Monday, August 31, 2015

Staying in Lakeport and Baby Goats

Awesome district picture with us lifting our beloved Zone Leader, Elder Frodsham, in triumph!

A baby goat/future Greek gyro

Our district

Beach volleyball

Brother Prior

The Crites

The Liningers

Patrick Minihan

The Olsens

The Southwicks - the best burger I've ever had came from this man's grill

Hi everyone!

I would like start off this weekly report with a humorous joke. "So the past, present and future all walked into a bar; it was tense." Alright, now that I have removed all doubt that I am an idiot, here's how my week went!

District meeting was on Tuesday and it went alright considering I hardly had any time to teach my segment about doctrine of Christ. I asked Elder Snow and Elder Christensen to teach as well and they didn't leave me with much time. But that's okay, it didn't really bother me. I would rather allow others the chance to get better or more comfortable teaching in crowds like district meeting. Elder Christensen did a very good job and he seems to be more comfortable teaching in settings like that, so that's good. That will probably be the last district meeting I conduct since this next transfer I am not the District Leader. I'm sure my next DL, Elder Wilkes, whom I love dearly, will ask us to teach segments, so I am not off the hook quite yet!

On Wednesday we had a zone service project down in Clearlake and helped out a member family on their ranch. Finally I was able to release my inner Kansas boy and get down to my roots! At first when we got there, I don't think they really had anything for us to do, so we just watched some teenage girls ride their horses around the riding arena. As they were doing some laps, they yelled that they needed some rodeo clowns to hop in the barrels that they were doing figure 8's around... So needless to say, I heeded the call along with Elders Mathusek, Frodsham and Mallory and we each hopped in a barrel! So there we were, standing in barrels while these girls rode their horses around and in between us. It was an interesting experience, to say the least. Too bad no one had a camera when it was happening. After a good while of messing around, we finally were summoned to the horse stalls for some poop scooping, which ended up falling on the shoulders of Elder Mallory and I while everyone else played with baby goats. So after one wheelbarrow was filled to the brink with horse excrement, they had me walk one of the baby goats on a leash while the stall was cleaned. Now I want you all to imagine me being given instructions by a ten-year-old girl to walk a baby goat around on a leash and follow it WHEREVER it goes. Then, proceed to imagine me following these directions to a tee. I faithfully shadowed that ADHD goat everywhere it went, even to the point where it was almost trampled by a horse, but that's a story for another day... So just to summarize: I was a clown for an impromptu rodeo, shoveled my weight in defecation, humbly (at least I tried to) took ridiculous orders from children half my age, and took a goat for a little walky where it almost was stomped to death by a large stallion. Not sure if this was a successful service project or not... But at least the owners of the ranch were satisfied with it.

Thursday was our productive day, like every week. We were able to teach our new investigator in Lucerne, Jake, and also his sister, Chyanne, who is a member. Jake had some pretty good questions, like how can he develop a closer relationship with God, and when he does, how will he know that he did? We explained to him baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. After we explained the importance of being baptized by proper authority, Jake said that he wanted to be baptized and he assured us that he would read the Restoration pamphlet and start reading the Book of Mormon with his sister.

We also taught the recent move-in (who I talked about a week or so ago) named Rueben, along with his mom, Crystal. Crystal is also a member and has lived in Lucerne for a few years. She's not active, but expressed her desire to start coming to church again. She told us she didn't even know there was an LDS church here in Lake County. I have heard that concern a lot actually. Just like it explains in D&C 123:12 "For there are many yet on the earth...and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it--" there are non-members who are kept from the truth because they don't where to find it and there are members who don't go to church because they simply don't know where the building is! So we encouraged her to put away her nervousness and hesitations about getting active again and just come back to church. And she did! She and Rueben were at church on Sunday! We will go by weekly and read the Book of Mormon with them to help them understand it better.

Thursday evening we had dinner at the Pockrus's house. We had chicken Alfredo and it was delicious, but that's not the point I am trying to make, so disregard that. Something happened that really built my testimony about the promise in D&C 33 that says, "open your mouths and it shall be filled". Sister Pockrus is a fairly recent convert to the church and she had a question about the Word of Wisdom. I guess she didn't fully understand it to be a commandment as opposed to merely suggested living. Her question was why we have to quit smoking before we are baptized and why we can't just quit afterward. I guess she has talked to many people about this before, including a Mission President, and never received an answer that resonated with her. So without thinking, I told her that the Word of Wisdom and the Law of Chastity are two sides of the same coin. Transgressing the Word of Wisdom kills our body while transgressing the Law of Chastity dulls and damages us spiritually. I shared with her my knowledge about the soul, and how the human soul is made up of both the spirit and the body (D&C 88:15). So since both the spirit and body constitute a living soul, any harm we inflict to our body by smoking, for example, or to our spirit by breaking the law of Chastity, we are literally killing our soul. That's why, among other reasons, we are required to live the Word of Wisdom. When I finished I was amazed to hear Sister Pockrus tell me that I had answered her question. Her question came out of nowhere and I didn't have time to collect my thoughts, but I just found myself talking and the spirit took over and did the rest. I know that as we hearken to the counsel in D&C 85:84 which says, "Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man" we truly shall be given in the very moment what we need to say by the spirit.

