Monday, December 29, 2014

A Christmas Surprise and a Gold Star for Service

A Christmas surprise from the Grahams

Who says Elder Ellis isn't in Kansas any more?

Christmas Day Skype call 

Happy New Year!

Holy son of Moses! I can't believe this year is over! How did that happen!? We are nearly in 2015, people! We made it! Claps and pats for everyone! But seriously, it's so strange to think that this year is over. I had barely started my mission a year ago! Back then I was just a humble, moderately handsome greenie, who wasn't sure what was happening half the time! And now here I am! One year later and I can proudly say that I'm not a greenie anymore, though everything else seems to have been pretty consistent.

Elder Chan and do copious amounts of tracting. We knock n' talk everyday. But from it, we pick up the most investigators out of everyone in our zone. Now I'm not trying to sound boastful or anything. Not like: "(insert obnoxious accent of your preference) Oh ho! Look at me with my bountiful oasis of investigators! I stumbled upon Zion here!" No, I'm not saying that. I've just never really had much of a testimony of tracting until now. I always thought it was just something you had to do in order to get investigators. If the Lord sees you doing what you're suppose to, and He sees you working hard, you'll find investigators somehow - whether it be a member referral or someone randomly stopping you on the street wearing a shirt that says, "I heart the gospel." But I've never seen success come directly from tracting before now! When we picked up our first investigator, we knocked on the door and then when he told us to come back, I was like, "Well maybe next time man. Let us know if we can do anyth-wait - what did you just say? Ar.... Are you sure?" So I don't know if it's just this area is more receptive to a couple of strangers at the front door, or if Elder Chan is just ridiculously good, but tracting is bringing us some results I've never seen before!

So, funny story about my adventures with my foreign friend! One of our members couldn't feed us for dinner so she gave us a $20 gift card for Dominos pizza instead. When we got there we planned on ordering two smalls for $24, but the guy at the counter said we could do two large, three-topping pizzas for $16, so we opted for the cheaper, large pizzas of course. After explaining to Elder Chan how that transaction could possibly make sense, and how we could get more food for less money, my companion learned why America has a weight problem.

Well, Elder Chan and I had a fantastic Christmas! It was fun to Skype home to my family, but it really wasn't that big of a deal since I saw them two weeks ago. I am looking forward to Mother's Day when I've had a sufficient enough time away from home to be excited to see the family again! Just kidding - love you Mother! Anyway, we had a pretty busy day on Christmas! We had three dinners we went to. Let me tell you, the Lord created the human stomach not intending for it to eat as much as I did that day. That's why Christmas only comes once a year. I'm excited to return home and only have one dinner on Christmas, and not have the pressure of eating too little and practically disrespecting the family's entire ancestral line. We also had an abundance of whimsical glee on Christmas Eve. We weren't having much success that night tracting, since it was Christmas Eve and people wanted to spend it with their families and not us, so we retired early and Elder Chan taught me the songs of his people. We spent a good 30 minutes singing in Mandarin. Well, I was backup singing, of course. He knew the lyrics and all I did was make noises in a rhythmic manner.

The day after Christmas I received a very surprising and much appreciated visit from my Cali Family, the Grahams! They completely caught me off guard! We were weekly planning at the church with the Elders from Napa 2nd Ward and we got a call from the Grahams saying they were already on their way to Napa, bearing Christmas gifts no less! It was very good to see them all again! #christmasmiracle

So, I have gotten into a very bad habit due to my little medical timeout. Whenever I go to Ward Council or Sacrament meeting and see the bishopric, I subconsciously compare them to Bishop Lusty and his counselors. The Tooele bishopric always look like they're having a blast - like they just got back from Disneyland. When I see other wards it brings me back to the harsh reality that it isn't always like that. Speaking of the bishopric here, my cherished mother asked me on Skype if I was ever going to give a talk in sacrament meeting on my mission. Well, thanks a lot mom, because I'm giving a talk on January 25th! I totally blame you for this. I've managed to dodge the podium so far, and just like that my streak has come to an end.

I received some rather suspicious mail the other day. Some dude from Sandy, Utah sent me a letter and five of his audio books he made about the church. He said he found my blog and felt as if he needed to send me these CD's... Apparently he just looks for missionaries online to send copies to. I still think it's a little strange but if they work for some people then who am I to be critical.

