up happening. Speaking of meds, I'll probably need one more batch of Lialda before I leave. Probably in the next few weeks would be good. I'd sure appreciate it! it sounds like you have some fun plans for new years eve. I can't believe the year is already over...2013 should be a good one though! I sure did have a great week. To answer your question, yes we did get snow. And a lot of it. We didn't have any at the beginning of the week, and we only got a light dusting on Christmas day (so I got a white Christmas!). But the last few days, our mission got pounded. We probably got a little over a foot in about 2 days. Definitely the most snow I've ever dealt with. In fact, on Thursday, President Wilkey grounded all the cars. So, we spent 6 hours walking to the office shoveling out houses the entire way. That was quite the adventure! By the time we got to the office, we were beat. But on the positive side, we stopped at a sea food restaurant on the way and had dinner, complete with some deep fried Oreo's. Oh yeah! I sure did have a great Christmas. This was probably one of my favorite Christmases of my life. We've spent the last 3 weeks or so doing nothing but sharing the message of the true meaning of Christmas. part of that was watching a Mormon message called "lifting burdens" (here's the link: http://www.mormonchannel.org/mormonmessages?v=910937379001#.... After watching it with a family, we'd ask them which one of those gifts we've been given by the Savior has touched them the most this last year. That resulted in a little mini testimony meeting, which ended up being very powerful in a few of the lessons. I always bore testimony either of how I've found peace through the Christ, or how I've learned how to look to the future this last year. Anyways, after the sharing, we talked about what gifts we could give back to the Savior. The answer we always pointed out was our hearts. We then made the point how when we give a gift to someone, we always do so with the intent of helping them feel joy. but, that joy is usually fleeting. But the joy that the Savior gives us- that's the gift the Savior can give us every day. We ought to try and give him something in return each day! (3 hour delay) Well, unfortunately, I have to get going. I had my temple recommend interview with President, then had staff meeting, and now we're leaving to go pick up the Vermont zone leaders up in South Royalton for zone leaders council...but, if I have time, I'll hop back on and finish writing a little more. If not, I'll be sure to write on Monday! Love you all! Have a great week!! -Faithfully, Elder KC Esplin P.S.- this next week is transfers. It'll be interesting to see if I stay or go for my last one! Stay tuned!

Merry Christmas

Man...I CANNOT believe that Christmas is already here. I know that's horribly cliche to say, but I honestly can't haha. it's been a great Christmas season to enjoy though. We've been going around for the last few weeks just sharing a message about the true meaning of Christmas. The big thing I've been pushing is this- For many people who focus on the gifts and commercialism of Christmas, the joy and excitement of Christmas will end on December 25. But for those who focus on the the Spirit of Christ rather than the Spirit of Christmas, they can experience that joy all year round. So, we all should work on dropping the last syllable of Christmas and worship in the Spirit of Christ! Alright, now for the final word about the phone call tomorrow. Some things have come up, and we're going to actually call at 4 PM our time now, so that'll be 2 PM your time. I sure hope that works for you! We had to move it to 4 our time because we received an invitation to sing with the sister missionaries at a rest home in our area. It should be fun. But yeah you should expect my call around 2! I've been looking forward to it for a while, and I'm sure excited for it!! Mom, I sure hope you get feeling better soon! you need to stop getting sick on the holidays! goodness haha. Dad, don't party too hard haha. I liked that tidbit about not taking counsel from our fears. Now, we just need to learn how to not take counsel from laziness- a lot of our investigators and less-actives really need some help with that one! Hey, you should put a flame under Jared to read the 7 habits book during break. I am too. That book would change his life, and he committed to read it during break. So, let's get him to do it! I hope the fondue goes well! We had a Christmas party at the Earnshaws (ward mission leaders home) a few weeks ago, and it had a ton of finger foods similar to what we have at our fondue. it made me think about what we usually did tonight. I know I'll be excited to participate in it next year!! Welp, I don't want to write too much because a lot we could talk