Monday, April 27, 2015

A Farewell to Napa and Embracing a New Adventure

A genuine Napa vineyard picture

In the vineyard with Elder Eccles

Our district: Elders Evans, Despain, Eccles, Francom, Lamunyon and Hermanas Gonzales and Kall

The Napa building, that allegedly fulfills prophecy - the steeple casts a shadow on
Governor Bogg's grave at a certain time of the day 

Bro. Perry

Bro. Pike, my ward mision leader

The Dreyer family

One of the many Ellis families here. Like I mentioned before, there are a lot of Ellis families here

Mitch Blaziek and Kip Woods. Mitch is less active and I have met with him every Wednesday
night at 7 pm for the past few months. He is such a good guy! As you can see by the tears in
his eyes, it was a pretty emotional goodbye.

The Moores

Sis. Harris, a less active member who was reactivated while I was here

Tess Brown and Rick Lawley - a part member family that feeds us steaks!

The Lord needs workers tending his vineyard! Matthew 20:1-16, D&C 21:9 and D&C 138:56

Napa vineyard

My beloved Daniel Herrera. He is the most golden investigator I've ever met!

The Bobzians

My faithful steed for the past 4 1/2 months

Happy Transfers everyone!

So I bet you are all dying to know where Elder Ellis, the Beloved, will be transferred to next! At least this is what I WOULD say if my mom didn't already know where I was going! You know, I'm under the impression that this is not the first time she knew where I was going before I could email home about it. Well I'll try to keep the excitement going for those of you who still DON'T know where I'm going. I'm being transferred to Lakeport! Lakeport is in the Clearlake zone, which is fairly notorious throughout the mission. Allow me to paint a picture for you all of what I soon will encounter. Lake County is built around Clearlake (which is a lake), and some of the surrounding cities are Kelseyville, Clearlake, (which is the city on the east side of the lake), and there is Lakeport, (the city where I will live on the west side of the lake.) So, I must dismiss some misconceptions some of you may have when you hear "Clearlake", because this is quite the misnomer: Clearlake is anything but clear. I have been informed that it is the most vile and disgusting lake one can come across on the west coast. If you look at it on google maps it is incredibly green, so that's an indication right there of the water quality. I have been warned more than once not to swim in the lake. Also might I add, that Lake County is also acknowledged for its copious amount of drugs, and the addicts who are using aforementioned drugs. I hear that even some active members grow weed there. It's just not a big deal to them as it is everywhere else. So this area will certainly be where my best mission stories come from. I have even been warned to never walk around barefoot because of the amount of syringes scattered about. I think that might be a little extreme but still noted.

So Lake County is definitely a pretty low income area. Most of the roads haven't even been paved. I hear from Elder Francom, who I live with now and who has already served there AND who is accompanying me and transferring there yet again, (he is displeased about this), that Lakeport is far nicer than the rest of Lake County. So at least most of my roads are paved. I also hear there is a lot of success here due to the humility that generally follows poverty. I'm excited to hear that the ward I'll be serving in may already have some baptism coming up!

Now I can finally tell you all something I'm positive none of you know - who my companion will be! Drumroll drumroll drumroll drumroll drumroll.... Elder Yepez! He is from somewhere in SoCal but I'm not sure where. But he definitely is Hispanic. Yaaaaay! Another diverse companion! I have never talked to him but I have heard of him before and hear he's a great guy. He has been out on his mission longer than I have. I actually might be his last companion if we stay together for 2 transfers, which is quite possible.

My zone is SUPER tiny. There's only 5 companionships in it. Every other zone I've been in have been double that. But there will be some familiar faces in it. My old companion, Elder Kimball, is in my Zone. So is Elder Merrell, (whom I love), Elder Hacking who came out the same time as I did, and of course Elder Francom who is transferring there with me. So basically I know half the zone already... Small zones tend to be a lot more unified and closer together than bigger zones. It was like that in Crescent City since the six of us were practically our own little zone up there. I'm really excited for this next transfer! I know all my crazy mission stories are going to be coming from this area so I'm pretty stoked about it. It's funny the looks people give me when I tell them where I'm going - it's like I just informed them I've contracted cancer. I'm more optimistic about my new area than they are. I'm going to miss all the wonderful Naponians I've met, but I'm looking forward to meeting many new people, even if they have less teeth than the average individual.