I think it's safe to say Elder Chan and I more than deserve a Gold Star for service this week! Yesterday after church we were tracting some apartments and asking people if they needed any sort of service or assistance. We knocked on this one door where the women only opened it a crack so we couldn't see inside and asked us what we wanted. We introduced ourselves and she quickly told us she was Christian and was happy with her faith and that whole routine. But when we told her we were looking for community service and to help people out, her attitude changed a little and she started asking us about it. She inquired to what capacity could we provide service. I figured since she knew we were volunteers of a church she wasn't going to ask us to do anything illegal like transporting drugs (once is enough for me, thanks.) So I told her we would do our best to help her with whatever she needed help with. She asked her if we could empty a.... something.... I'm still not sure what she said, but we were like, "Suuuuure! No problem!" Well, it just so happens she is physically handicapped and was referring to her bedpan, and the contents thereof, that needed to be emptied into her actual toilet, and then sanitized. So while Elder Chan was doing that, she requested that I get some carpet cleaner and remove some stains in her carpet made from the aforementioned bedpan contents. We then reheated her some dinner, and attempted to teach her about Joseph Smith, but she wasn't having it, and we went on our way! She was very appreciative though.

Charity never faileth, even when it's super gross.

Hope everyone has a Happy New Year! 

Love, Elder Hayden Ellis

Monday, December 22, 2014

A Mission Departure and a Happy Return

Elder Ellis and Elder Chan

I'm baaaaaack!

Holy Moses. Not really sure where to start, cause so much has happened! I guess since I never sent a letter about the week before I went home that's as good a place to start as any. So my last week before I returned home was pretty eventful. To begin, I gave two blessings, which normally wouldn't really qualify as "eventful", but one of them was for a woman who was attacked by a rather large dog and she lost one of her eyes. So that was a pretty surreal experience. I can't remember everything I said but by the time it was over she was crying and told me that the blessing was a confirmation of what she already knew. So that was a really powerful experience for me. She is the ex-wife of a semi-active recent convert by named G**** D****. I'm pretty sure I've written home about him before. He's a really great, but rather peculiar guy. He hasn't received the Melchizedek priesthood yet, so my hope is that him being there for the blessing will encourage him to work on receiving the Melchizedek priesthood for himself so he can bless his family when they need it. 

On Tuesday I went on exchange with my District Leader, Elder Chan (which proved to be quite prophetic.) It was by far the best exchange I've been on! Not only did we have more fun than two humble, but incredibly handsome, missionaries can handle, we got sooo much work done! We were in his area going to lesson after lesson and by the time the exchange was over we had taught 14 lessons, which is more than I normally taught in an entire week! And I've never seen a missionary so good at tracting. Elder Chan can get into homes like nobody's business! I'm pretty sure it's because he's from Hong Kong and when people open the door to see a semi-Americanized Chinese guy standing there saying, "Hey man, I'm Chan! Maybe you know my uncle Jackie? Just kidding man. You watching the Giants game? What's the score? Royals are doing good man," they are so disarmed that they don't even realize we already walked in their house. AND WE GET AWAY WITH IT! It's so weird! They don't even call us on the fact that two strangers are practically going through their fridge! It's got to be some foreigner charm Elder Chan has. The Asian Sensation is sweeping the nation with its Asian Persuasion. He just knows how to talk to people and not let a situation get awkward, so I guess they don't feel awkward and they let us into their house. It's quite a phenomenon - one simply has to see Sensei Chan at work to fully understand the majesty of it. The craziest part of the exchange was when President called me and told me I was going home to have surgery for my cyst. That was rather shocking. I never would've guessed that I would be sent home early. The only reason that I kind of saw it coming was because I went to the doctor in Santa Rosa with Elder Corn to get my cyst examined, and the doc told me that I could either deal with it for the rest of my life, (yeeah, no thank you), or I could get surgery to take care of it. Pretty easy decision. So he gave me the number for the surgeon and I was about to call him and set up an appointment when it occurred to me that I should probably inform my Mission Nurse about my status. When I called her she chastised me for almost having surgery without her permission, and then informed me that I would have to go home to have the surgery performed. So I knew that I might have to go home because of it, but I had no idea that it would happen so soon. They didn't waste any time, and I was gone in less than a week. The good news is that Elder Dean, who went home for medical reasons many months ago, returned to the mission just in time to replace me, so it was really good to see him back. After some masculine yet emotional goodbyes with my companion, Elder Corn, and roommates, Elder Huff and Elder Milne, a senior missionary couple took me off to the airport and dropped me off before I knew what was happening.

