Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Chevy Convertible and Shooting Stars

A ride in Bro. Lininger's '75 Chevy convertable

Destruction from the Valley fire

Hi Everyone!

Elder Christensen and I had a pretty decent week, although it felt like it was pretty long. The work in this area is really picking up. We have four progressing investigators which is more than we have had my entire time spent here, and we set a baptismal date with one of our investigators! Planting seeds all day, every day!

Tuesday was a rather somber day for Elder Christensen and I, which I will explain why in just a second. We had District Meeting (henceforth known as Elders Quorum meeting, since the sisters have been cast out of the zone by fire and brimstone) and Elder Mallory was discussing with us how to better find people to teach. At the end he shared with us a rather sharp and chastening scripture in D&C 60:2-3, "But with some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths, but they hide the talent which I have given unto them, because of the fear of man.Wo unto such, for mine anger is kindled against them. And it shall come to pass, if they are not more faithful unto me, it shall be taken away, even that which they have." Man, hearing that sure made me feel inadequate.  I certainly could be better about opening my mouth more to people on the streets. I definitely pass up a lot of people that I could be trying to share the gospel with. That's something I need to promptly fix. Well, on to the depressing portion of our day. We found out that our investigator, David Smith, died two weeks ago. David, was very sick like my dad. He had chronic pain and had trouble getting out of a chair, let alone come to church. His health conditions prevented him from being baptized, which is something he has wanted to do for a long time now. Now he will finally be able to do it! Brother Hilt said David's family gave him permission to be baptized for him in the temple a year from now, so we are all very happy about that. But until then, his spirit will be taught about the gospel and his body will be taking a much needed rest in Fresno, where he will be buried. God knows His children, and what they need when they need it. This principle was retaught to me by us resolving David's concern last time we taught him, which was about enduring to the end. I guess he needed a little bit more comfort during this process that was coming to a close for him.

We also learned on Tuesday that Elder Richard G. Scott died. I can't believe we have had three apostles pass away all within the short time between General Conference. Heck, all have been during the time I have been in Lakeport. I am on the edge of my seat to see who is called to fill those big shoes left vacant. This next General Conference is going to be amazing, I know it! I can't wait to hear the last bit of wisdom shared by living prophets that I will hear while on my mission. Like my Mission President shared in his weekly letter this week: "This coming weekend, we have the tremendous blessing of receiving counsel from prophets, seers and revelators. I recommend that you not simply “hear” the messages given. Rather, prayerfully ponder and apply them to your missionary service. Come to conference with challenges and questions, an open and humble heart and a desire to bless God’s children and improve your missionary service." In short: we get out what we put in. If we want an incredible revelatory moment from conference, then we need to put in the effort to receive one. So everyone start preparing for conference!

On Wednesday we did service down in Clearlake with the Highlands elders. We were helping the Highland ward's Bishop's wife with some projects around her house. Elder Raban and Elder Christensen worked on deconstructing a gate to a horse corral while Elder Mallory and I searched for the spot where an underground pipe was leaking. There was this big patch of mud underneath a bush that the bishop's wife wanted us to investigate to find where the leak was coming from. Well, I mentioned how it would probably take a us a while to find it, then I proceeded to lift the edge of the bush up, and lo and behold, water was coming out of the ground! Boy, did I feel accomplished! So we dug until we found the pipe, and of course the water started shooting in the air as if we struck oil. Unfortunately, we weren't able to stay for the entire pipe repairing process, but we did get to help a little. So I'm just that much more knowledgeable with pvc piping, which, considering how much I knew before, is still not that impressive.

We had dinner with Dennis and Vessa Wednesday night. I left them with a dinner message about a talk given by Elder Scott, which I felt was appropriate considering the news we received the day before. In the talk it encourages us to demonstrate and exercise our faith by reading the scriptures, praying, and having family home evening, which is what we also encouraged them to do, specifically to have family home evening every Monday. So they committed to do that after tomorrow when we help them move into their new house. I think having that set family time will be immensely good for the family, especially Dennis.