So I've had some pretty amazing lessons this week with our investigators with baptism dates. Daniel is so amazing - I just want to shed tears of fire. He calls and texts us daily and tells us how he loves us and we are his brothers regularly. He retains SO much from everything he reads! He came to church yesterday and told us how things just feel right when he's with us and how he's happier than he's ever been. It's amazing to see how someone like Daniel, who's informed us a little bit about what his life was like before and how it wasn't in harmony with God at all, can be so prepared and ready for the gospel. I'm so blessed to have had a hand in helping Daniel receive the gospel into his life. 

Well this transfer has had its ups and downs. Elder Eccles has definitely been the toughest companion I've had so far. There have been quite a few times when I felt like I was doing everything by myself, including the teaching, finding, planning, the whole nine yards. I definitely have developed more patience for those who may not be the easiest to get along with. It wasn't an easy transfer but I'm better for it. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to be working on the Lord's hour. The blessings that come from service to the Lord are immeasurable! Love you all!

Our Mother's Day Skype is coming up soon! I'll see you then!

Love, Elder Hayden Ellis

Monday, April 20, 2015

Chemical Burns and Copious Books

I'm expanding my culinary prowess from cactus to artichoke. And they were delicious! It was
Elder Despain's first artichoke, so I'm glad I was able to provide a pleasant experience for him.

Hola hola hola.

So first I have to share a story. I must get it out of the way before getting on to the important content. This is the story of how Elder Ellis Naired his legs. And it worked well. Why did he do this you might ask? Well, Elder Ellis proposes a counteroffer and asks, "why not?" I was able to convince Elder Francom to do it as well. Peer pressure works great. Now I have scripture to defend my Nairing process. Many of you may be saying, "What? This is blasphemy! There is no scripture that talks about Nair!" This scripture is found in Alma 37:35, which reads: "O, remember, my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God." I am learning wisdom and gaining experiences in my youth. For now I know that one shan't leave Nair upon one's leg exceeding 10 seconds, lest he receive a chemical burn. This is beneficial to know for the future. 

Apparently the mission has a rating system on drivers. There are A, B, and C drivers. "A" drivers are missionaries that they feel most comfortable driving and want to be behind the wheel more for optimum safety for the missionaries. I've just received confirmation that I am an "A" driver. Finally, after years of being terrified of driving, I'm finally a confident "A" driver!

I went on exchanges with Elder Lamunyon in his area. He had quite a few service appointments lined up that day, one of which was this ridiculous task he volunteered us for. Elder Lamunyon agreed to help a women get rid of her copious amounts of literature. And by copious amounts of literature I mean this women had nearly 150, Holy Bible-sized books. Now I'm always down to help people with just about anything they need that's within my ability, but what are we suppose to do with 150 books!? So, we got to her house and we loaded the trunk and back seat of our little Toyota Corolla with what seemed like 2 metric tons of books. There was so much additional weight in the back of our car that every time we drove over any uneven surface, the bottom of our car would scrap along the road. We drove to the Napa library and were able to donate all the books and have a wonderful conversation with a women who told us all about how her son joined the church and went on a mission to Italy. It all worked out!

I went on our Wednesday night spits with a reactivated member, Marshall, to go see a less active man, Mitch. Mitch is going through some tough times, especially with the divorce he's going through and the custody battle he's in. While we were talking to him he was saying how his ex took his kid even though he has custody. He also elected to lower the amount of how much she needed to pay him for child support from $750 to $250 and Mitch said that no women would do that in the same situation. I was just sitting there thinking, "*Scoff* you obviously have not met my mother!" Hearing about all that just reminded me once more how grateful I am for my circumstances. I never realized like I do now how blessed I am until I embarked on a mission and witnessed less fortunate circumstances than mine.

We have 4 investigators with baptismal dates now! Wooooo! Not sure how all of that transpired but we have big things coming up in this area in the months to come. Unfortunately, I probably won't be here for any of them because all of them happen in the next couple of months and I expect to be transferred at the end of this month. One of these investigators, Daniel Herrera, came to church yesterday. It's sad to say that I've only had two investigators come to church the entire time I've been in Napa. I've been able to help reactivate a few less active members, but our investigator church attendance is nearly nonexistent. So it was quite refreshing when Daniel came to church yesterday! He really enjoyed it and so many members came up and made him feel welcome, which Napa 1st Ward is very good about doing. Daniel has a baptismal date for May 16th, and I firmly believe he can make it. We also set a baptismal date with Abubakarr Kamara, the young man from Sierra Leone. His is set for May 30th. So, I probably won't be able to have any baptism while I'm here, but I'm grateful I was able to leave this area better than when I found it. Transfers are next week. We find out Friday where I'll go next so we will see what happens! Next email will contain my new laboring location! 