For the first time since I've been on my mission, transfer information was brought before us on Saturday instead of Friday. The votes are in and the area that Elder Ellis will go to next is..... Still Lakeport? Yep, that's right, I am going to stay here in Lakeport for a total of six months. To be completely honest, I was not pleased to receive this information. In fact, the word "distraught" comes pretty close to describing my feelings when I received the news. It's not that I don't like this area; I absolutely LOVE this area, but six months is a long time to stay in any area. I never wanted to have a 6-month area anywhere - I mean that's 1/4 of my mission in one place! Not to mention this means I am going to get trunky transferred and only have 6 weeks in my last area so I will hardly have any time to get adjusted to the area before I return home. So, I was a little ticked when I heard I was staying. Maybe a little overwhelmed. Were jokes made that God had forsaken me? Perhaps. But after a little while of being sore about it, my rationality began to sink in and I started to think how dragging my feet and complaining about it wasn't going to help at all. For some reason, the Lord still wants me here, whether it's because there is something He wants me to do or something He wants me to do better, and he's giving me another chance. I'm not sure, but I do know that whether I like it or not, this is where I need to be. Then that night I read a quote that only confirmed my feelings: "The only zone on your mission you should never want to be in is your comfort zone. If you are in your comfort zone then you aren't growing and progressing. Get out, try harder, reach farther. Trust in the Lord and stretch, that is when you experience the most growth. Recognize what we were sent here to do and then go and do it. We weren't sent here to watch Netflix, watch fireworks, be comfortable, etc... Do whatever needs to be done to grow so that when you look back on your life, the Lord will have no reason to ask you why you didn't try harder." I never want to hear the Lord ask me why I wasted all the time He gave me to work out here. So regardless of whether I am happy to be here or not, I have work to do. I am grateful for a God that loves me enough to not give me what I want, but what He knows I need, whether I am initially happy about it or not.

Well that's basically my week. I still don't know when my release date is, but at least I got President Wright working on it, so hopefully we will know soon.

Love, Elder Hayden Ellis

Monday, August 24, 2015

Nerf Guns and Venison

At the Oakland Temple

Me and Elder Christensen at the Oakland Temple

Add caption

Me enjoying my new vacation suite! Ignore the children, they came with the vacation bundle.

The Westover family recently and temporarily moved into the ward  while Brother Westover teaches at the
University of Lucerne for a couple of months before moving back to Utah.

Companion selfie

I'm making chicken nuggets! Finally I have a future in working at McDonalds

More food pictures

Hi everybody!

I had such a good week. It was way more productive than last week (which shall be henceforth known as the week that shall not be mentioned) and quite a few miracles happened over the last several days.

We had our temple trip which was kind of a surreal experience for me because I only have one more temple trip left now on my mission. It's exciting but also a tough pill to swallow. I love going to the temple - it always fortifies me spiritually. The 3 hour drive to and from the temple is a little rough but who am I to complain? We are so blessed to have temples so close that you can drive to in mere hours. Some people live in a location where they are only able to go to the temple once in their lives and it takes them several days, thousands of miles, and a lot of money to pull it off! So 3 hours is nothing. Now, all this being said, I'm pretty excited to get back to Utah where there is a temple on every street corner!

We had district meeting on Wednesday since Tuesday was a temple trip. I taught about obedience and I had an Elder in my district, Elder Coursey, teach about sacrifice (and he did a fantastic job, I might add). This was one of my last district meetings this transfer, and I would assume in this area. I would say it went rather well. We had these Nerf guns (and some off-brands) that we borrowed from the Sainsburys who live across the street. I actually used the bolt-action sniper rifle as a visual demonstration in my lesson. I drew the moon and some stars on a whiteboard and told Elder Coursey to hit the moon. Well the off-brand non-Nerf sniper wasn't very powerful so he stood about 10 feet out and aimed directly at the moon but it fell short. So I taught that the key to hitting the moon, or hitting our goal of baptism, is that we have to aim higher than our target. We have to aim higher in our obedience. Sometimes we try to give the bare minimum in our efforts. We try to give just enough to barely squeeze by and still hit our target. But this simply won't suffice since the Lord has asked for all we have and all our efforts. This might seem like a pretty steep request, if it weren't for the Lord offering in return all He has, and what He has is far greater than anything we could possibly give. I know we have to aim higher than what we are trying to hit, not only be obedient to the Lord's commandments but also to have a good attitude about it. As we do so, we will be able to hit our target, but not the target we want to get, or may think we want to hit, but where the Lord wants us to hit.

After district meeting I went on exchanges with Elder Snow and we did a lot of service. We helped one of our members, Sister Crites, move into Lakeport. Well she wasn't moving in but her husband was. It was pretty exciting for her since her husband has had to live in Colorado for 5 years, so it's been a long time since they have been able to live together. Reunited and it feels so good! After that, we did more service helping a less active member move a car engine. We decided to be smart about it and tied a harness around the engine and then hooked it to their quad and, with much effort and a lot of pulling and pushing from us, they dragged it to where they wanted it. We also leveled out the ground so they could put a pool in their backyard. It was a day of service, but Elder Snow and I were able to teach our Hispanic friend, Adrian. We had a pretty good lesson with him and we downloaded the gospel library on his phone so he can have the Book of Mormon in Spanish, which we got him to read some of it. We passed him off to the Spanish missionary's so now they can teach him in Spanish and all of it will make a lot more sense to him.

