Monday, May 25, 2015

A Mission Blanket and Reminiscing about Kansas

My friend Abbie sent me an amazing Christmas/birthday gift. What's better than having my
name tag on even when I sleep at night?!

Hello everyone!

So, to be completely frank, our week has vastly sucked. It's been full of drama that's not ours but the members made it ours. So Elder Yepez and I have been greatly frustrated all week and it just hasn't been overly pleasant for either of us. That being said, we had a pretty eventful week and had some highlights.

I was able to go on exchanges with Elder Kimball on Tuesday. It was really cool to be companions with him again and reminisce of our time in Fairfield together. He is the only companion that I've served around more than once, and this is the third zone we've been in together. It's almost exactly a year from the time we parted ways and I became companions with Elder Gasu. Ahh, nostalgia back to the Fairfield days...

Welcome back to another exciting Elder Ellis venting session!! My ward doesn't at all understand the point of missionaries and it's really frustrating for Elder Yepez and I. Missionaries are placed in a ward to assist in its missionary work, not do all the work for them. Our members frequently call on us to make sure other members are at certain activities, or to teach family home evenings for them...every single week. We are always the first to be called to give a blessing, which, don't get me wrong, we love to exercise our Priesthood, but they need to learn to call their home teachers before they call us. Not to mention we are, without fail, called upon to help with all the last second move-ins because they can't get anyone else to show up to help. These are just a few examples. Now we don't mind doing these things every now and then, but members have to remember where their jobs end and where ours begin. Our stewardship isn't making sure all the Relief Society knows about the Christ-like parenting class at the church - that's the Relief Society Presidency's job. And last minute move-ins shouldn't fall on our shoulders because the Elder's Quorum can't get themselves in gear. I think our members forget that we work and they think we just sit around all day with nothing to do and are free labor for whenever they have a job they would rather not do themselves. And one last thing, if you are having some issues and drama with other members in the ward, talk to your bishop. If Elder Yepez and I look like Dr. Phil to you, then we apologize for the misunderstanding. Well, that's all for this week on the Ellis rant show, folks! Thanks again for enduring with me another Elder Ellis venting session and hope to see you all next time!

The last couple of weeks I have been trying to whiten my teeth at night. I am using this stuff that you paint on and then shine a light on it which is suppose to activate the whitening gel. It's sooo hard to stay away from foods or drinks that could stain them. So this is what a diet feels like. I don't like it - diets aren't my thing. So if you happen to notice how wonderfully white my teeth are, feel free to give me a shout so I can know it's not a complete waste of my time!

It was my 18 month mark on Wednesday. It's hard to wrap my head around the fact that I left to serve a mission exactly a year and a half ago. My sister mission is over! And the last 6 months are going to go by impossibly fast.

Our baptismal dates dropped us :(. I never even met two of them because they cancelled on us every single week we tried to see them!! But we have a guaranteed baptism on June 3rd with Bob L***** - he's the 85 year old man who dismissed my Mother's Day dinner message about the stripling warriors. Apparently he wasn't fully medicated that day. We went to teach him on Friday and he told us he wants to be baptized ASAP. It appears after 85 years of being the only non member in a vastly Mormon family, it finally occurred to him he wants the blessings of the temple, so that is his goal. Rhett, his grandson-in-law came and spoke to us on Saturday and gave us background info on him. He also mentioned that there were some less actives at the Mother's Day dinner when Bob interrupted my message and told us to go away. Rhett told us my dinner message, (the part I was able talk about that is,) apparently touched the hearts of the less-active family members at the dinner, so at least it helped someone - although it didn't do much for Bob. We have been able to teach him twice so far and he really seems to be the golden investigator his family keeps telling us he is, (when he's on his happy pills, that is.) We will need to teach him every day if he is going to make it to his date on the 3rd, but I think he can do it. He'll just have to quit his decaf coffee, but if he really wants to be sealed to his family for all eternity, then I'm sure he will realize it's well worth the sacrifice. It's amazing to see how the Lord opens doors when others close. Even though the Aponte's dropped us, the Lord has blessed us with a man he has been molding and preparing for 85 years! That's a long time for his family to wait, but their patience will finally pay off and I'm honored to be able to have a small part in this family being together for all time and eternity.

