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

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