Thursday was a really productive Nice and Lucerne day. We taught 5 lessons - maybe that doesn't sound impressive but that's pretty good for Lake County! We were able to teach Patrick Minihan about the priesthood, which he is well on his way to receiving. We also finally met with a less active named Chyanne that we have had trouble getting a hold of. We found her (after several weeks of knocking her door with no luck) sitting outside on her porch with a group of people. So we sat down and introduced ourselves and started talking to them and they all bombarded us with a ton of questions, in a good way. We have a return appointment for next week and are trying to get Chyanne and her brother Jake (who isn't a member but told us that he wants to take the discussions while we come by to visit Chyanne) a ride to church because they both want to come. So we picked Jake up as an investigator and that's more work to be done here in the Lakeport Ward. #winning!

On Friday Elder Christensen led out with the weekly planning and he did a pretty good job. I believe that when I leave next week (at least I strongly believe I will be transferred) he will do a good job of leading the area out. Elder Christensen is a very good missionary and I am not worried about how he'll do after I leave. We had a lesson with our young investigator, Ki Morales. Last time we were over, we invited him to ask his parents if they approved of him being baptized, but unfortunately his parents said no. It's pretty sad that his parents are going to hold him back from being able to do that until he is 18 - assuming he still wants to by that age. I am really grateful that my dad allowed me to be baptized when I was 8 years old or I am sure my whole life would be very different. We also had a lesson with Natalie, but unfortunately we didn't get very far. We asked her if she prayed about baptism and she expressed concern of how big of a commitment it is. Just when I was about to testify to her that the blessings of an eternal family far outweigh the effort put in, her baby threw up on her... So that put an abrupt end to the lesson. We will have to try again next week. Darn it...

On Saturday we finally got a hold of our investigators, Annie and James! We were teaching them pretty consistently and then they randomly fell off the face of the earth! We hadn't been able to get in touch with them in a couple of weeks. We lost contact with them right after we fasted with them to help them quit smoking and then they disappeared, so we were a little concerned that they started smoking again. Sometimes we can forget the Lord doesn't need us to further His work and He can do so whether we stop by their house or not. Annie told us that she still hasn't smoked since she stopped, so that was a miracle right there. That moment helped remind me of the power of fasting. We then had a session of Stake Conference that night and my baptism, Bob Lininger, was mentioned by President Engstrom in Conference! Yay! He then talked about how little activity our Stake has - only 400 out of 3,000 members are active. That's so incredibly sad. And I'm sure many of them were active and solid members at one time. It just goes to show how easy it can be to lose yourself and fall away from the Church. When the scriptures say how strait is the gate and narrow the way that leads to eternal life, they're not joking.

We had another lesson with Annie and James on Sunday and taught them the gospel of Jesus Christ, which went pretty well - they seem to be understanding everything. I can't wait for them to move out of the nightmare of a home they live in now (their landlord is not nice and is demanding rent when he refuses to turn on their water and power, so that's stressful for them), get married, quit smoking for good, and be baptized. I hope I'm at least informed of it before it happens so I can Skype in for the baptism this time. That evening we went to see Brother Prior and he came out to greet us by abruptly announcing to us his big discovery that he has dementia... "Brother Prior, we know you have dementia, there was never any question of it." "Oh jeez, well thanks guys... Come on in." Never a dull moment with that man. So that visit we focused on writing down lots of reminders for him so he doesn't forget to do daily things, like eat breakfast or brush his teeth (which we discovered he hasn't done in a good long while nor does he even own a toothbrush... Don't worry, we got him one). I'm still eagerly waiting for Adult Services to help this man because he certainly can't live on his own anymore.

Today for one of our last p-days (although it's the last for Elder Mathusek and Elder Snow since they are going home next Monday) we are going to drive down to Middletown where the Sister's area is and play some sand volleyball and do some grilling! Elder Christensen and I are going to bring the venison steaks we received from Von McPherson and cook us some deer! We shall see how my grilling is.

Well, other than transfer doctrine being revealed to us on Friday, that's about it for this week. It's weird I have already spent 3 transfers or 4 1/2 months in this area. So according to the pattern my mission has followed, it's time for me to be moved. We shall see where I am sent next. Wherever it is, I'm excited to go there because I know that there is something I need to do or someone that I need to meet that will help my personal growth. In the beginning of my mission, I thought that areas I'd serve in and companions I'd serve with would be placed in my path for me to fix or improve - that the Lord would put them in my life so He could work through me to better them. That may be true in some cases, but I've learned that my mission has done more for me than I have for it. That in reality the Lord has placed me in areas and around people that have fixed and improved me. I am really seeing the scripture Doctrine and Covenants 18:15 fulfilled as the Lord has worked with that one soul so closely, only to realize that the one is me.

Love, Elder Hayden Ellis

Monday, August 17, 2015

Being a Catch and Tri-Tip

My Calvin Klein model shot. I think I'm a shoe-in for the auditions.

