Monday, March 30, 2015

Easter Eggs and Zip Lines

Decorating Easter eggs with the Vandenburgs
Swinging with reckless abandon like a couple of school girls
At the Graham's house in Fairfield
Fun at the foot doctor with Elder Eccles

Dismounting from the zipline seat
And getting smacked in the face when the seat sprung back unexpectedly.

Happy Birth-month, Mom!

Sorry I forgot, (or completely disregarded all together,) your birthday month, Mom. I just want to say how grateful I am for you and for your example to me. You've been more than I deserve and I'm blessed and proud to call myself your son. Now that I got that sentimental crap out of the way, let's get to what you all came here for!

Elder Eccles and I took a road trip to Vallejo for his ingrown toe problems and he had them removed right there! It was super gross yet fascinating to watch. I still have mixed feelings about it. But he had half of three of his toenails removed and Dr. Pilkington, (who is also a member,) put some medicine on it which kills the nail so it never comes back. So that's a bummer. Buh-bye toenails. We also got to see the Beverley's and Graham's in Cordelia! It was so good to see them again. I got really nostalgic while driving around Fairfield. I can hardly believe I was there a year ago this month... Doesn't feel like it's been that long at all!

The Zone Leaders told me during interviews with President Alba that we are changing apartments and moving into a new one with them. The Zone Leaders, and the Elders that they currently live with, are getting kicked out of their apartment so it can be remodeled. So what's happening is Elders Tepox and Hansen are taking our apartment because they don't have a car and it's closer to their area and more convenient for them to live in our apartment, and I am moving into a new apartment that's further north in Napa. The Zone Leaders and Elder and Sister Porter, who are in charge of our housing, told me some really good things about the apartment. Apparently it has a washer and dryer, which will be REALLY nice to have in the apartment so we don't have to worry about which member will help us with laundry on Mondays. Also, it's a really nice area and it's bigger than the apartment we live in now. AND it has a gym! If it pans out like Elder Despain and Francom say it'll be like, it should pose to be the best housing unit in the mission. Too bad I will only live in it for a couple of weeks. So my address will no longer be 467 Seminary St. I'll let you all know what my new address is when I figure it out myself.

Elder Eccles and I have gotten SOOO many referrals this week! It's been absolutely ridiculous how many we've gotten. I think we are at 13 or so now. Something like that. None of the new investigators we're getting are from our contacting. One of the referrals is an African kid named Abubakarr. He moved here from Sierra Leone a month ago and he's just about one of the nicest kids ever. While we were trying to teach Abubakarr, he proceeded to inform us of how corrupt his home country's government and medical system is, and how the Ebola virus is terrorizing everyone there. We received extensive knowledge from him on the topic of the Ebola virus. That being said, I think he educated us more than we did him... We didn't manage to get a whole lot of teaching done but we will make sure he's more focused on what we are saying next time we go over.

Thank you, mother, for your extensive research on what my mental capacity was lacking. I appreciate it. Don't worry, I'm taking careful notes on your findings about a saying I've only used once (Holy Toledo), but probably never will again. And yes, I got the package and the picture, (which provided me with more than one giggle, but it's still more respectable than Home Depot)! Everything you sent fits and is greatly appreciated! And don't be too surprised about your son's vast knowledge on medical anomalies. I had asked Elder Eccles about his medical condition and I completely spelled it wrong. It's 'Ileus' not 'Elias'. When I started reading the symptoms to him that you emailed to me, he told me that's definitely not the disease he has... So Elder Eccles may not have symptoms of mental retardation, but I might... Apparently Illeus is a life-long condition so he has to deal with it for a long time to come. Please send my love to Aunt Liane for her condition and my disdain to you for your incompetence in constructing a decent NCAA a bracket. Golden State Warriors all the way!