Wow a Weber grill.... Don't know what that means but it seemed to impress the Elders around me, so good on ya! Mom, Sister Yeakey, who should've sent you a picture of my companion and I, said you looked super young when I showed her a picture of you. She thought you looked 30 years old. There's your uplift for the day! I'm glad to hear that Stephen wasn't overly traumatized by the movie when the mom was obliterated by a milk truck. Also, it's refreshing to hear that a friend of yours finds me exceedingly attractive. This will certainly aid me in the future.

Love, Elder Hayden Ellis

Monday, April 13, 2015

A Famous Grave and the Chopped Kitchen

Elder Eccles and I went to the Tulocay Cemetery and found Lilburn Boggs' grave - he was
the former Missouri governor who issued an extermination order for the Mormons. 

I was given a cactus by an investigator and I decided to accept the challenge presented to me.

I took the cactus and made it delicious!

My culinary prowess is ever increasing. If I ever get stuck in the dessert with a cactus, some
chickens and a tomato, I can rustle up a pretty decent meal. Be proud of me!

Fast Sunday really takes a toll on the psyche of young missionaries.

No cognitive functioning present.

Hey Mom!

Great googily moogily! You just dropped a lot of info on me! Where to start...? Congratulations to Mariah Wimmer for her mission cal! Welcome to the Cali-Club! #Calilyfe. Also to Riley Stephenson for his mission call. My co-worker before my mission went to Mozambique and he loved it there. Congrats to Jace for the engagement! So much is going on! That's fantastic to hear about Stephen being able to go to BYU. And even more exciting news how Grandpa is now in Primary! That is just too cute!

So some rather unfortunate news here. Elder Eccles and I went to another appointment for his toe problems in Vallejo, which all went well and he was given some simple instructions and we were out of there within 30 minutes. Perfect right? Well after we got home we had to make a call so I told Elder Eccles to grab the phone so we could set up an appointment. After extensively checking his pockets, his bag, and the entire interior of the car, we came to the conclusion that we left the phone in Vallejo. Which we did. Luckily the doctor we went to see was a member of the church and promptly got our phone to the Vallejo missionaries in the area and they were able to get the phone back to us. But we left it there last Tuesday so we had to go an entire week without our phone... How incredibly unfortunate our circumstances were, but all is well now, ANNNNND Elder Eccles toesies are doing well!

I know what you are all have been thinking to yourselves over the four months that I've been here: "Elder Ellis has been in Napa California, the wine capital of the world, and still has yet to present us with a humorous story about wine-related shenanigans." Well, I'm here to tell you today, wait no longer! A few nights ago after we retired to our place of residence, our roommates and zone leaders came home with a bottle of wine. After intensive questioning, we were informed that their investigator, who has little understanding of Mormon standards, insisted on gifting them this alcoholic beverage. So we had a bottle of wine... We decided to open it and pour it out, making it a picturesque moment. Unfortunately, we had no corkscrew, (I mean it makes sense, why would missionaries feel compelled to carry a cork screw around?) So, determined Elder Francom decided to take a knife to that bad boy and try to get it out that way. No success. He then had me try to remove the aforementioned cork in a similar manner. The unfortunate result was wine exploding all over our kitchen, our lovely white shirts, and, of course, my face. It's fortuitous that I properly moisturize my lips with Burt's Bees Chapstick because if I had dry lips that night and had licked my lips, then I would've broken the Word of Wisdom. Finally, there is my Napa wine story about how four missionaries were covered in red wine. And now Stephen can finally say, with no reservation, that his brother is in "wine country".

We had an awesome lesson with two less-active men named Mitch and Wade, and then right afterward with another less-active named Marty. Our Ward Mission Leader came out with us on splits and he really clicked with the two of them. We talked to them about how important Sabbath day attendance is. Mitch started telling us, like he does every time, how he likes to go fishing on the Sabbath, and how he feels so much closer to God there. Something popped in my head when he said that and I immediately replied: "Mitch, there's nothing wrong with fishing. In fact, God approves of fishing so much that He gave you six days to do it. But He wants your attendance and devotion on Sunday." It got me thinking how we have so much time to do all the things we want and need to do throughout the week. But on Sunday God wants our time. This is what God asks of us. And it's not that steep of a commitment he wants from us, if I say so myself.