There are some days when I wake up and just have the feeling that I am going to have to drag myself through the day. On Thursday I woke up with that feeling. That morning I was sooo unenthused at the thought of that day. I am not sure why, but I just had a feeling it was going to be rough going, but we ended up getting a lot more done than I thought we would. We had another lesson with Richard Bennett. After that, we drove to Lucerne, and we taught Jake Anderson-Turner and his sister, Cheyenne, who is a member, with Brice Beare as a member present. Last time we went over, we explained our purpose as missionaries and this visit we taught them about the Restoration. We have to teach very simply because Jake has some learning disabilities, and is just overall not really familiar with God in general. So we have to take the teaching veeery slowly. Even with his limited understanding of God and Jesus Christ, he wants to be baptized and have a closer relationship with them. So Jake is the one who we set a baptismal date for - November 9th. He actually chose the date, which is also his birthday. I really think that helps when you and your investigator choose a date for them to be baptized that holds significance to them, like a birthday or anniversary. That way they are more motivated to make their date because it's their only chance to make the date that's important to them unless they want to wait a whole year to try again. November 9th will definitely mean a lot more to him than some date that he views as some random day that we would try to help him to reach.

Thursday night Elder Christensen and I had dinner at the Jones' house with our investigators, Brenda and Chase. I was surprised that Chase and Brenda accepted the invitation to dinner since they didn't even know who the Jones were. But they really hit it off and Sister Jones was the MVP of the lesson. She did an awesome job fellowshipping and befriending them! We are going to have our lessons with Chase and Brenda at the Jones' house from now. Members are so key to missionary work. It's so much harder on us when we try to do it by ourselves. Remember that everyone! The full time missionaries need the member missionaries!

Friday was pretty slow this week. We had the normal weekly planning thing that took three to four hours, which is average. I think I've done a pretty adequate job of keeping trunky thoughts out of my emails, but allow me to diverge briefly from standard email protocol and propose one trunky feeling I have. I am so excited to not have to weekly plan every week anymore. Planning every second of every day is so tedious and mind numbing. Don't get me wrong, being able to plan around my schedule is definitely a valuable life lesson which I will utilize in the future, but I'm more of a spontaneous person. I kind of like flying by the seat of my pants and see what happens. If a friend of mine were to come up to me and randomly say, "Hey, I am going to New Zealand tomorrow, wanna come?" The first thing out of my mouth would be, "what time is the plane leaving?" Now that example may be a little out there, but I do like the spontaneity of life. So I am looking forward to not having such a tight schedule anymore. Well, after a few hours of my brain rotting from planning, we decided to take a break to commence our Elusive Elders plan! There's something in our mission called Secret Sisters and Elusive Elders, which is just the missionary version of secret Santa. My zone decided to do it this transfer and we had the Zone Leaders this week. What we did was we broke into their apartment (and by broke in I mean their roommates, Elder Wilkes and Elder Cote let us in) and left surprises throughout their apartment, like bags of popcorn, mug cake mix, and a pitcher of horchata. We left clues in the form of scripture verses to guide them to where everything was hidden, like: "no unclean thing can enter the kingdom of God," we hid something in their shower, and: "feast upon the words of Christ," we hid something in their kitchen cabinets by their food, etc. So it's pretty safe to assume we totally won this week Elusive Elder-wise. Friday night we had dinner with my recent convert, Bob Lininger, and his wife. Buuuut, first he took us for a ride in his '75 Chevy convertible! I felt like a somebody! I felt like a big shot, like Kennedy. Ya'know...before he got shot... Well I digress. We had salmon for dinner; I love the Liningers, I can always rely on them to make awesome seafood for us. Wow, all I did in this paragraph was complain about planning and talk about fish... Sorry for wasting everyone's time with this one.

There were a lot of people who came up to me throughout the week to give their condolences about my father. I've really appreciated the support and love people have been showing. I just want to assure everyone that I am doing well and my missionary service has been minimally affected by my Dad's passing. I've been able to stay focused on the work at hand. It's obviously been hard, but it's nothing that I can't handle, or rather nothing the Lord hasn't been preparing me to handle. Considering my how my life has been so far, the Lord has definitely taken it easy on me when it comes to trials and tribulations.