Another referral we received was a handoff lesson with the second ward missionaries, Elders Tognetti and Wilkes. A handoff lesson is where two missionaries who have been teaching an investigator tell them that they won't be teaching them anymore, and that the other two missionaries will take over since the investigator lives in their area. I don't really like handoff lessons, they are kinda awkward. "Hey, so we know that you have already gotten to know us and you're comfortable with us already but here are two brand new guys that you know nothing about who will be teaching you from now on. Bye!" So we met with the second ward and their investigator, Nilima, and taught her about the plan of salvation. The lesson went pretty well and she seemed fine with Elder Eccles and I being the ones to teach her from now on. She already has a baptismal date for April 25th, so I may have a baptism coming up if all goes as planned.

Last night we had dinner with the Vandenburg family and towards the end of dinner they asked if we had any pressing appointments later that night. We didn't so they invited us to dye Easter eggs with them. This we could not refuse... So we had a jovial and quite whimsicaltime dyeing eggs! I have lots of pictures to send home of that experience, not to mention our pre-dinner activity of me going down their zip-line! It's was a pretty good night, if I do say so myself. I'm pleased to announce that my day today has been one of much joy and miracles. We went back over to the Vandenburg's to do our laundry because we realized after we got home last night that we had no place to do it today, and they were cordial enough to let us return this morning and do our laundry. While we were in between loads we made much merriment with their children by playing games such as basketball, baseball, football, and of course some more of the zip line. Then after we departed, Elder Eccles and I went to Big 5 Sporting goods to buy some knifes, which will most likely find themselves in a picture home so you'll see them eventually. They were about $10 each - why wouldn't we buy them?!

While we were there we got a phone call from a member in Vallejo that came up to Napa a couple of days ago to have dinner with us so we could eat with a single woman. He told us that there was a nonmember in the hospital that wanted to meet with us. I'm not proud of myself when I say we allowed p-day to be a priority and told him we would come by later. If I had known we were going there to also give him a blessing, then I would've made sure we had gone right away, but that's no excuse because I still put someone who wants to come closer to Christ on hold just so I could send some emails. Now luckily nothing bad ended up coming from this decision, but I'm disappointed in myself for confusing my priorities. Anyway, Elder Eccles told him it was our P-Day and we weren't available then and I didn't say anything to stop him. We later got another call from him around 4:30 pm asking us again to come by to talk with him and give him a blessing. So, we cut our email time short and went to see this man in the hospital. When we got there we were told by the member, who was also doubling as the police officer keeping an eye on him, that his name was Paul, and he was in the hospital because he had tried to commit suicide. Just like that - I felt guilty for not coming by earlier. We went in and talked with him and he's such a nice guy. He told us that he indeed tried to take his life, and proceeded to ask us some questions about the LDS church because he wants to join it. He asked us questions about the Word of Wisdom and whatnot. One question the asked stood out among the others. He asked me, "Can I still be forgiven by Him even after all I've done?" I almost broke down in tears right there. I told him absolutely and began teaching him that through Christ we can be cleansed of sin. Then we gave him a blessing, which he asked me to give. For the first time in my life, I actually felt like the words I was saying we're not of my own. I was saying things that I wouldn't normally think to say and Elder Eccles told me after we left that he felt that way too. More importantly, Paul could feel it, and he recognized the power that came from the blessing. He quickly asked when we could meet again and we gave him a pamphlet with our number on it and left. This happened about two hours ago and I still feel the spirit from the experience!

I know that the Priesthood is real, and that we truly have the authority from God to bring his children back to him. I also know how crucial missionary work is, and without it people like Paul wouldn't be able to find the peace and solace Christ has to offer a tortured soul. We have prophets leading and guiding us in this dispensation, which we will hear from next week. I invite us all to carefully listen to the inspired words they speak. They will give us counsel specifically for us in this day and age. I testify of these things in the name of Christ, Amen.

Love, Elder Hayden Ellis

Monday, March 23, 2015

Fun With Fire and Exterminating Gophers

Hello everyone!