Brother P*****, the less-active member who we helped with his phone, has a lot of struggles he is dealing with. He reminds me a lot of my brother, and a lot of myself. He reminds me of Stephen because he has Asperger's Syndrome. I never asked him if he does, but after living with it for my whole life, I've gotten pretty good at spotting it, (not to mention he has few books laying around his house about the "Atypical life of Asperger's Syndrome", so that made my deduction much easier to make.) He reminds me of myself because he is so incredibly hard on himself and is his own worst enemy. That's exactly how I use to be, and occasionally still am. I didn't realize how similar we were until the other night when we went to see him. While we were there he broke down in tears that I am sure have been building up for a while of frustration and self-loathing. He said many things to us, like how he shouldn't exist and how much of a waste of a person he was. That really tugged on my heartstrings because I use to think a lot like that. He also mentioned how he wished so hard that he was a better person like Elder Yepez and I. That made me feel even worse, because Elder Yepez and I haven't been the most patient when it came to dealing with Brother P*****, so we were rebuked pretty hard by the spirit right then and needed to repent later that night. I felt prompted to offer him a blessing of comfort. I remember telling him how much his Heavenly Father cherished him, and how important he is to Him. I want to share that same message with everyone who reads this week's letter. If you every start to feel worthless or like you have less value than you really do, remember that you are a child of supreme and eternal God. Which not only means you have eternal value, but you are the most important thing to a infinitely loving Heavenly Father who created all things. And this is being brought to you by someone who use to hate himself growing up, so I know what I am talking about. Never forget who you really are, and you will never see yourself less than what you really are; God's most precious creation.

Yesterday President and Sister Alba came to Lakeport to speak to the combined Kelseyville and Lakeport wards. They both spoke about missionary work, and how both the members and missionaries can see miracles if we work together to bring souls unto Christ. Despite the fact that a large, mobile, standing projection screen fell over, (and had it fallen in the opposite direction it would've landed on President Alba and Bishop Tipton,) it was an amazing meeting. President and Sister Alba are going home very soon and they don't have many meetings like this left! They go home on June 30th. It's going to be so weird having a new mission President, but I'm excited for the change and looking forward to what President Wright brings to our mission.

After church, Elder Yepez, a young man named Joey Sainsbury, and I went to visit some media referrals that we've gotten. Unfortunately both of the people we visited didn't even know they ordered missionaries to come and see them. The second place we went to we ended up talking with the father. We shot the breeze a little and when he found out I'm from Kansas City he told me he's from Prairie Village! He asked what high school I went to and after I told him Shawnee Mission South he told me he went to East. It was really cool to reminisce about Kansas with someone.

Well, that's my week in a nutshell. It was full of frustration but there were certainly some ups along with the downs. Overall it was pretty good. Hope everyone has a great week!!

Love, Elder Hayden Ellis

Monday, May 18, 2015

Grave Digging and the Geek Squad

Service project working on a members' bathroom.

All masked up and going in.

Apparently I have a way with felines.

Doing some service in the rain.

Peacocks just run around free here in Lake County.

Surf and turf dinner at the Alexanders


Hey everyone! I had a pretty fun week. I can't believe how quickly it's going by... Time is flying right before my eyes. Well let's get right into it!

On our P-day last Monday,  Elders Yepez, Hacking, Smittenaar, Merrell, Francom and I went to a member's house in my area and we played pool and Kan Jam. Kan Jam is this really fun frisbee game we play a lot. Basically it's just throwing a frisbee at plastic trash can looking-things and you get different amounts of points for how you hit the Kan with your frisbee. You just have to look it up, it's hard to explain, but it's super dupes fun!!

On Tuesday Elder Yepez and got some work in at Chris Alexander's. We spent a good 3 hours digging holes for his "garden" and it was pretty exhausting. At least I have a promising career as a grave digger ahead of me if I so choose to pursue such a path. Digging holes is the most tedious and mundane job to have. I don't mind doing it for service purposes, but I can't imagine making a career out of something so labor intensive. Get an education everyone! It's so important! I don't want to dig holes for a living!

Wednesday was completely ridiculous. Basically all we did all day was be the geek squad for elderly people struggling with technology. We helped a less active activate his credit card on his phone, we also helped him figure out how to find his contacts in the phone and showed him how to turn it on... we basically did the same for the other member we helped. We taught her how to make and call contacts in her phone... I'm sad to say being tech support was a majority of our day.

The Alexanders fed us on Friday and something really special happened while we were there. Ashley was sick and hadn't been feeling well at all lately, so Chris gave her a blessing. Not only was it the first blessing she has received from him in about 7 years of marriage, but it was the first blessing that Chris has ever given. Ever. It was a really special moment for the both of them, and for Elder Yepez and I also. There was definitely tears being shed in the room. I have such a testimony about the Priesthood and the miracles it can perform.

So I've got some bummer news. Two of three of the Aponte family members haven't been coming to church so they won't be able to be baptized as scheduled. Also, we called the Napa Zone Leaders and apparently my investigator, Daniel, didn't make his baptismal date. They had to reschedule for another date. I was kinda bummed to hear that but Daniel is still going strong and is still taking the lessons and hasn't lost his desire. So it's all good!!