While I was on the plane it really started sinking in that I was going home. I was pretty upset when I was informed I was going home, and it only got worse on the plane when I had a hour and a half to really think about it. So for a little while I was in a slump, but before the plane landed in Salt Lake I decided to make the best of the situation. If I was going to be stuck at home while my butt was on the mend I figured I might as well consider it a little halftime vacation and enjoy it while I could. When I landed and was heading down the escalator to meet up with my beloved mother, I was greeted by a large group of people with balloons and a banner that said, "Welcome home Sister Estes!" Even though I wasn't the missionary they were expecting they took pity on my less-than-triumphal-entry and welcomed me with clapping and cheering, which was much appreciated.

I didn't do too much while I was home after the surgery. The surgery itself was immensely disappointing! Because of my oral surgery several years ago, I was expecting them to dope me up with funny, happy gas where I'm all bubbly and giggly afterward. Nope! They gave me this nasty crap and I felt like garbage when I woke up and threw up a couple of times. So that was a bummer. The recovery period was pretty rough. I had to learn to deal with sleeping on my stomach which is no bueno. But I managed to do a lot while I was home. I was able to meet a lot of people in my ward in Tooele, so it will be nice to come back and already know some people. Plus, I kept lucking out with tickets to devotionals. Not sure how that transpired but I was able to go to a devotional at the Salt Lake temple where Elder Russell M. Nelson and his wife spoke, which was a privilege for me to attend. And I also went to the Christmas Devotional, tickets generously supplied by Brother and Sister Panini, (Heh heh...). To top it off, Elder Dallin H. Oaks came to our stake conference to speak to us, and you best believe I gave him a big ol' hug. It was really funny because when he was shaking everyone's hands I went up and told him I was a hugger, he said to me that he would hug anyone except for a pretty girl. Elder Oaks has more of a sense of humor than he lets on in General Conference.

Well after I was medically cleared to return back to my mission and I was reset apart as a missionary, my mom dropped me off at the airport and I was on off. I wandered around the airport for a little while and I rendezvoused with my fellow Santa Rosians (the group of new missionaries traveling from the MTC to Santa Rosa). It's weird since I was doing the exact thing almost exactly a year ago so I was getting some serious déjà vu. It was pretty amusing for me to see the missionaries calling their families from the airport before getting on the plane, 'cause I was just standing there thinking, "psh, I saw my mom like five minutes ago." I really like this Generation of missionaries. They have a lot of potential.

When our flight landed in Oakland, we all got off the plane and I heard someone shout "Elder Ellis!" I looked up to see Elder Randall, the Beloved, pushing his way through the other missionaries! I was so happy to see Elder Randall before he left to go home. He holds all my adoration. I didn't get to see any other departing missionaries since their flight had already left. Then another masculine yet emotional farewell, I left Elder Randall and met up with our welcoming committee. President Alba, his AP's, and one of my old companions, Elder Haynie, and his companion, Elder Hacking, were waiting for us. I was very well received.

When we got to the mission home all the greenies went to do all the orientation stuff, and of course I've already done all that, so I went with Elder Haynie and Elder Hacking to run some zone leader errands. After a moderately busy day with them, (which included a brief nap, not one that I needed, but they were pretty tired,) we found ourselves at the mission office again. Sister Alba then came up to me and asked if I could spend the night in the hospital with one of the new missionaries. Elder Adamson, who just arrived there that day, was having stomach pains on the plane and it turns out he had appendicitis and needed to get it removed. Pretty rough first day of his mission if I say so myself. I stayed with him in the hospital that evening and he went in for surgery around 11:30 pm. Two hours later when the surgery was over, the nurse woke me up in the waiting room. We then headed back to his room and I slept in a chair for the rest of the night. Elder Adamson is a really cool guy, and we became really tight while we were there.