Holy Toledo. Elder Eccles is unlike any companion I've ever had before. He's especially unlike Elder Chan, whom I'm still used to being with. Before the transfer I had heard he was awkward, which isn't accurate. How can I describe Elder Eccles in a few words.... Short. Hyper. And talkative. Very talkative. I'm still adjusting. I feel like I just got the little brother I didn't want. Although so far we get along pretty well. He has a lot of medical problems. He has something called Elias (I think Elder Ellis means Celiac), which apparently means his intestines don't work or something? I'm not really sure. But he also has really bad insomnia and wakes up 5-10 times a night. He informed me this has been a recurring problem throughout his mission and he hasn't had a good night sleep since he's been out. Not to mention his ingrown toe nail problems. So he's overall a medical disaster. Although the bright side is that after I made him call the mission nurse, she told him to made a doctor's appointment in Vallejo or Fairfield. Wooooooh! Road trip! I'm pretty stoked to drive to Vallejo and I'm really pumped to go back to Fairfield!! Hopefully everyone hasn't moved yet and we can visit some families I haven't seen in a long time!

Elder Eccles and I helped out with some service for one of our members, Sister Wing, by helping her set up her garden. We put up some chicken wire to keep the deer out and whatnot.The really fun part came when she asked us if we would help smoke out some gophers that were terrorizing her yard; she asked us to dig in mounds of dirt made by the gophers, find the tunnel, stick a dynamite-looking smoke bomb in the hole, light it and bury it like our lives depended on it. How could we possibly decline? So we helped her smoke out her gopher problem! Reflecting on it, I'm not sure if gopher-slaying is an approved missionary service opportunity... If done incorrectly and fumes are inhaled, it can prove to be quite lethal... But live and learn, I guess. Now I have an option to open a pest control company later in life called "Eccles'n'Ellis Extermination Crew. Euthanizing critters since 2015". So there's a possibility for later on.

We had the first District meeting of the transfer. It's always pretty strange to start a new transfer and have a ton of new people at your district meetings. I feel like as soon as I get used to the people in my zone it's already time again for some to transfer out and others to cycle in. Glorious news! I found my pen! Somehow Elder Despain had it and I saw him using it in District meeting. Prayer works! #tendermercies #godisourlovingheavenlyfather

Elder Eccles had a really tough break down and got pretty depressed. He didn't really have any motivation to work and was just feeling really bummed. I called the zone leaders to come over and help me give him a blessing. It didn't take me very long to figure out why I am with Elder Eccles. He has a lot of problems that I use to have. He doesn't feel like he fits in with a lot of the other missionaries, which I totally know how that feels. That's pretty much how I felt my whole childhood. So I know how he feels. I hope I don't sound like I'm just trashing on my companion, because I'm not. I love the kid, and I know that we both were put together for a reason and that we both have a lot that we need to learn from each other.

We had some really good lessons this week. We taught this one woman named Charene who was a referral from one of the members of our ward. Things went incredibly well with her. We had a really solid lesson and she asked a lot of good questions. At the end she had a Book of Mormon in her hand with a determination to read it. We also taught Donald and Elizabeth Hall the second half of the plan of salvation. We re-invited them to be baptized and they really plan on pondering this question. So it's just a matter of time before they feel the Holy Ghost and say yes!

Sorry this letter seems overall negative, I'm really not trying to trash on Elder Eccles. Hopefully I can live up to the expectations of me this transfer so I can help build him up. All I know is this next six weeks will be a challenge.

Love you all! The Church is true!

Love, Elder Hayden Ellis

Monday, March 16, 2015

Transfers and Departing Favorites

Elder Ellis and the departing Elder Chan

Bishop and Lori Candland with Elder Ellis

I had a pretty slow week, we only taught 6 lessons which is an all time low for us. But it's Gucci, we had a busy week with conference and with all the goodbyes Elder Chan has been saying to the members here. It's been a pretty busy but unproductive week.

Way to go, mom! WOOOOOOH! I'm so happy to hear all the tests went well! I'm so excited that this job opportunity is working out for you.