We went to try to see Brother Prior on Sunday. This is probably the third time he hasn't answered his door this week. We are getting concerned, especially because this time we tried opening his door, which was unlocked, and we went into his house. He wasn't home and there was a bag on his table indicating he was in the ER this week. He cannot live by himself anymore. The bishop is going to get serious and call Adult Services and get Brother Prior the help he needs. That night we had a lesson with Natalie. Unfortunately, she didn't read any of the Book of Mormon like we committed her to do last time we saw her, so we began reading with her in chapter one of 1 Nephi. And boy was that a struggle! There were so many distractions! Her baby, Preston, on her lap kept trying to eat her Book of Mormon, and crying when she wouldn't let him. The motion sensor light wouldn't stop turning off. And her daughter Angie was bouncing off the walls! But we managed to get through what we planned to go over and hopefully she will do her part and keep reading. She will never know if this church is true if she doesn't find time to sit down and read the book that binds the entire church together!

Well, to end our Sunday night we tried, and failed, to go see an investigator, Adrian, who we passed off to the Spanish missionaries that we visit once in a while. When we started heading back to our car, we saw how many stars were out, not to mention the lunar eclipse (and we saw some shooting stars, which I have never seen in person before! So that was pretty cool for me!). So we may have gotten a little distracted, but it helped remind me how beautiful the Lord's creations are. There's no way all this happened by accident. It was carefully created by an infinitely and eternally loving Being.

Well, that was basically my week. I hope everyone has a stellar week and happy conference everyone! 

Love, Elder Hayden Ellis

Monday, September 21, 2015

A Tribute to my Dad

Last picture with my Dad

He squealed like a pig when I caught him!

The goat was a little more mellow about me holding him

Walking a donkey can now be added to my skillset

Time to kill more turkeys - this is what I was doing when I got the phone call about Dad's death

Me and the turkey

Six-man sleepover

The tents we organized clothes in for the victims of the Valley fire

A lot of people donated clothes

......and shoes

Gotta always take a service selfie

Well, this has a pretty somber last few days for me. On Friday evening received an unexpected call on my way to dinner from my mission president, President Wright. Receiving a random call from your mission president never bodes well for the recipient and I immediately started racking my brain for what I could've done wrong that would result in an unwanted chat from the Mission President. Well, he lovingly informed me that my dad was very ill and his situation looked bleak. He gave me permission to call my mom and she filled me in on what was happening. Dad was in the ICU in Kansas City and his body was shutting down. The doctors didn't give any false hope and informed us they didn't think he was going to make it, which my mom then passed on to me. Well, as many of you probably already know, my dad passed away the following day on September 19th. That was not easy news for me to receive. I am just grateful I was able to get 24 hour notice from my mom before getting the news of his death - at least I had some time to mentally prepare myself for what might have and inevitably did happen. I've had a couple of good cries since then. I don't like throwing myself a big pity-party (something I got from my dad, by the way) so I've mourned in the only place away from the world where I have privacy: the shower, or the "sorrowful shower of great lamentation" I like to call it. But in all seriousness, I am handling it well. I am definitely taking it a lot better than I would've two years ago. I love my dad so much, he has been a role model and a hero to me growing up. He has helped me not only to see the kind of man I want to be like, but also the type of person I want to be even better than. He must be some sort of super hero to have lived as long as he did. I am positive the Lord was carrying him the whole way, even if he didn't know it. I have such a strong testimony of the Savior's ever-reaching Atonement, that can redeem someone like my dad who didn't know much about Christ, let alone believe He would forgive the things he had done in his life. Even more so, I am grateful for the testimony I have of the Plan of Salvation, which really cushioned what could've been an overwhelming blow in my life. Knowing where my dad is and how he is doing brings feelings of peace and relief that comfort me through it all. I know he is being taught the gospel of Jesus Christ right now(1 Peter 4:5-6) and has the opportunity to accept the Savior's Atonement. So the lack of tears I shed aren't from apathy, but from the understanding of Heavenly Father's plan for his children. I am excited to one day go through the temple and be baptized for my dad when he has had time to learn about the gospel in the spirit world but until then, I have people I need focus on and teach here! Lastly, I am really grateful for all the support and prayers I have gotten . I can feel the spirit tell me how much I am loved and it helps me a lot. So thank you all for that.

So, onto the rest of my week. I know I've said this time and time again, and I'll probably say it again in the near future, but THIS was a week of service! There is so much that needs to be done to help out the community that has been ravaged by wildfires. Like I've said before, I feel like missionary work in this area is going to be very different for months to come.