The following day we had our all-mission Christmas Devotional, which I was really excited to attend. Last year I was a brand new Elder and I didn't know anyone! But this time around I got to see a lot of my good friends and all my old companions! I took lots of pictures which I will send home next week.

Napa is so cool! I love it here so much! It's beautiful and everyone here is so friendly, which really surprises me. I figured everyone here would snobby wine-bibbers but everyone is really friendly - even the people who reject us. My companion is Elder Chan, which is cool since he pretty much killed me in the mission and now he's resuscitating me. We get a long sooo well! We have the best time together. Plus we work so hard. We've picked up nine investigators just in the last four days. Elder Chan is ridiculously good. And he's really happy to be companions with me because he HATED his last companion. We are both really excited about this transfer! I like my ward a lot. Napa 1st has a lot of older members in it, but everyone is super cool and love the missionaries, so I think I'll really like it there.

Well that's pretty much how I'm doing right now. I'm super happy to be back and I'm excited to be here in Napa. MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!!!

Love, Elder Ellis

Friday, December 19, 2014

Mission Halftime

Hayden returned home from his mission on October 23rd for surgery to remove a cyst on his tailbone, which he had the following week. It was so much fun for our family to have Hayden home for six weeks and for him to see our new home and meet our new friends in Tooele. I loved being able to see Hay but I also loved having him return to his mission, where he belongs right now.

Here are some photos from Hay's Mission Halftime.

The former Elder Ellis with Bishop Roy and President Cottle just after his release.
One of the first things Hayden did after his release - playing a video game with his brother.
Hayden doing snow angels with Brody at the Whittaker Ward Christmas party.
Hayden and Alessandro - the baby he took care of before his mission has grown a lot in the past year.
Temple Square
Temple Square
Hayden hanging out with two Sister missionaries from his mission - Sisters Underwood and LemMon.
Shopping for candles with the Sisters.
Hayden accompanying me to my company Christmas party.
One of the benefits of having an Italian stepdad - seafood pasta :-)
Shooting the .22
Shooting the M-4
Shooting the Beretta 
Gianni shooting the Beretta. 
Stephen saying goodbye to his brother again.
Mom and Elder Ellis, just before going to the airport.
I am going to miss Elder Ellis, but I am looking forward to getting his weekly emails again.

One more year to go.......

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Problem Cyst and New Families to Teach

Hey Mom!

Well, Elder Corn and I had a very good week and have found so many new families to teach! First, we met an inactive family who hasn't come to church in a very long time. We tried getting to the root of why they decided to not come to church and of course it's because of a social reason, not doctrinal. He still believes the church is true, knows Joseph Smith is a prophet, he even asked for a blessing which I gave him. But someone insulted him at church so he and his family decided to stop coming. It's sad when people let trivial reasons stand in between them and the Gospel. They like having us over and we had dinner with them on Friday. So we will keep coming by to visit them and leave them with scriptures to read out of the Book of Mormon. Hopefully we will be able to help them remember how important church attendance is and reactivate them.

We found another really cool family while we were tracting the other day. We knocked on this one door and the son answered and we asked him if his family would be interested in a blessing on their home. So he asked his mom and they accepted. As we were asking the mom what she would like us to pray for, the 17 year old son was being super legit, turning off the TV's without us asking and trying to get his brother to come and join us. For those of you who don't know, these are very uncommon actions for a 17 year old boy who was busy playing video games not 10 minutes prior. The family is very religious and after we prayed and blessed the home the mom talked to us about how important the family is and how it's starting to dwindle in importance especially in places like California and we are just sitting there nodding all along the way! The best part is when the son brought up his dad, who doesn't live with them, and mentioned how he might need a blessing too. We offered to go see him if they told us where he lives and he started getting ready to take us there! Definitely not normal for a teenage boy. "Hmm, I wonder if my dad needs to pray with theses two random guys we let in our house, I should probably drive them there!" He was so cool! His mom stopped him since they were just getting ready to go to a football game. The family is super stellar and said we could come back and see them, which in Ellis translation means they are totally getting baptized! We also found a really great part member family we are going to reactivate. We went to visit a person that we found on the ward list and ended up meeting her little sister who is probably around 13 and not a member. She said how much her mom loves the Mormons, so that makes us wonder why she stopped coming to church since she's already a member... But the girls seemed really interested in the church, so we gave her a restoration pamphlet and she looked excited to read it. I asked her if she likes to read and she said she loves reading.... "Well in that case we got something else for ya! It's called the Book of Mormon, have at it!" Of course we explained what it is a little more than that, but that was the gist of it. Her eyes got a little big but she said she would read it! So we found even more people to teach! We also left a blessing with a homeless man, and he wants us to come visit him at the shelter he's staying at. Our area is really starting to blow up!