I went to Santa Rosa to have the all-mission conference to hear Brother Heaten and Elder Nielsen speak to us once more. He told us many things like how he's going to introduce many European countries with iPads, how he's speaking in the morning session of General Conference. He also showed us the new Easter video: Because He Lives, and taught us how we can be more effective and safe with technology. There was something that stood out to me when he was speaking about agency, and how we only have two decisions to make with our agency, and that's who we give it to; back to Heavenly Father, or to the adversary. When we make covenants by baptism and through the temple, yet choose to give our agency to the adversary, we are not exercising agency at that point, we are breaking covenants. Don't be a covenant breaker. Once we choose God through baptism and with the temple, we have high expectations placed on our shoulders, but only through the atonement of Jesus Christ are we able to meet these expectations.

Don't fret mother. I don't think you'll have to worry about me taking too LONG on my homecoming talk. I don't like being behind the podium anymore than I have to!

One of my sources informed me that some of my favorite people from Cordelia 2nd Ward are departing from the 'Land of the Wind' to travel and take up residence in Utah and Texas. What gives!? Now I don't want to embarrass anyone by pointing blames and naming fingers, so I shall use code names to avoid divulging sensitive and confidential information. A family by the name of Graham's are relocating to the aforementioned land of Texas, and I find this completely unacceptable and cannot look upon it with the least degree of allowance. Now the Harris and Beverly families have the right idea. Utah is the promised land. "Come unto [Utah], all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and [It] will give you rest." Matthew

Transfers are here! Big changes are happening. Elder Chan got a call the day of Transfer Doctrine and President told him he is going to be a Zone Leader in Santa Rosa South zone with my good friend Elder Mallory! Yeeaaaah Chan! My beloved Elder Guthrie is going home for hernia surgery! I am so bummed out. He probably won't be able to come back for 6 months. I'm going to miss him a lot. Not to mention Elder Moua is getting transferred to San Rafael. Everyone I love is leaving me! It's going to be a lonely transfer for me. But the Church is still true so I shall endure all things! I'm getting Elder Eccles as my new companion. I don't really know him that well since he's only been out 8 months or so, and I've never been in the same zone as him. I'm anticipating it to be a very interesting transfer. The Albas go home in June, so I'll have my new mission president, President Wright, for almost 6 months.

Saturday night we attended an auction for raising funds for Girls' Camp. It's pretty cool and the ward really loves it and gets into it. One woman auctioned her services to do all a person's taxes for free. It's funny because I'm told the people who bid the highest on that one are people who are already her clients. It was pretty successful, the Young Women raised $2,200. Not bad! Looks like they are going to Girls' Camp this year!

I get my new comp tomorrow so we shall see what happens, but until then, hasta la pasta!

Love, Elder Hayden Ellis

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Spiderman and the Mentally Challenged

Even Superheroes like hanging out with the Elders.

Napa Zone Conference

Napa Zone Conference

Buenos Dias!

I know I say this just about every email but we had an interesting week to say the least.

We had another zone conference this transfer that was pretty much focused on iPads and online missionary work in preparation for getting the new iPads. Like I said before, we will slowly be getting Facebook back, but I probably won't use it. There are so many restrictions on it now, which is to keep us safe, but also a lot of productivity is lost as well. We can only proselyte to people on Facebook who live in our area. So it's kinda pointless now. I'd rather just talk to people in person if I can only teach to people near me. We have an all mission conference on Wednesday and Elder Nielsen is coming back to teach us how to be safe with our devices. So we'll see how that least I'll get to see everyone!

I love my ward and they sure are taking care of me, but we are getting too much pizza and too much In-n-Out Burger! No more please! I don't like complaining about something as precious to me as food, but it's killing us. I'm thinking that Sister Ellen Frederickson needs to figure out how to get that Cajun goodness to where I am! I want a crawfish "bowl"!