Monday was a pretty laid back P-Day. Elder Christensen just spent all day at the Larsen's house. We didn't feel like doing anything with the rest of the zone (which didn't matter since the sisters are in Santa Rosa and the highway connecting us to the Highlands is closed due to the wildfire) so we just took it easy at the Larsen's. The Larsen's are out of town and the Beare sons were house sitting so we hung out with them and played some pool, which I am pleased to say my pool game is increasing significantly so I will be a real shark by the time I return home! Unfortunately, that night we got locked out of our house. Since all four Kelseyville Elders stayed at our apartment Sunday night out of concern that the fire would get to Kelseyville, we let them borrow our house key so they could have personal studies in our apartment and Elder Christensen and I headed over to the Larsen's to do our laundry. Well, to our dismay, I forgot to put the house key back on my key chain and left it on my study desk. Also, Elder Christensen closed and locked the windows that are normally open to keep the smoke out of our apartment.So, it was the perfect storm. To make matters worse, my stomach was KILLING ME the whole night. I can't remember the last time my stomach hurt so bad. The pain would hit me in waves. One moment I would be fine, trying to McGyver our door open with a paper clip, the next moment I would be in a fetal position on the ground groaning in pain. I had it narrowed down to either appendicitis or labor pains.... Turns out it was just gas. But the most painful gas I've ever experienced in my life!! Eventually our neighbors, whose parents are the managers of our complex, got home and informed us that there was a copy made of the key since missionaries had been locked out in the past. We went to the Church and did an extensive search of where I assumed it would have been, to no avail. We returned to the apartment and resigned ourselves to sleeping in the car until morning when the manager could unlock our door. We were about to go to sleep when we had a feeling to try a random key on my key chain. Lo and behold, the door opened.... Our spare had been sitting on my key chain for the last five months and I had no idea. We finally got in at 10:40 pm and I went to bed feeling very humbled.

On Tuesday we had district meeting over Skype, minus the sisters. It's pretty weird not having the Sisters in the Zone anymore. They lived in Hidden Valley, which got hit pretty hard by the fire, but miraculously their house is still standing. Unfortunately their area, on the other hand, is not. So I imagine their area will close and they will stay in Santa Rosa until President can figure out what to do with them. After District meeting I went on exchanges with Elder Wilkes and went to the Kelseyville area with him. It was the first time in my entire stay in Lake County that I went on exchanges out of my area, so it was really nice to not stress about my area for a little while. Elder Christensen did a really good job leading the area out with Elder Cote, who is even more green than he is! I'm so proud of Elder Christensen! He is just doing a fantastic job. He taught Annie and James and walked away from the lesson with James' cigarettes pack. James gave it to him to dispose of and express a greater resolve to quit smoking like Annie has already done. Now he just needs to keep going strong and get married to Annie and then they will both be ready to be baptized. We taught them the next day and discussed setting a marriage/baptismal date for them to work towards. They are going to pray about a day for them to work towards and be married and baptized on. We shall see what the Lord has in store for them.

On Thursday we went to the Seventh Day Adventist church to help with organizing all the donations that people are giving to help out the Valley fire victims. There are soooo many clothes being donated! It's overwhelming how many there are! They are telling people to stop donating clothes because the various organizations providing relief efforts around here, like the Seventh Day Adventist church, the Lions Club, and of course our church, can't handle all the clothing people are sending. It's crazy how supportive people are when disaster strikes. Too bad it takes a wildfire to bring a community together, but at least the help comes when things start heading south.

We drove down to Sister Lease's ranch on Friday to do some more zone service, We basically did the same thing we did last time like cleaning out the horse stalls, which means that Elder Ellis is just that more proficient at raking horse excrement. We also played with the goats again and while we were in there, I caught the pig! Now if the picture I sent home had audio, you would all witness just how displeased the pig was with my decision to manhandle him. He was quite distressed. Another thing to add to my list of achievements that day was I walked a donkey on a leash just like a dog. It was a strange sensation taking a donkey out for a leisurely stroll. I am not sure what this paragraph adds to the letter, but I just felt like you all should know.

On Saturday we had service in Clearlake organizing all the donated clothes for people displaced by the Valley fire. Just like I said before, there are soooo many clothes donated, it's completely insane. There were rooms in the church that were packed from floor to ceiling with clothes. The fire should be completely out sometime soon since it is 70% contained. When it's finally out, the real work will begin by helping people rebuild their lives. We will probably find a lot of work down in Cobb, Middletown, and Hidden Valley helping people clean up and rebuild their homes. On our way home from the clothes sorting, Elder Christensen and I saw five military grade Humvees in Clearlake - one of which had a mounted MG on top. What?? How desperate does one have to be to try fighting a fire by bringing a machine gun to the firefight? Just kidding, I honestly don't know why the army is in our humble town of Clearlake, but it was quite the peculiar sight that definitely raised some of Elder Ellis' internal red flags.