Dramatic stare

Me and Elder Christensen

No caption necessary.....the picture says it all

The Larson's like to have missionaries leave their handprints and their dates of service
in thestairwell. You should see the rest of it - handprints everywhere!


Weekly planning meeting selfie.

Me with President and Sister Wright at Zone Conference.

My newest culinary experiment - salmon pan fried in flour, baking powder and seasonings. Turned out super well!

I made some sausage egg salad. It was delicious! I'm ready for Chopped!

Hello, all my loyal subscribers!

So before I say anything about this week, I must announce my jubilant news: my investigator in Napa, Rhett Tippins, got baptized a little over a week ago!!! YEEEEAAAAH!! I'm so psyched! I worked so hard on him with my companions, Elder Chan and Elder Eccles. Like my other Napa investigator, Daniel Herrera, who got baptized after I left, no one told me it was going to happen so I didn't get to Skype in for it. The downside to being a sower (which I am quite convinced is my assignment out here) is that you don't get to be there till the end and you just get randomly booted somewhere else instead. I talk about sowing seeds like it's a bad thing, which it totally isn't, don't get me wrong! Planting seeds in missionary work is equally as important as harvesting. You can't harvest what isn't planted. What I have learned is the Lord has a special job for all of us that He wants us to do. I guess the Lord wants me to prepare people for the idea of baptism more than anything else, and I am okay with that (I just wish people would at least tell me that the baptism is happening beforehand instead of casually bringing it up weeks afterward!)

Tuesday was a pretty solid day. We had an excellent lesson with Ki Morales, this 11-year-old kid that missionaries taught not so long ago. This is the first time I have been able to meet him since he has been down in the Bay Area all summer. He really likes to study with us and read the children's version of the Book of Mormon (which I enjoy as well - finally something being taught on my level of understanding!). We went over and read several chapters (which isn't as impressive in the children's version) out of Alma with him, each taking a turn to read a page. His mom, Christina, was not there today. In the past she was also studying with the missionaries but she is pretty busy at work now so it's hard to catch her. The chapters we were reading with him were Alma 40 and onward. The central theme as we read was to keep the commandments and you would be blessed, and he understood that. So I invited him to be baptized (with his parents' permission of course) to keep the commandments more fully and get more blessings from God. So he said he would talk to his mom and step-dad about it and we will see what happens when we go back. We also had a really spirit-filled lesson with a man we see named Adrian. He is Mexican but speaks pretty fluent English and would rather speak in English than Spanish, so we got dibs! At first he said he didn't have time to meet with us, but as we kept talking he eventually he told us how he is scared to die. He said after his mom died, he always was afraid of death. He explained his fear stemmed from worrying about what would happen to his family here on earth if he were to die. We discussed a little with him of the Plan of Salvation. He said he is still looking for an answer from God for what he needs to do now. We left him with Alma 40-42 to read and pray about and we will stop by tonight to follow up with the reading. It was a really good lesson and I think as he continues to read and pray (and hopefully come to church soon) he will get an answer very strongly, because I think his desire is there to know God's will.

So Wednesday for us was an absolute bust. It was a really rough day. Nothing I'm not use to by now; harder days are going to happen every now and then. We drove up to our northern area in Nice and Lucerne because the next day we were going to be in Ukiah all day for a zone conference, which is annoying since Thursday is our busiest day. So we tried to reschedule our Thursday on Wednesday which didn't work out to well. And we couldn't make contact with anyone we tried to find up there so we came back down to Lakeport unsuccessful.

On Thursday we had Zone Conference in Ukiah which was awesome. Nothing better than a zone conference to humble all in attendance and demonstrate everything we aren't doing well! I discovered there is a lot I still need to improve on. We received training from the tech Elders (don't leave you iPad where it could be stolen, some Facebook stuff, etc.) and also from the AP's. The Assistants talked about the importance of the dinner hour we have with members and how we can make it more effective. We are definitely there to eat, but even more so to help the members with their own missionary efforts! Sometimes I forget that and just eat a ton of food and feel like I did my job by emptying their fridge. Zone Conferences are good because they show there is always something we can improve at. But something Elder Christensen and I did do well at was cleaning our apartment! While at conference, Elder and Sister Porter, who are in charge of our housing, went to each missionary apartment in LC and Ukiah and did apartment inspections. And we got a 6 out of 6! Which means we got 6 rolls of toilet paper! Woo! We needed them so it was a really good incentive to really deep clean our apartment! So let's review the list shall we? I am good at cleaning, I am greatly improving my cooking, and if you look at the pictures of Braylin and me from last week, you'll see I am very good with children. So looks like I am turning out to be quite a catch!

Normally we teach our recent convert, Patrick, on Thursdays but obviously that couldn't happen since we were in Ukiah so we moved it to Friday. It went pretty well considering who we are teaching... Patrick is the most ADHD and off-topic person I have ever talked to. And it's frustrating because he is prone to interrupt and out talk you. And he speaks very loudly and without ceasing, so it's incredibly hard to interrupt or direct the conversation where it's suppose to go. We managed to read D&C 86 about the blessings of the priesthood and commit him to be ready to receive it when the time comes. He spoke with Bishop Tipton last Sunday about the Aaronic Priesthood and they will have a priesthood interview in 3 weeks. So progress is being made with Patrick! Very slowly, but it's being made!