I was SOOO exhausted on Sunday. Fasting kills when you need all the energy you can get! I don't think I've ever been less focused on anything in my life. But it was a successful week. We invited Abu, (the Sierra Leone kid who moved here roughly two months ago,) to be baptized and he said yes - so we possibly have a baptism coming up in this area. We've also been getting a ton of referrals, probably more than I've ever gotten in my mission as a whole. So there will be plenty to do here for many transfers to come!

I went golfing again today at the Silverado Golf course and I am getting pretty darn good! We always go to the driving range because we just like hitting balls as far as we can. At first I wasn't doing any better than the other two times I've gone, so I looked over to see how the country club members (who knew what they were doing) were doing it. I saw one man swing back and hit the ball in one quick and fluid motion. So I decided to try it just like that and my technique improved drastically! I started hitting almost 7 out of 10 balls at least 150 yards. So I'm quite proud of myself now! Pictures to come.

I talked to President Alba during interviews about when I go home and he told me to talk to President Wright about it in July. So, I still have no idea when I come home but I'm pretty sure I'll return the same time as scheduled. And I would like to come back to California as soon as possible when my mission is over, so if we could make that happen then that would be ideal.

Love you all! Have a super stellar week!

Love, Elder Hayden Ellis

Monday, April 6, 2015

Conference and a New Apartment

A toast to our new apartment

Happy Conference everyone!

Wow. I'm not sure what to think of this General Conference. It was so good, but at the same time it was very sad. I'm sure everyone heard when those people yelled out during the sustaining. I have to give those individuals credit for having the guts to openly be apostate in front of thousands of faithful Latter-day Saints in the conference, millions across the world, to a prophet and apostles of Christ, and to God Himself. That aside, it's very sad it happened. When I heard them yelling during the sustaining, all I could think was: "You.... Did you seriously just sass President Uchtdorf? Unacceptable!!" Also something that really disturbed us missionaries here in the Napa Zone was how President Monson wasn't able to close out Conference. It pains me to think of his deteriorating health. President Monson has been an outstanding prophet. I think of the scripture 2 Timothy 4:6-8 when I think of the service he has provided for the Lord's church: "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. 8. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." I'm grateful for his dedicated service and the love he has for the church. Good job, President Monson! Ya did good.

So I moved to my new apartment! My address is 2942 Soscol Ave #71, Napa, CA 94558. It's soooo nice! There are some things that I liked more in the other apartment, but for the most part this one is so much nicer. I really love the washer and dryer. That truly is a missionary's best friend. I'll send some pictures of the apartment when we clean it up a little. I forgot how much fun it is to be in a four man apartment!

Elder Eccles and I had a pretty good week. We got another call from our investigator Paul. He is the most prepared investigator I have ever encountered. He is truly amazing. He told us again how badly he wants to be baptized and how he wants to go on a mission like us, and he's 23, so that's very possible. He was transferred to the hospital in Vallejo so we couldn't go see him but we had some of the missionaries there go see him. He has a baptismal date now set for May. Unfortunately, I probably won't be in Napa for it, but hopefully I'll be close enough to Napa so I can return for the baptism. We are going to meet with him as much as we can to prepare him for that date! Also I went on exchanges with my District Leader, Elder Evans. I've never had a district leader that was younger than me before and he's quite new to the mission. I felt like I was training him during the exchange.

Elder Holland's talk was SO powerful. I love his talks so much, especially around Easter time. He conveys his message so fluidly and firmly. This life is NOT about taking a leap of faith just to find we have neither the strength nor the grip to pull ourselves up to safety. How incredibly pointless and void our lives would be if this were the case. I wish to add my testimony to that of Elder Holland, along with all the inspired speakers that bore testimony of Christ. I know He lives and that He is the messiah and redeemer of the world. I know that He conquered death on an Easter morning many years ago, and because of that sacred event, we too will all do the same one day. Because of Him, death hath no sting and the grave no victory. I'm so grateful for having a brother who is ready to reach out and grab us when we start to fall and for all he endured in order to make that possible for us.

Love, Elder Hayden Ellis