I love you all and wish to leave you with my testimony that the Savior has restored His church on the Earth in this day and age. If we abide by his commandments and seek the blessings of the temple, which are the greatest the Lord can offer us, we will be able to live eternally with our families in the presence of our Father in Heaven.

Love, Elder Hayden Ellis

Monday, September 14, 2015

A Release Date and an Explosive Wildfire

Middletown burning down

Pruning the vineyard

Baskin Robins selfie

Painting a room and ourselves 
"Processing" turkeys


Wow, this seemed like a very long week. I feel like last Monday was forever ago! Although it may have seemed long, it was really productive and fruitful. I think we had at least 17 lessons, which may not seem like a lot to other areas (because it's really not......we are suppose to be getting at least 21 lessons a week) but for Lakeport that's pretty good! So we feel accomplished. Allow me to unleash upon you all the craziness of Elder Christensen's and my week.

We had some pretty fantastic lessons with Brenda, Bob Lininger, Gia and an interesting one with Aden and Robin. Aden is a less active member and the son of the Piersons who are in our ward, and Robin is a non member. Both have met with missionaries for a while now. They are really friendly and love having us over to talk to us, but have a lot of concerns about the church - primarily the Book of Mormon and the thought of having living prophets - and they were voicing their opinion on why they don't believe in those particular points ofdoctrine. Sometimes all you can do is bear your testimony and leave it at that. Some people are just not ready and nothing you say at that time will change their thinking. So, to avoid a combative discussion, we just bore simple testimonies of what we know is true, like of the Book of Mormon and of modern day prophets, and left. Some people just need some more time and preparation from the Lord before they are ready to receive His gospel.

On Wednesday we drove up to Upper Lake to help one of our members, Sister Fitch, with some service. We cleaned her gutters and trimmed some of her tree branches with one of those long chainsaws that are used to cut tall branches. Not sure what it's called, but that was fun. After that we were scheduled to have four lessons that day - one with the Minton family which fell through, and one with our investigator, Liz Hall, but she rescheduled for Thursday (which ended up falling through). The two lessons that did happen that day were with Billy Ringer and the Crites. Billy Ringer is an older man who asks us every five minutes the same questions, over and over. So lessons with him tend to get off topic frequently. We taught him the gospel of Jesus Christ and talked about having faith in Jesus Christ and repenting of our sins, all of which he doesn't have any problems with. We got to baptism and stressed its importance, especially that it's done by proper authority. Billy doesn't have anything against baptism, and is willing to be baptized (assuming we can get him to keep any commitments, namely come to church) but he doesn't feel in his heart that it is an essential ordinance and that he doesn't need to be baptized to receive salvation. It seems like regardless of how we present and explain it to him, he just doesn't understand how important it is. We will see what future lessons with him are like, but if we can't help him to start progressing and understand the need for baptism then we will have to drop him. After seeing Billy we went over to Brother and Sister Crites' house to help them paint their living room. As you can see from the pictures I emailed, things got a little out of hand.

We had an incredibly productive day in Nice and Lucerne this week. We taught five lessons which is pretty good for our area. We saw Patrick who is so close to getting the priesthood - he just needs to have his final interview with Bishop Tipton. We also met with David Smith in Nice. What was planned to be a lesson about the Law of Chastity and Word of Wisdom turned into an "endure to the end" lesson since he is having some problems finding the strength to persevere through his trials. Staying faithful and strong until the very end is by far the hardest thing we have to do in this life but it's also so incredibly important! We left him with the promise in 2 Nephi 31:20 about receiving eternal life if we endure to the end and urged him to just keep holding on. I hope he is able to be baptized with all his health problems. He has trouble getting out of his chair so coming to church is understandably really challenging for him. After we visited with David, we dropped by Richard Bennett's house, a less active in Nice. We still need to get him a ride to church. You wouldn't think it would be so difficult to find someone close by him that can take him to church, but we are really having a hard time finding someone! And lastly, we had dinner with Crystal De Leon and Mary Nassare. We taught Mary the last of the new convert lessons and then we went over what Crystal has read in the Book of Mormon. We assigned her to read about Lehi's vision of the tree of life and she read that but kept reading so we talked about some of the chapters she read. She has been reading the scriptures everyday and wants to get active again and also wants to go through the temple. It's awesome when members rediscover their love for the gospel and want to find their way back to it. It always makes me think of the parable of the lost sheep, where one out of 100 wanders away but is found and brought back to the fold (Luke 15:4-7).

