|Last companionship photo in our apartment|
|Bags packed and ready to leave Lakeport|
|Saying goodbye to Lakeport|
|Alex Beare and Joey Sainsbury|
|Me and Bishop Tipton|
|Dave and Natalie|
|I'm going to miss my Kelseyville brothers - Elders Cote, Wilkes, Christensen, Blaylock and Frodsham|
|Posterity picture - me with my son, Elder Christensen (the missionary I trained)|
and my father, Elder Whittingslow (the missionary who trained me).
|Last photo with Elder Christensen|
|Me and Elder Achal|
|Me and Elder Raban|
|Elders Moua and Coursey|
|Me and Elder Moua|
|Vallejo....here I come!!!|
Greetings from Vallejo!
Hey everyone! So first of all, might I say that Vallejo is pretty dang cool. It feels a lot like and reminds me of Fairfield. The people are quite alike and contacting pretty much goes the same way as it did in Fairfield. The change in scenery is exactly what I needed to maintain my focus out here. I can honestly say I don't feel like I am going home in two months; so that's a positive.
Monday was primarily spent saying a lot of goodbyes to people in Lakeport. One cool thing was that we attended the setting apart for a young man named Bailey who took off on Tuesday to go on his mission. It was an uplifting experience to be a part of such a life changing experience for someone else, and to watch him be given the same mantle I bear. His setting apart was much different than mine, I guess primarily because he had a huge turn out there. My setting apart (both times) was really small and his was like a party. But regardless of how different they are, the spirit was the same. As soon as President Engstrom referred to Bailey as Elder Elkington for the first time, the spirit just rushed into the room like you wouldn't believe. I'm grateful I was able to be there for such a important and powerful moment in Elder Elkington's life.
Tuesday was the big day we drove down with the Lake County zone leaders, Elders Frodsham and Blaylock, to Santa Rosa for transfers. It's always so much fun to see missionaries I've served with in the past. At transfers I always feel like I am Alma being reunited with the sons of Mosiah "...therefore Alma did rejoice exceedingly to see his brethren; and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord; yea, and they had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God." At the end of the Transfer Devotional I had a sorrowful goodbye with Elder Christensen and met up with my new companion, Elder Dean. Elder Dean is from Alaska and, like I said last week, is the Elder who replaced me in Novato when I went home. He is an interesting guy. He makes a lot of crazy inappropriate jokes and doesn't have the best work ethic, but he's a good guy and we get along really well. My goal is for us to keep each other working since we are both pretty close to going home. After we got to our area we had a lesson with a recent convert and her nonmember grandson, named Adrian, and we taught him the first half of the restoration (very simply because he's a young kid) and set a baptismal date with him for November 7th. He accepted and is excited for the date so it looks like right off to bat I will have a baptism coming up in a few weeks.
I haven't been here in Vallejo for very long, but I already love it here. It's so delightfully ghetto. People are way fun to contact and talk to here and there is always something interesting happening. Most people might feel out of place or uncomfortable here but these are my people and I am at ease here.
On Wednesday we had service at some place called Mare Island. I'm not at all sure where that is since I don't know anything about Vallejo yet. The whole zone was there, which is the most missionaries I've been around in a long time. We were helping a man move a ton of his junk out of a warehouse for a good 3-4 hours. Apparently the two things we do a lot of here is service and finding new investigators; we don't teach as much, so I guess I'll have some more interesting tracting stories by the time I am done here. We had dinner that evening with a recent convert couple, the Falcones. Before I left Lakeport, Elder Wilkes gave me a list of people to see while here since he served here over a year ago and the Falcone's are on that list. I'm not really sure how to describe them other than they are incredibly energetic and love sharing the gospel. They still have that recent convert fire burning to talk to people about the church, so that's a plus. But also they don't know much about the church, which leads them to giving their sick cat a priesthood blessing.... with consecrated oil and everything... so that's not good. I spent the rest of the night searching for referrals and getting to know Elder Dean more. He's unlike anyone I've been companions with so far. You'll hear more about him as the weeks go by, I don't want to overload you all with Elder Dean stories.
After being in Lake County for 1/4 of my mission, I'm not used to being in an area like Vallejo or being around so many other missionaries. There are 14 missionaries in this zone opposed to the eight in Lake County. That may not seem like a lot, but from our standpoint it's a sizable difference. I lived really close to four other elders while in Lakeport and we had to drive 15 minutes to Kelseyville to visit other missionaries, so I am still getting use to that too. Today we had our weekly planning meeting and Elder Dean is easily distracted and it's hard to keep him focused. Also, he sleeps a lot. If I don't wake him up in the morning I'm sure he would sleep in till noon. It's not easy waking him up either. I found that beating him repeatedly with various articles of clothing is the only effective way to wake the sleeping beast. Like I said, he's certainly much different than any companion I've had before.....or maybe I'm just different than I was before.