We had a bi-ward Hot August Nights dinner in County Park this week. It was super successful. There was a really good turn out, though to our disappointment, no one we invited showed up. You would think free Tri-tip and homemade pies would be enough to get attendance out of people.

Elder Christensen and I helped the Capas family (the family who lets us do our laundry at their place on Mondays) build a fence in front of their house so they have more space to keep their animals. They raise some goats, pigs, calves and chicken. Elder Christensen went with Brother Capas to work and I was with Kyle, their non-member son-in-law. Kyle wasn't excited to help out with the fence originally because he knew the Elders were going to be there and the Capas have sent many missionaries to their door in the past. So I didn't bring up the gospel at all to him! I just talked to him and got to know him. He has worked 10 years in fencing so he knew what he was doing and taught me how to put up wire fencing. When he saw my only intent wasn't to shove my religion in his face, he began to open up a lot and we had fun working together. A lot of people have the idea that Mormons go knocking doors to shove our beliefs in their faces and just convert people. Sometimes the best missionary work doesn't have to be preaching to people, it can be as simple as just being their friend and being a good example of the Church. This is breaking the ground for seeds to be planted in them. As they see our Christ-centered example, they will start to ask questions and be interested on their own for someone to teach them the gospel later. This is why it's important to always be living what we teach to people and being that example to them, because you never know who is watching and needs your influence in their life.

We had some new members move into the Lakeport Ward. One of which is a YSA named Reuben who lives in Lucerne. I think I've mentioned him before but if not, just know he is awesome. He got in contact with us a couple of weeks ago and told us he just moved in and needed a ride to church. So a member was able to give him a ride yesterday and we were able to meet him in person. He has a strong testimony in the gospel and wants to go to the temple soon. He asked us the first time we saw him on Sunday where the tithing slips were, requested 5 Plan of Salvation pamphlets so he could start handing them out to people, and wants to go on splits with us to go tracting.... Wow. This guy is on fire. We love Reuben! In addition to Reuben, the Westovers also moved into the ward. I talked to Bro Westover at the Hot August Nights dinner and he told me a little about his mission in South Korea. In South Korea people always wanted to save face so they would commit to do whatever they were invited to do to by the missionaries (i.e. come to church or read the scriptures, etc) but would rarely keep the commitment. They figured they would never see the missionaries again so it didn't matter later on what the missionaries think of them! That would be so frustrating to deal with. I'm glad I'm in a place where people tell me to my face they don't like me - it makes it a lot easier for us to know where to spend our time.

So I had some revelation hit me at the Capas' house while we were helping the build a fence. Well, maybe not revelation, but I did have a moment where I really did a lot of contemplation. After a couple of hours of working, Sister Capas came down and, much like a mother, made us take lunch break even when we weren't hungry. So we walked up the hill and start munching on a sandwich on their deck. Well the Capas' grandson, a 3-year-old boy named Nathan, walked up the hill, put some balls into a wagon and continuously rammed the wagon into a retaining wall while I looked down from the balcony at the spectacle. I asked him what he was doing and he replied, and I am translating his three-year-old speech in my own personal Ellis translation into what I imagine he was trying to say, as follows: "Good sir, I am attempting to relocate this wagon and its precious cargo to this plane of higher elevation." I tried to explain to him that ramming the wagon into the 3 foot retaining wall wasn't going to make that happen, but this kid was relentless and just wouldn't listen to me. As it was happening, I started thinking that I'm no different than 3 year old Nathan. How many times have I gone through life just ramming my wagon into a wall trying to get to a higher point in my life. All the while the Lord has looked down upon me, trying to give me loving council of how I can get my wagon to where it needs to go. I know the Lord can see the whole picture, and He knows how we can get from point A to point B. All we have to do is take a moment to stop, look up, and listen. I'm so grateful to have a loving God that wants nothing more than to have us return to Him, and for His church to be once again on the earth for Him to direct and show us exactly how to do that.

Well, it was a really slow week, but still full of a lot of insight for me. My mission doesn't cease when it comes to teaching me. Even the days I couldn't possibly see a lesson come out of anything, I learn something. Not everyone gets to learn theses lessons, so I am grateful to be one of the few that get to do assist in this work.

We are going to the Oakland temple tomorrow which I am really excited for. We are hitching a ride with Elder Mallory and Elder Raban in Clearlake and whoever is taking them. Since we have to leave at 5 am to try to avoid traffic, we are going to spend tonight at their house so I don't have to try driving down that early in the morning. I'm glad to have so many temples so close by and readily at hand. We really are blessed to have the temple blessings so available to us nowadays. #blessingsofthetemple #4everfamilies

Love, Elder Hayden Ellis

Monday, August 10, 2015

A Sad Kitty and Shrimp Kabobs

 I love this picture so much because my face is so happy (and kinda of creepy) and the cat
just looks so depressed. The contrast between my joy and the cat's sorrow is almost artistic.
We tracted a guy who was restoring this old porsche
Holding hands with my #1 girl Braylin! This girl is crazy about me! She walks up and gives
my legs hugs and yells at me across the chapel calling me "Dada"
I had a long talk with Braylin, telling her that I needed my space, but it's not clicking.