Oh! And I have some important news that will finally put my mother at ease! We had interviews with President Wright Thursday. Quick side note: I love President Wright so much, he always makes me feel so good about myself and tells me how good of a job I am doing, which only makes me want to do even better. He really knows how to make molehills feel like a mountain (I just took one expression and turned it into a different expression, aren't I creative?). But the important news is that he told me that my new release date will be December 21st. So that's the new day of when to expect me home. I will be home in time for Christmas!

On Friday we had an awesome lesson with Brenda and Chase. Chase is a man in our potential investigators list that we have tried to meet for at least a month now. Every time we knocked on the door his fiancé, Brenda, would answer and we would talk to her. We have had a couple of door step lessons with her so far but this time Chase was home so we were able to go inside! We met Chase and his dad and sat down and got to know them and taught about the restoration. So Chase's family are members and he grew up going to the church and scouts and whatnot, but his parents thought he was too young to decide to be baptized so they didn't let him. He knows a good amount about the church and wants to get back into going, especially for his son, Kayden. And Brenda knows that God wants more for her in her life and is looking for that direction. She has been reading the Book of Mormon that we left with her and really likes how easy it is to understand and how storybook-like it is. We invited them both to be baptized and they said they would, so we are pretty pumped for that! Really the only big problem I see is Chase's work schedule and him being able to get to church, but other than that they are pretty golden. We are excited to keep teaching them! I'll let you all know how it goes! Also, something pretty cool that happened is we met a member at Baskin Robins in Upper Lake and he asked us to come by and visit him. He lives in Blue Lakes, so now we finally have a reason to go up there!

On Saturday we had the most insane day. We assisted the Kelseyville missionaries slaughter some turkeys to help out one of their members after the Lake County fair. Lots of people raised turkeys to display and auction in the fair, so now that the fair is over everyone is "processing" their turkeys, so Elder Christensen and I assisted there. It was an interesting experience but it was pretty gruesome. Our job was to hold the turkey while and after they cut its head off. Yeah, PETA would not be happy with me if they found out what I did that day. After we finished there (and showered the blood off), Elder Wilkes, Elder Cote, Elder Christensen and I had more service lined up to help a man in Lucerne move his possessions into a storage unit. So lots of service happened - service that will stay with me and haunt me for the rest of my days...

The biggest news of this week is the Lake County Valley fire that started Saturday at 1:30 pm. By 4 pm it was recorded to have grown to 500 acres and then by 7 pm jumped to a massive 10,000 acres and now it's 61,000+ acres and still growing uncontrollably with only 5% containment. It started near/in a town named Cobb which has been completely destroyed and towns like Middletown and Hidden Valley have been evacuated including the Sister missionaries, Hermana Melgar-Fetzer and Sister Moore. Well they are trying to evac everyone down there. I think the highways are closed and a lot of people are still trapped inside Hidden Valley and can't get out, so CalFire tried taking down bulldozers to create a new road for people to escape out of. I hope they got everyone out since as of yesterday morning Hidden Valley and Middletown were almost completely destroyed. Everything just went up in flames. It's a good thing the Sisters got out when they did. They called us on the phone the other day and they are pretty traumatized from this whole thing. They just felt the spirit tell them to leave and then they took off. This is pretty scary stuff. At least with the other fires, like the Rocky fire, it was only destroying forests but this one is burning down towns and spreading incredibly fast. The AP's called Elder Wilkes who told us we may need to evacuate depending out how far the fire travels, but I don't think it will get to Lakeport. Just in case, we took the necessary precautions and are packed up in the event we need to evacuate.