We had zone conference this week and President and Sister Alba and the AP's shared some of their wisdom with us. One of the things President talked about is how important it is to have a testimony of the Savior and It made me think of the man we met the day before who claims to be Jewish, Muslim and Christian. He doesn't believe in one set path back to God. He also doesn't believe that Jesus is the Christ, and doesn't believe he is the Only Begotten. In fact, he actually said it is sinful to refer to him as that. He believes that he was just a prophet, like Moses or Abraham. So he wanted to pray with us, but didn't want us to close in the name of Jesus Christ, so of course we just ended up not praying. Even though he liked a lot of what we said, like about the Word of Wisdom, without a faith in Jesus Christ he will never have a mighty change in heart like Alma the older did. When the Savior calls him, he will not recognize the voice (Alma 5:38). My favorite part of zone conference was President Alba showed us a screening version of Meet the Mormons and I thought it was fantastic! I can't imagine why people would be critical of the movie. I thought it did a very good job of setting aside common misconceptions about the church and helping people to see that we are normal people too.

Well, I have some rather disturbing news... I finally went to the doctor to get my cyst checked out, and he came to the same conclusion as I, that it is indeed a cyst. And with this particular cyst it will never go away without surgery. Not only is it bad enough that I have to get butt surgery, but I might not be able to get the surgery on my mission, so I might have to come home for it. Let me describe how much going home for this surgery would bother me the best way I can. Elder Makoni, a missionary I served with in Cordelia 2nd Ward, was hit by a drunk driver a couple days ago. He was flown to Santa Rosa and has a few skull fractures. Pretty severe right? Well apparently not, because he's going to stay in the field and get back to work in a couple of days! Are you kidding me?! He fractured his skull and is staying, but I might have to go home for a bump on my booty!? I'm going to be so bummed if I'm temporarily medically discharged for this... If I'm going to go home early for something, I want it to be for something cool like a gunshot wound, not for this... Well, we will see what happens.

Well I'll depart by leaving you with this scripture! 3 Nephi 5:13: "Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life."

Love, Elder Hayden Ellis

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sixteen Stones and a Bee Sting



Monday, October 6, 2014

Conference and a Future Roadtrip

Sarah and Lauren Graham came to Utah for Conference and spent an afternoon with us.
Our dog, Joe, who is a little challenged when it comes to people skills,
allowed Lauren to get close enough to pet him - which is a really big deal.
Sarah and Lauren Graham came to visit from Fairfield, California. They are one
of Elder Ellis's favorite families!

Hey Mom!

Wow, so where to begin... Well it's a brand new transfer and I have a new companion, Elder Corn. Like I said last week, I already know Elder Corn because he was my District Leader in Crescent City, and since the six of us were so isolated up there, we spent a lot of time with each other. So it's strange being his companion now, but we get alongreally well. He has changed a lot since we were in Crescent City. He is a lot more optimistic and cheerful than when I knew him before so it's much easier to be around him now. Not to mention I'm always having a good time with my roommates. I love my apartment, we are always laughing so hard. Elder Milne, Elder Huff, Elder Corn and I are all super compatible and often speculate what a long road trip with the four of us would be like, and we came to the conclusion that it would be ridiculously entertaining.