We had a really powerful lesson with one of our investigators about repentance. We were planning on teaching him about the plan of salvation until he opened up to us a lot and told us stuff that he hasn't told anyone before. So we took that subtle prompting and changed our lesson to the atonement of Jesus Christ and repentance. It never ceases to amaze me what people confide in us. We are just two strangers, kids nonetheless. But people trust us enough to tell us things that most people would pay hundreds of dollars to tell a therapist! It just strengthens my testimony that we are not just stupid kids, (not to say that we aren't, because we are,) but we are also set apart as representatives of Jesus Christ. Now I'm not saying we are perfect like Him, or even comparable to Him in any way. Frankly that'd be sacrilegious. But I know that we have the authority given by Him to teach his gospel, and to testify in His name. Everywhere we go people can see this.

So we have some pretty funny less actives in our ward. This one women we are teaching said she was reading in 1 Nephi 25, which would normally be a good thing, but unless she miraculously found the 160 pages Joseph Smith lost, there is no such thing as 1 Nephi 25. I asked her more about this mysterious "Chapter 25". She couldn't remember much about it, but apparently it's when the Nephites and the Lamanites were fighting. Good progress! She narrowed it down to almost the entire Book of Mormon! At least we know what book she's reading. Another less active we are reading the Book of Mormon with absolutely refuses to say the pray or read with us. So we were reading to him when I noticed that he was looking everywhere BUT his book, and that he was closing his eyes a lot. From this I concluded that he was either narcoleptic or not paying attention. So we were reading 1 Nephi 2:11 and I decided to improvise a little to see if he was actually listening. "Now this he spake because of the stiffneckedness of Laman and Lemuel; for behold they did murmur in many things against their father,that an angel of the lord appeared unto them and rebuked them saying, 'Join thou the Mormon church!'" Elder Chan was looking at me like I was crazy, but the member didn't seem to notice, which confirmed my hypothesis.

One fun fact I recently learned is that Napa wasn't always known for its wine - at one point it was known for criminally insane people. Delightful. Earlier this week Elder Chan and I discovered this rather large mental institution on the corner of Imola and Napa Vallejo highway. This explained the multitude of apartment complexes around Napa that were erected for housing the mentally disabled. There are at least three complexes built to serve this purpose. We've seemed to stumble across the path of several "mentally hysterical" (a nice way of phrasing it) individuals this week - one of which was particularly interesting to exchange words with. Now when we first met with Darren, we didn't know his elevator didn't got to the top floor, and we simply just thought he was weird. But during our second visit we discovered he was insane when he proceeded to tell us that he was born in the 60's but killed his father in the 50's. He also mention how he's 140 years old but he's aging backwards, so he'll be 139 next year. Then he told us he's so old there wasn't a written language when he was born. He looks like he's 50 years old to me, but who knows how old he is! He told us he used to kill 200 people everyday when he was in prison for the life sentence he was serving, but when I asked him why he wasn't in prison now he said he was on his vacation time. He's also a judge, lawyer, executioner, and a librarian. So, it turns out that everyone we are teaching aren't even remotely accountable! But they sure are entertaining to talk to!

Saturday was absolutely dreadful, and quite possibly the longest day of my life. So many of our appointments fell through and only two of our planned appointments ended up being there. It was pretty rough. The strange part about it was that our day could easily be summarized as a petting zoo. We spontaneously visited two less active families, both of them found it necessary to introduce us to their livestock. One family brought us to their backyard to show us some baby goats. The other was working in his turkey pen. He told us that the 13 baby turkeys in the pen are for the Napa County Fair, and the harsh reality is that all of them were doomed to be dinner. At first the thought of turkeys being bred to be destined for an oven was a bit depressing. Then I thought: "wait a minute. I bet you'll all be delicious..." And then I got over it.

Well that's all for this week! I would like to take an excerpt from Elder Parker Hamrick's email to close mine: "LOVE you all... With all of my body... I would say my heart, but my body is bigger... well sort of... It's just super skinny..."

