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.......