So something really cool happened at transfer devotional. I love that meeting solely because I'm able to see all the missionaries I've served around so far and catch up with them. Something really cool that happened there was I ran into Elder Wilson from my ward in South Jordan, Utah! Turns out that after he left on his mission to somewhere in South America (I can't remember where) he got sick and had to go home. After putting his papers in again he got called to my mission! So I was able to see him at Transfers. It was super cool seeing him again, given I only knew him for a couple of weeks before he left on his mission. I was also able to see some of my favorite missionaries: Elder Christiansen, Elder Haynie, Hermana LemMon, Elder Gasu, just to name a few. I love Missionary reunions, it's always so much fun to catch up with an old companion and share stories and reminisce!

Mom, that is so cool that you were able to meet, even a part of, one of the coolest families in Cordelia 2nd. I mean there are so many cool families in that ward, but I think I really connected with the Graham's and it's definitely on my priority list to keep in contact with them. And I can't BELIEVE that Joe let Lauren get near him! I can't even get that close to that little weirdo! That is just too funny.

So unfortunately Elder Corn and I have been having some car troubles as of late and our Corolla is incapacitated. First we needed to get one of our tires changed, so we take it to an auto shop in San Rafael and long story short, we wait there for 3 hours and leave with all the same tires that we went in with... So because of miscommunication we wasted a lot of time. That was a bit of a bummer. And then the next day the check engine light came on again after we had fixed it the first time, and we took it to the Toyota dealership to get it fixed, and we still are without car. But it's okay, because no matter how many car problems we have, the church is still true.

I wasn't able to see "Dare to Serve" between Conference sessions on Sunday. I know Elder Mallory was in it. Elder Mallory was serving in Fairfield at the same time I was, although he was in a different ward. We lived in the same apartment complex so I got to see him quite a bit. He's only a transfer ahead of me so we'll be heading to BYU-Idaho at the same time. I love that guy, we hit it off so quickly.

That is so cool that Ellen Frederickson was called to serve in Louisiana! I didn't even know she was considering a mission! When does she leave? Have fun with the gators and the mosquitos!

I loved General Conference and took so many notes on it! I got a blister from holding the pen for so long! We watched the second session at the Stricklings, though the rest of it was at the stake center. I noticed that they talked a lot about helping the poor and the needy in this Conference. I loved Elder Holland's talk on it, and how he pointed out how much the Savior loved the disadvantaged and the needy. He himself, the creator of the universe, was homeless. That was pretty powerful for me. They also gave a fair amount of attention to fortifying our testimonies to be prepared for whatever may try to shake them. This is true now more than ever. In this day and age, there seems to be so many things that may instill doubt and uncertainty about things we hold sacred. So many things try to grab our attention and sway our opinions to their favor. Media, advertisements, and people alike all may have intentions to plant a seed of disbelief and pull us away from the truth. We need to be ready to combat these inevitable situations by building up our testimonies now. I know that we can build a spiritual barricade to ward off the things that try to tear our testimonies down, just by doing simple things like praying, scripture study, and attending church. Then we can put on the whole armor of God and be given the protection he intended us to have.

Well, sorry this is so late! I had a really busy day. We had a zone barbecue on Rodeo beach and it took a lot of preparation and we had to speed though the day to get there early enough to start cooking but we had sooo much fun! You know it was a good day when you have a huge headache by dinner. Pictures to come! Love you all!

Love, Elder Hayden Ellis

Monday, September 29, 2014

Skyping a Baptism and Upcoming Transfers

Transfer Doctrine has come and gone! And the big news is that I am staying and Elder Meiners is leaving to go to my old stomping ground in Fairfield! He wasn't quite fortunate enough to be able to go to Cordelia 2nd Ward, but he is going to the Hmong branch. Going to the Hmong branch is a dream come true for him since he went hard at studying Hmong when we were in Crescent City together, so he'll do well there. My new companion is going to be Elder Corn, who I think will be coming here from Winters. I already know Elder Corn - he was my second district leader after Elder Call in Crescent City. I've noticed I've gotten to a point in my mission when I already know most people that transfer into the zone before they get here. I've been around long enough to meet a lot of people and make a lot of good friends, as opposed to 8 or 9 months ago when I didn't know ANYBODY except for the five Elders I was around in Crescent City. Elder Randall is also leaving and is heading to Napa and Elder Huff is coming in his stead. I'm going to miss Elder Randall - he's been a good friend to me since I've been in Novato. He goes home in December so it's probably going to be the last time I see him in the mission unless he comes back to take my companion and me out to lunch like he said he would! Elder Corn and I will be an interesting companionship. I'm not sure how it's going to go but I'm going to be optimistic about it.

