|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|
|The tents we organized clothes in for the victims of the Valley fire|
|A lot of people donated clothes|
|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