Love, Elder Hayden Ellis

Monday, March 2, 2015

Country Club Life and Tracting with a Greenie

Hey mom!

So this email is going to be a little bit shorter since it's only been half a week since I last emailed.

I went on exchanges again with Elder Lamunyon. His Greenie desire to work is pretty refreshing. He wants to become the best missionary that he can be. We exchanged after our Thursday P-Day, and he told me he wanted to work on being better at tracting. So with this in mind, I took him to an untapped street and then told him, "Everything the light touches is yours to tract. Go forth my Beloved." So he went to work and started knocking doors! He's a little rough around the edges when it comes to social encounters, something that comes with Asperger's Syndrome, but he's slowly improving. Elder Lamunyon gets frustrated when someone bails him out of a bad contact. He would rather be left in the water to see how he would handle it on his own, so for the most part I didn't say anything and he tracted each door by himself. He's going to be a really great missionary.

Congrats to my Asian brother-in-arms, Elder Chan! He was accepted to BYU Provo on Saturday! He was really stressing out about it and was worried that he wouldn't be accepted. I'm really glad he's going to be in Utah when I get home. It's certainly a lot closer than BYU Hawaii, which is where he was studying before his mission. Elder Chan has been a great blessing to me. He's helped me more than any other companion I've had. I've really grown a lot from him. Normally I really dislike talking to people about my problems, but he really helped me get over that, and when we have any sort of contention between us, we talk it out and fix the problem. We have been really good for each other. I've gotten so use to Elder Chan it's going to feel weird when I get a new companion.

We had a really great lesson with our investigator, Eddie. When we went over his ex-wife was there and she quickly told us our services were no longer needed there, and that she would take over. "Psh, as if! Game on, lady!" She then started to bash on us. Elder Chan and I don't Bible bash, so it was pretty one-sided. We were asking her questions but she was just stomping on us. It's interesting how someone can disrespect one's entire way of life all the while bearing a seemingly friendly smile. She told us how much she respects us going out and spreading the gospel but would then say how it's all in vain because we're ignorant and misinformed heathens! (Perhaps that last part is slightly embellished. She never actually said "heathens" but overall that's basically what she was implying.) I've noticed whenever people try to bash with me and tear down my faith it only strengthens it and makes me more confident that I've make the right decision to be here. Now the actually great part of the lesson came afterward when she left and Eddie was telling us that he has a lot of respect for what we do. He went off about people who can't spend two minutes of their time to listen to us, who are devoting two years to help people. I already know I'm doing the right thing, but it's nice to hear when other people appreciate what we're doing.

Thanks for the package, Mom! I read the article about Doris (the first convert in our family who was tracted by missionaries in Denmark in the mid 1800s) and I was pretty touched by it. #spiritofElijah. Thanks for sending that part, Mom. It's nice to know a little about my family.

And no I haven't gotten the new iPads yet. I won't till the 11th.

Well not much for this email since I last wrote on Thursday. Today should be a fun day, Elders Moua, Tepox, Guthrie and I are going to the driving range with a member from second ward named Andy Miller. I guess he's a professional golfer and he belongs to this fancy country club. I need to work on my swing......well, I guess develop one overall since I've never been golfing other than miniature version. I'm not much of a golfer but it should still make for a good time!

(Fast forward to after going golfing.) Holy moses that was so much fun! I'm actually not that bad of a golfer! Not sure if I could do nine holes very well but I can send the ball pretty far! We had a lot more fun than we thought we would and plan on going next week. This country club is pretty prestigious - we felt like real big shots! They provided Elder Tepox and I with free golf shirts (which are like $65 each,) because we didn't have any collared shirts. We even got our own golf carts! Elder Tepox and I were just cruising around feeling way more prideful and important than we should've! I felt like I had a reserved seat in the great and spacious building. That being said, I may need to be careful to not get too use to country club life.

Love, Elder Hayden Ellis