So I had a fantastic day on Saturday! My investigator in Fairfield, Elise, was baptized! I'm so psyched for her! I was pretty bummed out that I had to leave the area before she was baptized, because she was ready while I was there but there was a good reason why she wanted to wait so I had to accept the fact I wasn't going to be able to be at her baptism... or so I thought! Earlier in the week Elder Kimball, who was my companion for a majority of the time I was teaching her, told me that her baptism was on Saturday and asked me if I wanted to Skype into the baptism with him, and of course I said heck yeah! So we were able to "be there" for the baptism, and it truly was a special experience for me. Not only did I get to see familiar faces that I really miss, but I remember Elise when we first started teaching her and seeing her now and how far she's come is amazing to be a part of. She had so many good questions and thoughts, and she definitely worked Elder Kimball and me hard and made us do a lot of thinking, but she finally came to the conclusion that baptism is important and something she wanted in her life. I'm so happy for her and grateful that Heavenly Father allowed me to be a part of her life. By the way, Mom, during the baptism I was told by an anonymous source that Sister Graham is coming to visit you, which is so cool! So you dropping this little "secret" to me is not new information. I have my sources too. :)

Like I promised last week, I was able to help set up for a baptism yesterday for the Stickles family. It was for their daughter who just turned 8. So I was able to attend four baptisms in the last two weeks, which is definitely a record for me!

Well, General Conference is coming up! I am so excited! I cannot believe it's already that time of year again. I feel like it wasn't that long ago that I was watching it with the Grahams at their house. Elder Jeffery R. Holland promised that, "if we teach by the spirit and you listen by the spirit, some one of us will touch on your circumstance, sending a personal prophetic epistle just to you." I promise that if you take a question to General Conference and diligently seek for an answer during it, by the spirit and through the words of our prophet and General Authorities, you will receive an answer. I'm so grateful for modern day Prophets and Apostles, and for the guidance and counsel they convey to us. It truly is a blessing from our Heavenly Father.

Love, Elder Hayden Ellis

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Oakland Temple and a Cyst

Hi Mom!

So transfers are coming up! Can't believe how quickly this one went by! We find out what's happening on Friday. Our prediction is that Elder Milne and I stay in Novato and that Elder Randall and Elder Meiners leave. Although we could be wrong and I could leave and Elder Meiners stays for 6 months. But the only way that could happen is if he trained a new missionary, which could happen since we have 27 new missionaries coming to our mission next transfer! That's a lot of greenies, so we need a lot of trainers! That might happen, but more likely than not, I'll stay here another transfer. But one thing we are sure of is that either Elder Meiners or I will leave, because it wouldn't make sense for both of us to stay together for three transfers. So by Tuesday next weekI will have a new companion!

So I've been having some medical problems. I've developed a cyst on my tailbone which has virtually made sitting normally and sleeping on my back impossible. I've had it for a couple of months, but it hasn't gotten really bad till this week. I noticed it when I got to Novato and it was slightly painful and wasn't that big but after a while it got even smaller, so, taking after my father, I ignored the medical problem and figured it was fine. But this week it came back with a vengeance and was the size of quarter and immensely painful! I called the mission nurse who told me to set up an appointment with a doctor in Santa Rosa and gave me his information for me to give him a call. Well, it turns out that I'm awful at setting up doctors appointments. I called the number and starting talking to the secretary who answered the phone and quickly it dawned on me that I forgot the doctors name. So when she asked me who I was trying to set up an appointment with and listed three different names, I had no idea what to say! I figured I had nothing to lose at that point so I asked her, "I can't remember what the doctor's name is, but which one of them specializes in cyst removal?" And she promptly told me none of them do, so I apologized for my blunder and might have mentioned, "well... this is awkward.." at some point. Then we both came to the mutual agreement to hang up the phone. So I'm going to have to try again later. Although the cyst has once again assumed its small and less painful state, I'm trying to fight the Ellis in me that wants to forget about it and assume it's fine. I'll have to break character and make that appointment.