We spent just about all of Saturday doing service. First we went to Sister Crites' house and dismantled her bathroom. I mean we literally destroyed or removed everything in there. Only the walls and the ceiling survived (I say that because the floor did not.) After putting in a few hours there we book it to Chris's house and start helping him erect his fence. Those couple of months I worked construction for Jeremy were really helpful. It's pretty nice to be given some tools and already be competent with them. My dad never taught me how to use tools while I was growing up so that time with Jeremy really comes in handy. At least now I know which end of a hammer hits the nail and which end stays in your hand. So like I was saying, we already had the fence posts cemented in from another day, and Elder Yepez had just finished measuring and skill sawing the support beams when it started to rain a little. It didn't bother me one bit... that is until it started to absolutely POUR, and then hail. That's when we decided to wrap it up. Then, of course, it stopped raining as soon as we dried off. So we went back out and finished the half of the fence we were working on. Not bad so far!

We had something really cool happen on Sunday. A youth choir came up from San Jose and alternated between singing and bearing testimonies. It was super powerful and they sang amazingly. They were like a mini MoTab. I had goose bumps the whole time. We were suppose to serve food before a dance they had on Saturday with the stake, but we didn't know they were still going to be half naked from the pool party they had hours prior - so we ex-nayed that idea. But they sang wonderfully! I was close to tears on "Bound for the Promise Land".

We had an awesome week; I can't believe the transfer is almost over. It continually perplexes me how fast time goes. Well, I hope everyone has an awesome week!

Love, Elder Hayden Ellis

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mother's Day and Embracing the Crazy

Mother's Day greeting from me and Elder Yepez
Skyping with the family - Gianni, Mom and Stephen.
Skyping with Mom for the last time
Zone Conference with President and Sis. Alba
Elder and Sis. Seeley will be returning home just before the Alba's go home. I'll miss them a lot.
Generation picture with Elders Hacking, Hansen and Orr. We all came out together.
Me and Elder Hansen
Elder Meiners, my old companion and new tech elder.
Hermanas Figeroua and Steiner
My two-week companion and now AP, Elder Morely.
The new Samoan on the block, Elder Tafua.
Driving Elder Yepez home from Zone Conference. If you look in the lower right hand corner there is a little black box
on the windshield that is called Tiwi. I don't like Tiwi.
Clearlake is prettier than I expected.

Happy Mother's Day!!

It's like my favorite day of the year now! I'm so grateful for my mom. There is no way I would be out here if it were not for her.

Alma 56:47-48
47 Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them.

48 And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it.

Just like those faithful young men, I too, have been raised from an early age to love God. My mom raised me the best way she could and she did it by herself. And because of that, I'm on a mission serving the Lord. I am so blessed to have the mother I do. I'm not sure what I did to deserve the mom I have, but I am so grateful for my mother and all she has done for me. I LOVE MY MOMMA!!

On Tuesday we drove to Ukiah for zone conference. It was a pretty sad conference since it is President and Sister Alba's and the Seeley's last zone conference ever before they go home. I still can't believe their time is finally at hand. They have been here my entire mission, so it's going to be an adjustment having someone different in their stead. But if there is anything to learn from a mission, it's how to make adjustments. So I imagine I'll survive somehow.

So I have a sob story for you. It was my birthday the day of zone conference and no one remembered my birthday! At the end of each zone conference they call up people who are having birthdays coming up, get a picture of them all together, and give them birthday cards. Well they started calling people up who had birthdays from then till August and they totally forgot me. My birthday was that day! After they called everyone up, (minus me,) I started laughing and telling Elder Hansen they forgot me. President Alba standing nearby heard me and made the big announcement that it was my birthday and sent me up. Of course they didn't have a card for me but that's okay. President and Sister Alba forget my name a lot, so it's starting to become a joke with some of the other missionaries and me, so it didn't bother me that much. I just thought it was pretty ridiculous.

At least the Alexanders did something for me! They fed us that night and had a birthday cupcake for me. I love the Alexanders! They make me feel special.

At zone conference we also got these new devices that basically monitor every stupid thing we do with our car, called Tiwi. It knows if we speed, if we don't have seat belts on, if we accelerate/decelerate too quickly - just about everything. Plus we have to log into Tiwi just about every time we get into the car, and gets mad at us when we don't. And if we violate any of these things, it files a report to President Alba. So it goes without saying, being the designated driver just got a lot more stressful. It feels like there is a cop sitting in the backseat waiting for me to mess up. It goes without saying, I don't like Tiwi.

I am quite pleased to say that I am going to learn many life skills here in Lakeport. The Alexander family has a lot of projects happening around the house that we help out with a lot. Just the other day I worked with cement and placed fence posts in ground. So now I am an experienced cementist! We are also going to help them with other projects that involve roofing, flooring, plumbing, etc. So my time here should prove to be quite enlightening!