Hello all,

[insert creative intro paragraph here]

Our Zone conference was really good. It was all about improving the way we contact people and introduce them to the gospel. I know it can be really easy to get into a robotic pattern of how we talk to people, and we start to lose our drive to REALLY share the gospel. The Zone Leaders talked about not being complacent with mediocrity and not just trying to survive in our mission, but striving to thrive in our mission. I think they did a very good job with their preparation. Also, we made our goal of getting 500 contacts this week! Somehow we managed to scrape together 501 contacts. Not sure how we pulled that off, but we did it! The next challenge is to get 40 baptismal invitations as a zone. That one will be a little tougher but I'm confident we can do it, even if we just barely make it. These challenges have really helped me have something visible to try to strive to reach. It has helped me get back in gear and go harder in the paint.

We went tracting and talked to two really awesome guys who both accepted a house blessing! One of the guys had a Navy SEAL trident on his shirt, so I asked him if he was a SEAL. He told me he wasn't but that he worked with them. So of course that led to a conversation about my dad. It was a very pleasant conversation and he said we could come back another time.

On a less pleasant note, we tracked into this women who was SOOO MAD to see us. Holy Moses, she was hostile - spitting straight venom at us! She told us to go away and mocked us for saying we were servants of Jesus Christ. Then when I stayed there, kinda bewildered by the cruelty we were receiving, she told me to stop staring at her and that she had already found Jesus Christ. As we were walking away trying to suppress the bitter feelings that were starting to well up, I wondered how someone could claim to be committed to Christ when they can't even keep the commandment to love one another. But hey, who am I to give her a hard time? I walked away with some not so good feelings toward her just like she had some not so good feelings toward us. Normally I am pretty good at keeping a good attitude toward people who just straight up persecute us, but for some reason she got to me. Just goes to show I still have a lot I need to work on.

Last week we received a referral from Elder Green in Ukiah, the missionary I replaced here in Lakeport. He texted us saying a women by the name of Dianne in Lucerne wants us to come by and meet with her. So we called her and she seemed pretty friendly. We set up an appointment to come by on Wednesday and she blew us off. So we will try again this Thursday and see how it goes.

On Wednesday night we had dinner with a nonmember who loves missionaries, Von, and her family. They always feed us quite well when they have us over. We had shrimp kabobs and I was happy the rest of the night! You'd think I would get more seafood in California since it's on the ocean, but oddly enough I ate more seafood in landlocked Kansas. Maybe members here have the mindset that missionaries don't enjoy delicious marine food. This causeth my heart to sorrow. Von's family gave us a ton of meat to cook so I'm improving my cooking skills again! We got some pork chops, which I cooked up that turned out really well. We also were given a lot of venison which we brought over to Chris' house and we cooked up - it was awesome! I'm a venison convert for sure. I am actually impressed with how far my culinary prowess has evolved from Top Raman to various meats of deer and pig.

On Thursday we were talking to Richard Bennet about the Book of Mormon and how it really is the only book that was written specifically for the people in this day and age to help us come closer to Christ. It's totally true. The Bible has been used by everyone since Christ walked the earth, even the Nephites used it. But the Book of Mormon was saved for us in this day. It applies to the people now more than any other book, and that's why it can bring us closer to God than any other book. I'm grateful for the fully restored truth we have available to us.

So, in other fun news, Nice is on fire. And also the Rocky fire is 70% contained last time we heard but a new fire has started right where the old one was and it's spreading almost as fast. So I have no clue when this place is going to stop burning to the ground.

We had an awesome lesson with Natalie, our investigator. Dave wasn't feeling up to a lesson since he had a long day at work, but Natalie came out to talk with us. We sat on her front porch and talked with her about her job a little. She is an IHSS worker, and of course that segued into a topic about Brother Prior and how he needs help (we found out that night that Sister Tipton got ahold of his father and progress is being made to getting Brother Prior some sort of assistance). She told us a little bit about her family and how there have been problems there relating to poor health. We started talking about how everyone has family problems and how the gospel can bless families and that they can be eternal. We followed up with her about whether she has been praying about baptism and if she has received an answer from God. She told us she has been seeing some signs that God wants her to be baptized. She was at work one day and found a whole bunch of Joseph Smith papers at the bottom of her client's closet. So that's a sign if I've ever seen one. Plus we always stop by the day she's thinking about us, so she's been noticing that as well. We briefly went over the gospel of Jesus Christ and gave her the pamphlet for her to read. Next time we go over we are going into more detail about the gospel of Jesus Christ and commit her to baptism. Not sure what the plan with Dave is anymore, but hopefully he follows her lead when he sees the gospel working for her.

