|This is the photo that will accompany Elder Ellis' blog post this week. As a pig lover,|
I just couldn't post any of the pictures that Elder Ellis emailed home this week.
Sorry this email is late. We had a temple trip on Monday and so we only had a partial p-day and I had to send my email in the middle of the week. I have had quite an active and interesting life since last you all heard from me. I won't keep you all waiting with a boring introduction; on to why you're all here!
I went on exchanges with the Benicia Elders on Wednesday; I was with Elder Walpole in Benicia and Elder Dean was with Elder Rasmussen in my area. Elder Walpole and I both were in the MTC together and got to the mission at the same time, so this is his last transfer. He is one of the most humble missionaries that I know. He was raised on a dairy farm in Colorado and he is almost childlike in his innocence and humility. He is also the oldest missionary in our mission being 28 as of Tuesday. In my opinion, it's quite peculiar for me, a 20-year-old kid, to give life counsel to a 28-year-old man which is what happened throughout the entire exchange. He asked me questions like: "How do you keep yourself motivated out here? How do you handle a trunky companion? What if my wife doesn't like the way I look in the Celestial kingdom? How should I talk to the Sister missionaries here? What are you looking for in a girl? If I don't get a college education then will I be behind everyone else progression-wise after this life?" I answered these questions to the best of my ability. You'd think having more life experience than I, he would have more of the answers to these questions than I would. I think he must've been pretty sheltered on that farm because Elder Walpole is seriously like the most humble, sweetest, big kid I've ever met. I love this man so much it's stupid. I looked through their area book to see how their area is doing and it isn't too impressive so we tried to do a lot of finding and door knocking in their former investigator list. We were able to meet some really cool people and get a couple of return appointments for Elder Walpole and Elder Rasmussen.
I may have mentioned this in the past, but I'll say it again: interesting things always happen on exchanges. Five minutes into our drive, their Chevy Cruise overheated and we had to pull over to the side of the road. The car had run out of coolant and we had to call our companions to come pick us up and take us to a gas station to buy some more and refill it before the car's engine exploded. Poor Elder Walpole got a solid rebuking from the vehicle coordinators when he called the mission office for letting the coolant get so low. Later that night we had a lesson with two young member girls, Tia and Mia, and read with them in the Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 3 and explained it as we read. I've gotten pretty good at teaching children about the gospel, so that's definitely a positive takeaway from my mission.
Elder Walpole and I exchanged back with Elders Rasmussen and Dean on Thursday afternoon. After that, Elder Dean and I had to run some errands to fix our car. We are having trouble with the front passenger door locking and unlocking electronically using the car keys. Having car doors that refuse to lock can be a major problem, especially here in Vallejo. That's actually the reason Elder Dean doesn't have an iPad now. The missionary before me, Elder Hardy, forgot to lock his door manually when they ran into a store for five minutes and someone stole Elder Dean's iPad that he left in the car. Elder Dean served here nearly two years ago when he first arrived in the mission and he says it used to be a lot worse than it is now, but we still see copious ambulances and police rushing around daily. We just have to be very careful about leaving attractive looking objects lying around because people are not afraid to break a window to swipe our stuff. I mean heck, someone keyed our car the other day so people certainly don't care about other people's possessions here in Vallejo. Later on Thursday we taught Adrian, the young kid who has a baptismal date, the entire Plan of Salvation. I am pretty impressed with his questions he asks; he pays attention in the lessons and always has a new question on his mind. His date is coming up pretty soon so hopefully we can bust out all the lessons before November 7th.