I have learned that the drug/trashy parts of my area are more northern in Lucern and Nice, (pronounced niece). We go there every Thursday so I'm sure if I'm going to get any crazy from this area, it's going to be from there. Lakeport is too normal for anything super weird to happen here, so if I want to embrace the crazy, I need to expand my horizons and look for it elsewhere.

Love you all and hope everyone has an awesome week!

Love, Elder Hayden Ellis

Monday, May 4, 2015

Lobster Dinner and Killing a Companion

Me and Elder Yepez


So transfers have come and gone and now I am stationed in the scenic town of Lakeport! I really love it here. Lakeport is actually a really nice and beautiful area, and not beaten down by the cruelty of life like I had previously been informed. For starters, the roads here are paved, so that means I don't get to drive a truck like I was hoping, but the '15 Corolla is very nice so no complaints here. Also I haven't encountered a single drug dealer/addict which is slightly disappointing. If you want to find tons of tweakers you have to go to Clearlake. If you want to be in a town where it is commonplace to have no more than 8 teeth, then you go to Kelseyville. So Uncle Nate, it looks like I'm not going to get as many stories from here as we originally thought. But that's okay, I'll have to make do with normal and friendly people instead of people doped out of their minds. I was actually quite surprised with how welcoming and how humble the people are here. I was immensely taken aback when people here waved back at me and seemed genuinely happy to be alive. I don't mean to sound like I'm disparaging the rest of California, because there are great people all over Cali, which I have experienced first hand, but Lakeport is different. For obvious reasons, there is a different sense of community here and people seem far happier than what I've seen in Napa or Novato. Lakeport reminds me a lot of Kansas in that sense. People are just nice here. Wow, I took quite a roundabout and long way of getting to the point that people here are friendly, but there it is! It's great here!

So it turns out this is Elder Yepez's last transfer and I'm his last companion. When a missionary is leaving the mission, it is called, "killing your companion." So basically I'm going to kill Elder Yepez! We get along really well. His personality is just like that of my best friend at home, Assad.

Transfers were stellar, as usual. It's always a cause for celebration when one is reunited with his brothers of former areas! I learned something interesting from that transfer meeting. Apparently,(according to Elder Chan and Elder Meiners,) originally I was called to be transferred to Fort Bragg but was changed at the last minute and sent here. I haven't heard that happen very often but I was almost by the coast again, like when I was in Crescent City. That being said, I'm pretty pleased with the outcome.

After transfer meeting was over, Elder Akhmetov and I drove up here in a truck from Santa Rosa, which I enjoyed driving. Now if you look on the map you'll find the road that goes from Santa Rosa to Clearlake is ridiculously windy. There were some fools that were flying up that thing going 50-60 mph. I thought those guys were going to kill us a couple of times. I even got flipped off for what I assume was for driving too slow. Personally I didn't think I was driving too slow. I figured I was going the perfect speed to avoid dying in a fiery car crash. Elder Akhmetov and I did get lost on more than one occasion, but when the smell of weed permeated the air, we figured we were heading in the right direction.

Like I said earlier, I am loving it here so far. I've only met a handful of members but they are all pretty cool! My second dinner here we got fed lobster.... When Elder Yepez told me this blessed news, I just about started weeping. This was my first time having lobster my entire mission. God bless the Alexander's. Also, on Saturday we dined upon tri-tip. From these experiences, I believe it is safe to predict that my time spent here will be one filled with joy and great bounty.

So one of the set backs about serving here in the summer is that it gets super hot. I imagine it will be as bad if not worse than Fairfield, which was clear in the 90°'s most days. I remember a couple of times when it broke 100°. That was a splendid week... Hopefully it doesn't get too toasty here. But on the bright side, we have some baptisms coming up, 3 of which are a family so I'm stoked about that! Also we are teaching this couple named the Fullers and they have been so prepared for the gospel. They have quite a crazy story about how they came to start meeting with the missionaries. We taught them yesterday and they believe to have already received a witness that the Book of Mormon is true, and this is coming from people who use to be anti-Mormon. It's amazing to see how people have been prepared by the Lord to receive the restored gospel.

So tomorrow should interesting - we have Zone Conference. Eureka, Ukiah and Lake County will all be meeting at the Ukiah stake center. Tomorrow they are going to install these little devices into our cars that tell the mission office if and when we are speeding or just being stupid with our cars in general. So that'll be a little unnerving and stressful, but I'll persevere and probably improve my driving while I'm at it! I'll be in a meeting all day long so I don't have anything planned for my birthday other than that!

Well I hope everyone is having a superb week! Love you all and talk to you next week!

Love, Elder Hayden Ellis