about tomorrow! In fact, I'd prefer to just save it all for tomorrow. But maybe I"ll just write about a few highlights for the blog, and so we can talk more tomorrow about other things. Yeah, I guess we'll go for that! I had a really cool week this week. On Monday, we got to go candle-pin bowling. What, you've never heard of candle-pin bowling before? Well, that's no big surprise, because it's an exclusively New England sport haha. It's basically regular bowling, but the pins are very narrow, and are just straight sticks. Plus, the ball is about the size of a soft ball. You also get 3 throws to knock down the pins, and they don't clean the ally of the pins you knocked down between throws, so you can use the ones you already knocked down to knock down other ones. It's a lot of fun. Anyways, we played that as a district on Monday, then went to the ward mission leader's house to play some ping pong. After that, we went to the Bishop's home to share a Christmas family home evening with them. Nothing too exciting happened on Tuesday, which takes us to Wednesday. I had a once in a lifetime opportunity on Wednesday. We had plans to travel up to Hanover, NH to go their district meeting, but miscalculated how long it'd take to get up there and we ended up having an extra 30 minutes. We had heard rumors that Dartmouth college had an original copy of the Book of Mormon, so we decided to take a little road trip over there. It took a few minutes to find the library, but once we did, they indeed did have an original copy and agreed to let us hold it. It was a really sacred experience for me. The Book of Mormon has become such an important thing to me on my mission, and to hold one of the original copies, one that very well could have been handled by Joseph Smith himself, was a very spiritual moment. I got a bunch of pictures with it, as well as some copies of the original pages, so I have some cool keepsakes from the experience Anyways, I thought I'd share that. It was a very memorable thing for me. After the district meeting, we drove to Laconia to exchange with the zone leaders. While we were doing so, my companion (who was driving) got us into my first fender bender! Wahoo! haha it wasn't anything serious. We were moving at like 3 MPH trying to merge onto a highway, and the car in front of us could have gone, but didn't move for whatever reason, and my companion was busy checking the highway for coming traffic and ended up gently bumping into him. It didn't do him any hard since we only hit his truck's hitch, but it put a pretty good dent in our bumper. So we get to deal with that now. Pretty anti-climatic for my first car accident, I know, but it was another adventure of the week! Wednesday and Thursday, I was on exchange in Laconia, NH with Elder Jardine, whom I was in the same district as last year at this time. We taught a few really good lessons, and went caroling with a member family in the ward. They are a 4-H family, so we hit it off right off the bat. Thursday night, we traveled back to Manchester, and went caroling with our elder's quorum to some shut-ins in the ward. Friday was supposed to be the end of the world. Was everybody else as disappointing as I was?? The rest of the week, we did a lot of Christmas work. We have been teaching our Christmas message to a lot of members and seeking referrals after asking who else would like a Christmas message. It's been really successful, and we've been super busy trying to contact them all. One of those contacts this week was golden. We knocked on the door, and as soon as we saw movement, we started caroling. A man opened the door, and soon the family gathered. They thanked us for the carol and were about to send us away, but I said we were there to share a message on the true meaning of Christmas, and the wife let us in. We ended up going in, sitting down, and talking for an hour and a half about the plan of salvation. They had a TON of questions for us. The father ended up being a neurosurgeon, and he had a very logical and scientific mind, so we clicked really well and discussed a lot of gospel topics from a logical standpoint. We talked about how our purpose is to let people perform their own experiments learn the variables, come up with a hypothesis, and see what the results are. They really liked that, and said they'd love to have us back to teach the lessons and even feed us dinner! So, we've now found a very solid family to start teaching!! We were pretty stoked about that. Their names are Tony and Lois. Stay tuned about them- i have a really good feeling! Alrighty, that's most of this week's highlights. I'm sure I'll have more by the end of the week! Love you all, have a great week and a Merry Christmas!! -Faithfully, Elder KC Esplin p.s.- I'm sure excited to talk to you tomorrow!!