On Sunday we only had sacrament meeting in church. Due to the fire, everyone needed to evaluate their situation and help themselves, whether it was preparing their 72 hour kits or packing their stuff in case of evacuation. Also, Sister Tipton spoke about relief efforts for other people, and how times like this call for us reaching out to others who need help. So, the church is going to be greatly involved in the aid of those affected by the fires. We are seeing what resources we have to offer, whether it be food, water, housing or even trailers and additional space we can use to retrieve and house people's animals. I know there are a lot of animals, primarily horses, that are stuck or lost, so there will be a great need for their care. There's a lot to be done here now because of the fire, which is still going strong and there is going to be a great need of relief effort around here, so the way missionary work is done here is going to be a little different for awhile.

Well that was my week, super busy and super crazy and I feel like it will be crazy here for a while to come. To top it off, we lost power for a little while. I guess 2,000 people were affected by the power lost. I think PG&E was just switching us over to Ukiah's power to play it safe because of the fire, but it's just one more thing added to the craziness of this week. But I'm sure the firefighters will get a handle on this fire soon. I just talked to some Middletown youth at our church building (they seemed awfully jovial for having their town burn to the ground) and they told us their homes were okay, so there are some houses that are surviving. Finally a silver lining! Elder Christensen and I are doing well, so no worries. Well that's what's happening here! Hope everyone else is having as much fun as we are!

Peace I leave with you,

Elder Hayden Ellis

Monday, September 7, 2015

Princess Snacks and Doing Hard Things

Elder Ellis in his happy place with easy access to the fridge

Eating princess snacks

On splits with Brice Beare. He is about to go on a mission!

Betty Crocker mode [ON] OFF

Our selfie goes on for eternity

Building a blockade in front of the bathroom door while Elder Christensen was in there. I might add that he started it
by putting a chair in front of my door. I play to win!

If we start a band, this will be our first album cover. We are Chrellisen.

Greetings my loyal support group!

This has been a rather long week for me. I'm not saying it was a bad week, it was just tiring and I often found myself asking throughout this week if it was the next week yet. I have a feeling I am going to have a couple more weeks like that this transfer. #strugglecity. But it's okay, I can do hard things.

On Tuesday we went around Lakeport trying to find new people to teach. We decided to try to see some potential investigators that live on Alterra Street that we have tried to visit in the past. We knocked on the door of a women named Brenda, who we actually talked to last time we stopped by the house. She was very friendly, just like she was last time we talked to her, and she stepped outside to chat with us. She then asked us some questions about the spirit world and life after death. She's has been pondering questions like that since last time we spoke with her and is starting to think she needs to do more with her life. We briefly taught her about the Plan of Salvation and testified to her that those feelings she's having about needing to change and do more with herself were from God. So we set up a return appointment to come back and teach her. And just like that, we picked up another family to teach! Hopefully her husband is home so we can talk to him as well.

We had a very interesting visit to Barry and Priscilla's house. They are the non-active members that Elder Stephenson and I randomly tracted into a little while ago. They are a little bit different from what society would classify as normal.... or socially acceptable. We were just trying to visit some potentials in the apartment complex they lived in, and then Barry ran into us outside and told us to stop by his house. So we did and when we got in there I could tell that Elder Christensen wanted out of that place. He was definitely not feeling comfortable there. So I did what any good trainer would do, and offered to serve them by doing their dishes so we had to stay longer! That meant Elder Christensen had to stay out there and chat with them while I took refuge in their dirty kitchen and scrubbed away! He was not a happy camper. Afterward he updated me on what they talked about while I sought asylum just outside of the conversational boundaries. It was a good experience for Elder Christensen. Situations like that are good to help you get better at talking to people, especially when your companion (me! :D) throws you in the lion's den and walks away. Elder Christensen is doing really well; he is getting more and more comfortable talking to people and has made a lot of progress out here.

A new fire started in Upper Lake.... What else is new? I'm pretty desensitized to wildfires at this point. So many have happened in Lake County since I have been here. Every time a new one starts I just kinda shrug it off. Although if one starts in Lakeport, I will completely flip out so hopefully it doesn't come to that. While we were in Upper Lake we visited a less active family, the Mintons. They own this huge ranch and it probably took five minutes of driving to get to their actual house. I remember thinking "I hope they like missionaries, because if they are mad at the church, then this will be very unpleasant, especially considering how far into their property we are." Fortunately, they liked us :). We had a really nice visit with them and got to at least meet Brother and Sister Minton. Their kids are working/competing at the fair that is in town. They invited us to come back this week since it was pretty crazy on Wednesday with the fire and the fair preparations, so we will stop by and get to know the whole family. And they might feed us in the future! A sure way to a missionary's heart!