We had a rather atypical weekly planning meeting this week! Everything was pretty normal up until dinner time. We ate dinner at the Kaiser hospital here in Vallejo with the Falcones. They decided to feed us at the hospital on the off-chance someone might come up to us during dinner and ask us about the church or requested a blessing, which isn't a bad idea since that happens every now and then. Sister Falcone asked us many questions throughout dinner, but one of the bigger concerns she had I was able to answer while giving my dinner message. She experienced some difficult trials while she was hospitalized a few months back, and she wanted to know why trials and afflictions happen; after all, if God truly loved us then why would He allow such terrible things to happen in our lives. I didn't know this was a concern of hers when I shared the scripture Alma 7:11, which is one of my favorite scriptures about the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and explains how not only did the Savior experience every possible feeling or trial we can face in this life, but because He did He knows exactly how to succor us in our trials. I explained to her that God loves us enough to allow us to be hurt. One can't learn to ride a bike without falling off it every now and then. It's through trials and falling down that we are able to learn and grow, whether from our own mistakes or the curveballs life throws at us. Like I said in a previous email home, I don't like correcting people. But it is so important that we aren't afraid to speak up if it's to help someone to improve and come closer to the Savior. President Alba said if we don't correct others then we are selfish because we care more about what they think about us than their spiritual progression and I believe it's the same with God. If He who created us never placed obstacles in our lives because He didn't want any of us to get mad at Him, then He would be selfish, and more concerned with Himself. But our Heavenly Father isn't selfish, but puts us at the top of His priorities. When we find ourselves between a rock and a hard place we must remember that trials are from God to help us grow, and, if we allow Him to, He will show us how to overcomes the burdens placed on us, that we may be stronger.
For all my faithful blog followers: I wish to draw your minds back to the email I sent home a few months back pertaining to the slaughter of turkeys. I have accepted a new challenge of combating a vicious and ferocious swine. The Spanish south Elders asked us to come along and help a nonmember/part member family slaughter a pig for a Halloween party they were having the next night. What happened first was I was challenged to tackle and wrestle the pig, so I obliged. There is video evidence of this event so I won't go into too much detail, but needless to say, all spectators were impressed. After I single handedly caught the pig, Elder Scow and I lifted it up on the porch and I held it down with Elder Dean as another man slaughtered it. I am scheduled to return to the same house and help kill a lamb - I don't think killing so many animals is normal for a missionary but at least I am getting some life experience from it! We have a weekly community service opportunity on Saturdays with a group called the "Vallejo's People Garden". The missionaries, along with other volunteers, help weed, spread mulch, plant seeds or whatever else they want us to do for this organization that grows produce for the Vallejo community. I do not know the finer details of the charity or who they distribute to, but I know there is a great need it in the community. There are SO MANY homeless people here; probably even more than Napa or Fairfield, which I was surprised to discover how many were in those areas. While I am here I am keeping an eye out for more community service possibilities that the missionaries in this zone can help with in the future.
After we were finished at VPG, we headed back to the home that was hosting the Halloween party to help them prepare and cook the pig. It was pretty cool and now I know how to cook a whole pig. We shaved it, seasoned it, stuffed it, sewed it back up and stuck it in a fire pit in the ground and buried it! Unfortunately, when we got back that night to partake of the savory meats of our slaughter, we were informed that despite our efforts, the pig didn't cook all the way through. Evidently Polynesians have a secret method to their underground pig cooking that is unbeknownst to the local Hispanic populace here. So after all the pig wrasslin' and culinary expertise I demonstrated for this process, I didn't get to indulge upon any succulent pig meat. Later I was informed that when they tried an alternate means of cooking the pig, they ended up burning it and it didn't taste very good, so the whole experience didn't end too well. Worst Mexican luau ever.
My ward had its Primary program on Sunday, and gosh dang it, those kids were adorable. I always love listening to the primary-age children bear their testimonies. 3 Nephi 26:16 "Behold, it came to pass on the morrow that the multitude gathered themselves together, and they both saw and heard these children; yea, even babes did open their mouths and utter marvelous things..." I love how simple the gospel is that even a young child can understand it. There's nothing complicated about God loves us all, families can be eternal, Jesus is our Savior and example and keep the commandments of God. It's applying these things to yourself that can be pretty difficult some times.