I just found out this week that Ashley Alexander is having another baby! It's pretty exciting news. I love babies! They are just like little people but they poop themselves more. It's weird how we found out before anyone else. They hadn't even told all of their family and somehow a schlub like me (I threw a little bit of Yiddish in there for you grandpa, just to keep you interested) was told about it. So just in case more people read my blog than I think, I am just going to leave it at that. #babyboom

So things are starting to settle down here a little bit. The fire is expected to be extinguished by Wednesday. As of yesterday, it was 70% contained, which is stellar considering they were stuck at 5% for at least a week. The firefighters here are making a lot of progress and the community doesn't fail to recognize it. There are signs all over that people make saying thank you to the firefighters. They are like celebrities here. I can't imagine what it would be like if people loved missionaries that much - everywhere we walk people wave at us and are genuinely happy to see us and we would want for nothing! Oh wait, there is a place like that, it's Utah... I guess I'm so battle hardened over here I forgot there was a magical place like that! Haha! All joking aside, we are really well taken care of here. The Lakeport members are wonderful people and really jump to the aid of missionaries whenever we may need help. When our water was out last week we had so many invitations to use the members' showers whenever we needed to. The love is being felt here in Lakeport Ward.

The work is actually going pretty well here. Maybe it's not on fire right now, (well it technically is, but you know what I mean) but I see this being a really fruitful area in a few months to come. It's pretty good now but I see a lot more potential for the people here. We have two guaranteed baptisms coming up with James and Annie. They have their roadblocks that they will get past with time, but they have such strong desires to be baptized, so I know it will happen very soon. Also, I see Natalie taking the plunge; Dave is kind of in the air at this point but I think when he sees Natalie showing desire, it will help him to figure out what he wants to do. So that's possibly two more. Not to mention we have gotten a few referrals that seem promising. One active family, the Easthams, want us to teach their 10-year-old special needs son the lessons. He isn't really accountable for baptism, but they were told by the bishop that if he wants to be baptized then of course he can. So she might have us over to teach the him the discussions. That will be cool for the family to have done.

I don't think I have much more time left in this area, so I have determined that my job here now is to build up the area for missionaries to come. That's the role I feel like I took in Napa as well. I have already seen this area improve greatly during the time I have been here. So I am going to keep working and apply a lesson I learned in scouts when it came to a campsite: "Leave it looking better than when you found it." Well, that's how my week looked. I have a zone conference tomorrow in Ukiah and I have to be there early for a leadership meeting with all the DL's, ZL's and STL's. I'm not sure what will be discussed but we shall see!

Love you all, and remember that in all that you do, give 100%, unless you're donating blood.

Love, Elder Hayden Ellis

Monday, August 3, 2015

A Wildfire and a Drought in the Apartment

The sun during the middle of the day, covered with smoke

Me and Elder Christensen

It's an honor having a winery named after me

Elder Frodsham eating Elder Christensen's "Greenie" breakfast

Catching a chicken so it's wings can be clipped

Me and my friend, Earl

Hola mi familia y amigos!

So some crazy things have been happening this week. It might be up in the top five most unexpected and insane serious of events of my mission. But I'm enjoying every moment of it!

On Tuesday at District Meeting I taught about having a good work ethic. That in the grand scheme of things, these two years are such a short season and we need to make the most out of the time the Lord has given us to work in His service. It's so easy to allow yourself to get lazy, especially when you are working so often and doing the same things over and over. It can get repetitive and easy to lose motivation to work, but we have to remember that we as missionaries, and everyone for that matter, will stand accountable to God for how we spent the valuable time he has given us, and I don't want to tell Him that I wasted it. So that's one of the reasons I keep trying my best to press forward and not give up while in His service......or ever, for that matter. Just because you're not a full-time missionary doesn't mean you haven't been given valuable time to perform your labors (Alma 34:32). So something we decided to do in our Sunday leadership meeting last week was make Zone challenges for the zone to strive to meet. It's important to have goals to work toward so one has a vision of what they are aiming for. When you have defined goals, it's easier to not only track your progress but also meet your goal. Our goal this week was for the entire zone to collectively get 500 contacts. There are some missionaries in our zone who don't try that hard so I don't think we made our goal. I am not trying to just throw them under the bus, because Elder Christensen and I could've done better too, but it's hard when not everyone is on board and trying to work, especially when you are counting on them to step up their game.

After District Meeting I went on exchanges with one of my Zone Leaders, Elder Frodsham. It's cool since I was there in the San Rafael zone when he was a greenie, and now he's my ZL. He is such an awesome and loving guy. We had such a good day, not to mention it was a super busy day of unadulterated craziness. We had 3 lessons, one of them was with my recent convert, Bob Linginger who then fed us dinner. It's a bummer since he isn't coming to any of the meetings other than sacrament. Next lesson we have to teach him the importance of the Priesthood and its role in being able to have an eternal family. Hopefully we can get him coming to more of church from that lesson. We also had a lesson with Annie and her boyfriend James, who both want to be baptized. We taught the plan of salvation, but focused on how Satan is going to throw everything he has at them to stop them from being baptized. Not a minute after we finished the closing prayer, there was an aggressive knock at the door from their landlord's nephew, yelling at them because they got a restraining order against him for walking into their apartment whenever he wants. Also, he refuses to turn their power and water on so the landlord was also probably mad that they told the sheriff about that. Basically the fruits of the confrontation was that they might get evicted - which brings us back to satan throwing everything he can at them. Then to finish the day we had a lesson with Dave and Natalie, and we recommitted them to pray about baptism and whether God wants them to do that or not. So we will see whether they recognize the answer or not next time we go by!