We had a really good and efficient day up in Nice and Lucerne on Thursday. Brice Beare, a young man in our ward who is getting ready to go back on his mission in a couple of weeks, met us out there to go on splits with us. Getting members out to lessons with us is probably one of the things I am the worst at, so I felt accomplished having him there. After we hit all the appointments we had in Nice and Lucerne, Brice took off and we started heading back to Lakeport when we felt like we should try to visit a referral we got from some of the Ukiah Elders. We had tried to visit this referral in the past with no success. But this time we stopped by at the right time to find Diana, some other dude and Diana's mother, Liz, out front. Unfortunately Diana and the guy were just about to take off when we got there, but we were able to get to know Liz, who was more than happy to converse with us. Turns out the family is LDS except for Liz. Running into less active members randomly seems to be an underlying theme of my mission. It's almost as if Someone is leading us to them.... Liz was telling us how she believes the church is true but she can't seem to kick some habits that prevent her from being baptized. We set up a return appointment for next Wednesday so we shall see what becomes of these aforementioned visitations.

We did our weekly planning and some service at Angie's house. We trimmed back some vines surrounding her front porch, picked up at least 60 pieces of dog excrement (I guess cleaning feces is turning into a weekly chore for me. Although it's still better than the time I cleaned up human waste while I was in Napa. I am still trying to repress that memory), and helped build a desk all in under 1 1/2 hours. Not a bad days work for service, if I say so myself.

Almost all of Saturday was doing service by cleaning the apartment of our good friend Brother Prior. We had to completely purge his house. For a while I thought the only way to clean his house was to purify it with fire, but luckily it didn't come to that, and we found a way to get the job done with ammonia and elbow grease. We had cleaned his apartment back in the days when I was with Elder Yepez and we didn't get as much done as we would've liked because Brother Prior got stressed out from it all and cut the cleaning short. But this time he was really patient and endured the sanitation process. It was incredibly helpful that Elder Christensen used to work as a middle school janitor. He took the bathroom head on and destroyed all microorganism intruders. While this was taking place, I was attempting to vacuum every square inch of his apartment. I think I filled the vacuum's container at least four times solely with cat hair, cat food and cat litter. So after Elder Christensen tackled the bathroom and I vacuumed the carpet, we tag teamed the kitchen and cleaned it till it was sparkling (by Elder standards) so at least now it's habitable.

We had two lessons on Sunday night. One was with an older man named Billy Ringer, who we taught about keeping the sabbath day holy. Every time we go see Billy he always asks us over and over again how long we have been on our missions, how long we have been in school, what we are going to major in, etc. And he asks us these questions every five minutes. His memory isn't exactly up to par nowadays. We managed to get the topic to church and the importance of keeping the sabbath day holy and invited him to come to church. Church attendance is something he knows he needs to get better at - he is just having a hard time getting back into that habit. We are going to go by again on Wednesday and remind him about church so hopefully it sticks in his head and he comes! The other lesson on Sunday night was with Natalie, the investigator we have worked with much in the past. She brought up her concern about baptism and the huge commitment it is. Specifically she is concerned about paying tithing, since they are in a bit of a pinch financially. We tried to resolve her concern by using scriptures and promising blessings but she is still hesitant. We invited her to pray about it along with baptism and see how she feels. We also invited her to come to church on Sunday and she said she would. Hopefully she and Dave show up this time. They assured us that they were going to be at church the last Sunday Elder Stephenson was here, but flaked on us. I know as they come to church and read from the Book of Mormon that their faith will grow to the point where paying tithing will become a blessing in their eyes instead of the financial setback they see it as now. We are here to help them get to that point.

Well, that was more or less my week. Nothing too incredibly exciting happened. Right now I am in a members home, the Larsen's, for P-Day. We are waiting for the other Elders to get here we are sitting with the Middletown Sisters, getting to know Sister Melgar-Fetzer, who just transferred in. I'm pretty excited for this next week - we have a lot of appointments scheduled, so we should be pretty busy this week. I hope everyone has a great week! And remember, "It is better to be silent and considered a fool than to speak and remove all doubt." BYE!

Love, Elder Hayden Ellis