Elder Dean and I taught a district meeting together about patience and testifying frequently. We both came up with an acronym to be themes for our district this transfer. His was COCO PUFF which stands for: Change Ourselves, Change Others, Purify Urself For Fortification. This transfer he is going to focus on how we can improve ourselves and develop more Christlike attributes. Mine is GHETTO which means: Glorify Heaven Every Time Testifying/Teaching/Talking (to) Others. I'll teach in district meetings throughout this transfer about how we can help others in their spiritual progression.
We have an ENORMOUS potential investigator list in our area book; probably around 300 names of people that we need to try making contact with so we will be at that for a while. We did some finding that night and got some return appointments out of it. We also cleared some names off the list of people uninterested in us coming back, so progress is being made. As we were on our way to find another referral, this guy called us with a restricted number, and gave us a fake address of where he lived and pretended to be interested in learning about the church all so he could bash with us. It's ridiculous how people will go so far out of their way to try to tear down other people's faith. Elder Dean answered the phone and the man was spitting nothing but anti-Mormon venom at Elder Dean. When Elder Dean attempted to answer a question and bear his testimony, the man would proceed to cut him off and tell him that's not what he believes as a Mormon, or that's not the Jesus we believe in, etc. Thanks for telling us what we believe in, bro. We appreciate that. He didn't want to hear what we had to say - he just wanted to put us down. Elder Dean just told him in the end that his heart wasn't open and he wasn't doing what Christ would want him to do and then hung up. It's sad to see the lengths people will go to oppose the church.
The zone had a finding activity at the church on Saturday. We were doing free car detailing (which means we were cleaning the interior of their car; vacuuming, the dashboard, the windows, etc) and giving church tours while the person waited. We all were assigned different jobs by the Zone Leaders; some did the actual car detailing, some gave church tours for those who were interested in taking them, and some advertised our event by standing by the street and waving a sign around. Of course my job somehow fell amongst those of the sign-spinners, which was by far the least desirable job out of the three. I felt like I was working my old job at Mama Leones where I had to spin a sign to attract customers and I promised myself I would never do again. That clearly didn't pan out the way I hoped. Even though standing on a street corner with a sign and dancing around to get people's attention is humiliating and the last thing I want to do with my life, I thought to myself: "Pre-mission Elder Ellis would much rather accept the sweet embrace of death than to publicly humiliate himself but I'm not the same person I was when I first embarked on my mission." So I figured if I'm going to be given a job, I'm going to do it, and I'm going to do it the best I can. I went to an incredibly busy street corner by myself (don't worry, other missionaries were in sight further down the road) and I white-boy danced my heart out. I jumped around and waved that sign around as if my self-respect depended on it; which was left on that street corner that day. I can promise you that I looked absolutely ridiculous. I'm sure it was funny for people to see me dancing to no music since I didn't have headphones in, but I tried to substitute music with my own amateur beatboxing so I had a beat to dance to. The whole scene must've been difficult for people to spectate and what makes it even worse was I did that for about an hour and a half. My arms and shoulders were dying by the end of the ordeal. Despite how uncomfortable the experience was, I managed to have fun with it and it was cool to see a small way I've changed from my mission, because there is no way I would've done something like that in the past. Unfortunately, only about five or six people accepted our services and even fewer than that took the church tour but one of the Spanish companionships have a return appointment with a guy who stopped by to get his car cleaned. Also, contact information was exchanged between the missionaries and the three people who took the tour, so that's better than nothing.
We had dinner with the Atwaters Saturday night. Much to my dismay, they have an eating competition amongst the missionaries that come over for dinner to see who can eat the most pieces of French toast - and these were the abnormally large Texas toast pieces. I regrettably downed 13, which made me feel like death was an attractive pursuit in life at that point, and I placed myself in the higher ring of winners in the competition, so I'm quite pleased with that. Elder Dean, on the other hand, somehow managed to consume 19 pieces of French toast. He, therefore, not only broke the standing record of 18, but also greatly reevaluated his life and how it took a turn for the worse right then. His stomach was destroyed after that. We both learned that night of the lasting negative side affects of devouring a whole loaf of fried bread.
I was able to meet my new ward, Vallejo 1st, yesterday for the first time. I've definitely felt more welcome in some wards than I have in others, and this one I didn't feel like people tried that hard to welcome me. Now that personally doesn't bother me that much, but I thought about if I was a less active member or an investigator - how would their weak fellowshipping make me feel? It's so important that members are vigilant when there is a new face in church because that fellowship is crucial in helping them feel acceptance and love at church. God often manifests His love and direction for His children through others and we need to be someone He can count on to reach out to His children.
Well that's my report for this week. To top it off, we went to a member's house today to grab our laundry and while we were leaving we saw a bunch of cops outside a house while a squad car came screeching onto the street. While this was happening, we heard a man getting tazed because he flipped out due to his lack of medication. Welcome to Vallejo!
Love, Elder Hayden Ellis