The next morning we had breakfast with the Tipton's and Elder Frodsham stole Elder Christensen's "greenie meal" where the member makes everything the color green. I totally forgot they were going to do that when they offered to feed us breakfast during the exchange, so we had his greenie brekky! Sorry Elder Christensen!

Elder Frodsham and I had the opportunity to do service for this potential investigator family that we found through knocking on their door a couple of days prior. It's awesome how grateful they were. It really is true humility to take help from two random strangers that knock on your door offering free yard work. I really respect someone who can swallow their pride and take help like that.

While there is a drought in California, we had a personal drought in our apartment this week. The water in our apartment was turned off because the water bill wasn't paid. For some reason, the billing information was not being sent to the mission office, which it should have been. We did receive a courtesy notice on our door notifying us of the impending nightmare that would soon befall our apartment, but we weren't able to call the mission office immediately, and they ended up turning our water off on Wednesday. Warning: The following events may not be suitable for all audiences, viewer discretion is advised. We have had no water to brush our teeth, shower or use the bathroom, so we have had to travel to the church every day to do all those things, minus the showering - we have had to go to members' houses to do that. Many members heard of our plight and offered us their shower. They are so supportive but it's kind of pitiful to beg to use someone else's shower. We have a good attitude about it, I mean our water being shut off is really more of an inconvenience than anything else, but we do joke around about our situation, like how we've never before felt so homeless in our lives. I realize how incredibly ridiculous that sounds, but just having to think, "hmm, I wonder how we are going to use the bathroom today..." and how we have to go to public places to brush our teeth gives us this feeling of being homeless (except for the food, electricity and comfy beds). Elder Christensen and I started to joke that everything that went wrong throughout the week was to be blamed on our lack of water. "If only we had our water on, then that tract would've been successful!" But finally our struggles are over! After 5 long days of a drought, we finally have received water in our land! When we discovered this we literally started rejoicing and praising God. We are so happy to be able to shower in our own apartment again!

Elder Christensen and I are having the best time together. He's so funny and sharp; he's an absolute riot to be around. We are a lot alike in many ways so we don't have any problem getting along together. It's crazy how much I have loved every single one of my companions and have enjoyed my time with each of them. Some of them were harder than others, and maybe we didn't always see eye to eye, but I'm pleased to say I have had a pleasant transfer with every companion I've had. I am not sure if I just keep getting super blessed by getting awesome companions or maybe I've just learned to have more of the Christ-like attribute of love for others. Either way, we have so much fun together it's stupid.

There has been some crazy stuff happening in Lake County this week. There is a huge wildfire that started on Wednesday by Lower Lake and has been ravaging the entire area. It has apparently burned through 18,000 acres and is one of the fastest spreading wildfires California has seen. The smoke is so bad it can be seen from space. Even though it is happening in Lower Lake, which is 30 miles away, Lakeport is getting its fair share of the action. The smoke and the ash somehow traveled all the way across the lake and found its way to us. We went into the church to weekly plan with blue skies and came out 3 hours later with the strong stench of a campfire permeating all of Lakeport, ash falling out of the sky and a smokey haze covering the land. In fact there is so much smoke and ash in the air, it nearly blocked out the sun. It wasn't even sunset and the sun was red and easy to look at because of all the smoke in the air. It's kinda a bummer that the beautiful sight we beheld was a result of thousands of lives being shaken up by this massive fire. It's insane in the membrane over here. You can see a huge plume of smoke rising in the distance, accompanied by a red glow from the roaring fire on the other side of the mountain. I thought they were containing it, but apparently it doubled in size from roughly 2,200 acres to 4,700 acres. We keep joking that God has smitten this land with hellfire and brimstone because of the wickedness of this land, like Sodom and Gomorrah. That's what you get for not paying tithing! Or maybe he is just trying to destroy all the weed here. Who knows? One thing is for certain though - things are getting crazy here. Fire trucks are all over the place. It's pretty exciting in a terrible, awful, disaster kind of way.

Elder Christensen and I have had so much service this week. It has been fantastic. Service is definitely one of my favorite things about missionary work. We had 10 hours of service this week, 3 of which were from community service. We helped set up for this fundraiser called "Grillin on the Green" and set up the chairs, tables and the tents for this barbecue competition. It was overall good, except we didn't get any food from it. :(

So I've had a really good week. It's been chaotic week, with no water and half the county burning down, but it has still been a great week. I'm enjoying the time I have left in Lakeport and I'm learning a lot while I'm out here. For example my culinary skills are improving greatly. I have undertaken the challenge of preparing a halibut. This will truly test my primarily chicken-based cooking abilities. I will let you know how it goes!

Well it's about time that I wrap it up this week, but I wish to leave you with wisdom that I have learned while embarking on this adventure. My parting words to you are the following: Gentlemen, do NOT shave your armpits ever. It is the most scratchy and dreadful experience you will ever suffer through in this life and the one to come. Unless you want to try out for the swim team or a man has a gun to your head commanding you to do so, you are not to participate in such activities. If you have the burning desire to reach out to your feminine side, or try to understand women more, I recommend watching "Dear John" or several hours of The Bachelorette, but avoid this activity like the plague. 

Love, Elder Hayden Ellis