Well this week we were able to go to two baptisms, one on Friday and the other one on Sunday. The first one was a member's daughter in our ward who just turned 8. We were invited to attend to assist with the preparation, like filling the baptismal font and setting up the chairs. Then, Elder Meiners and I were asked to be witnesses for the baptism to make sure it was done correctly. The girl, who had formerly procrastinated her baptism due to being nervous and unsure about it, left the baptismal fount and when asked how she felt, told her mom she felt happy. It's amazing to see the change that comes over people when they take small steps along the Iron Rod. Even at such a young age, she decided that baptism was a commitment she wanted to make and she already feels the blessings and joy come from her decision. The other baptism was for one of the Spanish Sister's investigator, and we went because we invited one of our investigators to attend and she showed up! So even though it was a Spanish baptism, and there was quite a few things lost in translation, she still enjoyed it and felt the spirit. So we need to go see her and teach her again while she still remembers the feeling! And we have another baptism that we need to help out with coming up this week! Love it!

We went to the Oakland temple which is always a great experience. The temple is the absolute best places to have questions answered! I know the temple is the House of the Lord, and because of it we can be sealed to our families for all time and eternity. I have such a testimony of the temple and know of the importance of doing work for our ancestors there.

Love, Elder Hayden Ellis

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Bunkers and Redefining Tracting

Touristy picture at the Golden Gate Bridge.

Myself, Elder Minkler, and Hermana Wickline posing dramatically for the camera.

Pitch-black selfie with Hermana Billat.

On top of a World War II bunker.

At the bottom of an old World War II  bunker.

We went exploring in a hidden bunker where a lot of people go to graffiti the walls, so it was like walking through a ghetto art gallery!


The jellyfish that we found washed up on shore that I took a bite of.
Saltiest thing EVER. Not a overly pleasant experience but I've never
been a picky eater in the past.

Elder Randall buried his legs in the sand up to his knees so Elder Merrell and I took
the opportunity to take some hilarious pictures 
with him.

Somehow Elder Milne broke my chair, so this is my study station now! 

Hey Mom!

It's the start of week five! Hard to imagine that we get transfer information in a week. It will be interesting to see who my next companion will be. I feel like Elder Meiners and I just became companions but it's been 3 months already! On top of it all, I've been in Novato for a while now and will soon be in a new area again. It's not easy to wrap my mind around it all.

This last week was a little slow, and we weren't able to see many of our investigators. Everyone here is busy all the time and it's really difficult to catch people when they are available! But we were able to visit some less active members that we haven't been able to see since I've been here, so that was progress. Also something exciting that happened was the Elders Quorum and the missionaries helped move in a family (I'm pretty sure we help people move at least once a week - we already have another one planned for this next week, so by now I've gotten pretty good at it) who are not members of the church, which is uncommon here. Apparently a friend of the family is a member of the church and he called ahead and asked us to assist. Normally people are so unwilling or untrusting to accept help from others, especially for something like moving, so I was really glad we could help out!

I went on exchanges with a missionary in my district, Elder Chan, and he is easily the most effective missionary in my mission. He is from Hong Kong so already people want to talk to him, but he's just so bold and real with people that he can talk to and teach anyone. We went tracting for a while and he can get into anyone's house. Sometimes he will just walk right in and start talking to them about what they are watching on TV or just about whatever and they will just let it happen. Then he will teach them a lesson! If I tried randomly walking into someone's house they would call the police on me. I think he can get away with it because he's Chinese and because he doesn't give them an opportunity to call him on it - he'll just walk in and talk to them like he belongs there. He redefines what tracting is. I definitely learned a lot from him!

Well it was another pretty slow week. Like I mentioned earlier, we didn't really get to see our investigators this week, but on the bright side I learned how to play my first song on the piano! "Mad World" by Gary Jules, I'm pretty sure that his name at least. I'll send a video home of me playing it sometime in the future!

Now, for your viewing pleasure, I present to you a man fleeing from a bear. Enjoy.

ʕ •ᴥ•ʔ       ε=ε=ε=ε=ε=ε=┌(; ̄◇ ̄)┘

Love, Elder Hayden Ellis