My own Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

So, I had my companion open my package and get out the tree and oh man, you should have seen my reaction. i LOVE THAT TREE!!! Thank you so much!! All last month, I kept telling my companion, "We need to just get a little Christmas tree for our apartment. Not a big one, just a little Charlie Brown tree." And what do ya know, you sent one out. I greatly enjoy it. I also had him pull out all my wrapped presents and they're under the tree now. I'm planning on saving that tree too, so it was definitely a good buy! So thanks again! So, Christmas is right around the corner. I can't believe how fast it came up on us...it's nuts. Welp, in comparison to some of the past weeks, this last week was really chill. Only one cross-mission trip. Only one trip to the office. No mission planning in the mission home. It was basically a pure week of proselyting, and boy was it nice! Actually I just remembered, we did have one training on Tuesday. It was the new missionary/trainers meeting here in Manchester. That one was pretty nuts. Because of preparations for the surge, our mission has been getting much larger transfer groups lately, so we had 23 companionship down. Making travel plans and sleeping arrangements ended up being pretty crazy. We had 8 missionaries sleeping in our apartment plus us. That morning got pretty crazy as we all rushed to get ready. The training went really well. I gave the same trainings I did last time- area book and planning. Afterwords, we had to drive a group of 8 missionaries up to Portland, ME to get to where their cars were so they could return to their areas. Of course, we had to stop and get dinner at Red Robbins. And of course, the Portland elders heard and took their dinner hour with us, so we had a group of 12 missionaries there. I think we terrified the entire restaurant haha. Somebody gave me the idea of ordering the endless root beer float, and I downed 3 very large glasses, which probably summed to about 2 liters of root beer. Needless to say, I felt very sick by the end of the night haha. But that's all not missionary related, so let's move ahead! Like I said before, we spent almost the entire week proselyting, which was really nice. Our area has taken a big hit from passing a ton of our investigators and potentials over to the sisters who just came in, so our pool has gotten pretty shallow. But we had some really cool experiences! One was with the less-active we're working with- Donald. He had set the goal about 2 months ago to quit smoking this last Wednesday, so we went over in the morning to have a lesson and help him crush the rest of his cigarettes. That was a really cool experience. Unfortunately, since he's been smoking for like 30 years, his body started having severe withdraws to the point he'd wake up in the middle of the night shaking, so he gave in...but it was a good start to the path to the priesthood! We had another intense lesson with a man named Josh inside of a Starbucks. He's a born again Christian who we learned loved to argue. We had planned to just read Alma 32 and have a nice discussion about faith, but he turned it around when we hit the verse referring to enduring to the end and we ended up talking about salvation which turned to a discussion about faith vs. works. He tried to bash with us, but we did what he have been instructed to do- answer the question, then point it back to the restoration. After about an hour, we finally got through Alma 32, and I said to him, "You know Josh, I know we have a few different views on some of those verses in the Bible we read today. But ultimately, our invitation to you is the read and pray about the Book of Mormon, to exercise your faith in Christ and desire to learn of him to read it and see if it brings you closer to God." I then bore testimony of how I found it to be true, and closed with the invitation, "the only way you'll find out if it's true is if you read it." It's simple, but it's true for everyone. The ONLY way for a person to resolve conflicts they feel about the church, whether it be Joseph Smith, or faith vs. works, or what day the Sabbath is, or the Trinity, whatever it is, the only way to know if what we share is true is to read and pray about the Book of Mormon. Once a person receives an answer it is true, then everything else will fall in to place. It's that simple. We had another awesome lesson with a lady from Sudan named Kapooki. She was baptized several months ago, but hasn't come to church for a while because of her work. We stopped by spontaneously when a lesson fell through, and she welcomed us in. She immediately told us, "Elders, I had a dream last week, and I don't understand what it means. Many people have tried to interpret it, but I want to see what you think." In the dream, she was walking on a road with another woman, and they heard beautiful singing, so they walked towards the voices. On the path, she saw a big, ugly red brick building with two scary men outside of it. They turned away from this building and saw a big pure white tent with a giant tree next to it. They walked into the white tent to see it full of people all wearing white. She couldn't see to the front, but knew that Christ was at the front of the tent. Then she woke up. I got really excited when she finished, and asked if we could run to the van to grab a movie. I have a little D&C disk set, and on it is a movie of pictures of the temples put to music, so I grabbed that and rushed back upstairs. We watched that and told her we felt she had seen herself going to the temple. We then read Lehi's dream and pointed out all the parallels to his dream- walking on a narrow path, a large building off to the side, pressing forward towards the beautiful tree and a pure whiteness, etc. It was a very powerful lesson. At the end, she asked for a blessing to do what God wanted her to do. It was a super powerful lesson. Alright, one more quick one. Yesterday, we had a cool lesson with a girl from Nepal. Her family is Hindu, so she didn't know very much about Christ. We taught her a lot about the Holy Ghost and about how we can learn who God really is. She also shared with us about the Hindu faith and how it compared to what we shared with her. It was really interesting to learn more about her faith, as well as teach someone who didn't have a Christian background, which we don't really encounter often. Alrighty, I guess I better fly. Love you all!! Have a great week, and I'll look forward to getting your emails next week, and talking with you the day after!! I'm quite excited!! -Faithfully, Elder KC Esplin