I taught in district meeting on Tuesday of last week about extending bold commitments and teaching the simple doctrine of Jesus Christ. Our job as missionaries isn't to get baptisms, but to teach the gospel in a way that people can understand. If we explain a gospel topic to someone and they don't understand it by the time we're walking away, that's when we need to improve our teaching ability. But we can explain the restoration perfectly, promise blessings of the gospel to them and do everything we can to make sure the spirit is in the lesson and they still reject the invitation of baptism. Everyone has their agency to accept or reject the message, but as long as we help them understand it, then as far as I am concerned we did our job.
Other than reading the Book of Mormon with a less active member who just went on and on about how Republicans are bad because they want the country to carry fully automatic M16's (yeah, I don't know what he's talking about either), we spent the rest of our day going through our area book and trying to find referrals in American Canyon and downtown Vallejo. In my experience I've found that media referrals from the Salt Lake are the least reliable referrals in the history of the church. I can not think of a time where I tried to contact a referral sent to us by church headquarters where the person didn't deny requesting us to come by their house. They had to have gone online or called a number and requested missionaries or some piece of literature. But even though we have their name, phone number, address and sometimes even their email, they always claim that they never ordered us and "somehow" we have them mistaken with someone else who has their exact likeness in ever possible way. So right now I am just looking for that referral that is actually expecting us.
We had zone meeting yesterday, which I was especially excited for because it meant I didn't have to prepare to teach district meeting! I like a break every now and then. The big news here is the Zone Leaders announced a rule change that they received at Mission Leaders Correlation. At the end of the meeting they told us, with the help of some videos made by Sister Wright and the tech Elders, that the rule of Mormon Tabernacle Choir being the only kind of music we can listen to was abolished. Now we go by the missionary White Handbook pertaining to rules about music. We can listen to any kind of music as long as it is uplifting, helps us focus on the Savior and our purpose, and doesn't merely entertain or disrupt the spirit by its tempo, beat, loudness, lyrics or intensity. President Alba was an above and beyond, high expectations type of Mission President, while President Wright is a by the book kind of guy, so it's interesting to have served under them both and compare different leadership styles. I am very excited about the new rule change. I have listened to so much Motab on my mission that my mind is numb to it. So even though I have very little time left, I am immensely excited to embrace the Piano Guys and BYU Vocal Point (by the way, have I ever mentioned that my second EFY councilor, Trevor, is in Vocal Point? I thought that was pretty darn cool when I found out!)
Well something rather unfortunate happened today. The whole reason I am emailing you today instead of Monday is because today was our temple trip — my last temple trip on my mission. We asked Brother Aguilar, a Filipino man that loves missionaries and takes us out to eat quite frequently, to drive us to the Oakland temple. Well to our great sorrow and much lamentation, when we arrived at the temple, both Elder Dean and myself were informed that our temple recommends were expired. The emotional trauma I felt knew no bounds. We asked the temple workers if they could contact President Wright and talk to him about arranging some way for us to attend the temple; like us having an interview with him on the phone and him giving them the okay, but to no avail. I forget that when I was a youth going on a temple trip and I would forget my recommend, there was always a member of the bishopric there to give me a quick interview and smooth it over, but that certainly is not the case here. So they told us that we couldn't attend the temple until we had a written recommend. Unfortunately, my very last opportunity to attend the temple on my mission was rejected because I didn't keep an eye on my recommend's expiration date. I'm pretty bummed about this. We sadly returned to the car and told Brother Aguilar that we were going to head home he decided to take the scenic route through San Francisco, making us stop to get out for pictures all along the way. I told him we were suppose to head straight home but he didn't care. So if anything good came from the experience it's that I have some cool pictures of San Francisco; although I would have rather gone in the temple one last time before my mission ends.
Well, that's how my extra long week went. I cannot believe that it was a year ago that I left Novato and went home for surgery. It's absolutely insane for me to think about how time is flying by. I can hardly wrap my head around the idea of my mission coming to an end. Right now I am in the "enduring to the end" stage. I don't have a lot of time left as a full time missionary so I need to make the most of my remaining time here in California. I love you all! Remember the church was true yesterday, today, and forever onward. We have the wonderful gift of the restored gospel so, like my remaining missionary service, it shouldn't be wasted.
Love, Elder Hayden Ellis