Monday, December 7, 2015

Helping the FBI and Seeing Santa

Merry Christmas from my companionship to your family

Decorating a tree 

Santa came to visit!

Vallejo 2nd Christmas party

One of my favorite signs in Vallejo

Another one of my favorite signs in Vallejo

On splits with Elder Sobczak

Hello Everyone!

I hope everyone had a good week! Mine went by pretty quickly and was pretty eventful. Let's see if I can construct an exciting enough preview that won't leak too much information and will add the perfect amount of vagueness and intrigue that will keep the interest of the readers and lead them to investigate further.... Hmmm. This week I had some dealings with the FBI and I had a minor "altercation" with a homeless man in church. I've successfully peaked all of your interests, haven't I?

But before that, let's all hear how my Tuesday was! Elder Rasmussen and Elder Sobczak (pronounced sob-chack) taught an excellent district meeting about the importance of the Book of Mormon in the conversion of the people we teach. It really is the center to everything we teach people. Everything hinges on whether the Book of Mormon is true and if Joseph Smith was called by Jesus Christ as a prophet. If Joseph Smith isn't a prophet, then none of our claims to the Priesthood authority, temples or modern day prophets are true. But if he was indeed called by God to be a prophet, then we do have claim to the Lord's restored authority. It's through reading the Book of Mormon and asking God of its truthfulness that we can come to know that Joseph Smith was a prophet, that we may inherit all the blessings that come from this knowledge.

Following our district meeting, Elder Eccles and I went on exchanges with Elder Sobczak in my area. Elder Sobczak is such a good, hardworking and obedient missionary. He is pretty new on his mission; this being his fourth month out here. He got to the mission field the same time my son, Elder Christensen, arrived in California. The three of us went and tried to find a woman who was referred to us, to no avail, so instead we walked around the area to find some more people to teach. We contacted an Iranian women who was interested in coming to our church and who was really grateful we stopped to talk with her. We gave her our phone number and church information but I made the amateur mistake of not getting her contact information. Hopefully she's interested enough to contact us or come to church! Immediately after speaking with her, we turned a corner and contacted three young men named Rob, Rodney, and Emer. They were super cool guys and immediately asked us what the good word was when we walked up to them. They were so thankful that we weren't afraid to approach and talk to them despite their gangster-looking appearance and them smoking weed. They say a lot of people would have crossed the street to avoid them, so they were grateful we talked to them. We gave them all a Book of Mormon and said a prayer with them right there in front of their house. We have a return appointments with them tomorrow so we will see how it goes. It just goes to show, yet again, you never know who is ready for the gospel. We then met with Helena who is one of our investigators I've never met before. She had pneumonia when we talked to her that night so I offered to give her a blessing so she accepted and we did so right there on her front porch. I'm so grateful for the Priesthood authority restored to the earth that it can be used to bless the lives of our brothers and sisters.

Wednesday morning we got up, worked out, studied and were out the door. I had planned for that morning to drop by and see one of our investigators that hasn't been taught in a long time, named Beverly. We knocked on the door and received the normal welcome of: "Who is it!?" We tell her it's the missionaries and get an enthusiastic reply of, "C'mon in!" The nice part about trios is we are able to enter a single woman's home, so we did just that. Beverly is an old black women who, after talking with her for a little while, we found isn't willing to change her ways so we may not be going back. This church isn't a church of keeping the status quo, it's about growing and molding into who the Lord wants us to become. If people aren't willing to do that, then there isn't a lot we can do as His servants, because all we do is invite people to change and follow Him. We had a lesson with our investigator John that afternoon and I must say, I knew he was a little crazy before, but he was extra unhinged that day. He was cursing left and right and telling us all these insane stories. It's lessons like that that make me wonder if we should even continue to meet with him.

Wednesday evening was pretty difficult. I'm starting to have trouble getting along with my companions, especially Elder Johnson. Who knew the last two weeks of my mission I would start having companionship problems?! I don't like talking bad about my companions, but Elder Johnson is very prideful and has to be right about every topic to the point where an argument ensues. I really don't want to end my companionship with him and Elder Eccles on a bad note, so I'm just trying to endure to the end and be patient with them.

On Thursday Elder Johnson, Eccles and I went through and looked for a whole list of potential and former investigators along Daniel Ave. It was a really good day because we were able to clean up the area book quite a bit. That night we taught Patricia and Adrian about the gospel of Jesus Christ. Afterward Patricia asked us to help set up their Christmas tree, and as you all can see, many festive pictures were taken of the occasion. We've been unsuccessful at trying to get a small Christmas tree for our apartment, so at least we were able to decorate someone's Christmas tree this year.

We had a rather exciting day on Friday. This was the day in which we had an encounter with the FBI. The first thing we did that morning was to visit a couple of potentials that were leftover from the prior day, both of which were either not home or uninterested. So we were on our way to the church to begin weekly planning, when I came to a stop at a stop sign and Elder Johnson, from the backseat, looked out the window and saw a laptop handbag sitting on the curb. Elder Johnson hopped out of the car and retrieved it and then jumped back into the car. I parked the car and we started going through the bag in order to find some sort of identification and contact number to return the bag to its owner. There were two passport books, one of which was a red, government official passport book, a brown envelope of unclassified documents, a sheet of paper with a list of names and phone numbers, and some apple chargers that were hanging out of the bag. It was obviously with the envelope that had "unclassified documents" stamped on the front and a government passport book, the owner was probably somebody important. We looked in the passport book and the man's name was Alexander, which was one of the names on the list with the phone numbers, so we gave him a call. When he answered, I told him that we were missionaries and found his bag and that we wanted to return it to him. He was a little skeptical, questioning who we were, but eventually he believed us and was grateful to us for finding his bag. We met him near where we found the bag and when he got out of the car he looked up at us and said, "Wow, you really are missionaries!" Apparently he had a machete on the front seat of his car in case we weren't who we claimed we were. We gave him his bag and he told us that he is an FBI agent and that his house had been broken into only two hours prior, and all that was missing from the burglary was the satchel we were giving him. His laptop was taken and so were his credentials but both his passports were still there, and those are what were really important to Alex. We walked over to where we had found the bag and he took some photos. Then we gave him our information so he or the police could get ahold of us if need be. He offered to take us out to lunch but remembered the police were on their way to his house, so instead he pulled out his wallet and gave us $60 for lunch, which we weren't expecting at all. So needless to say, I am working with the FBI now to track down a local crime syndicate of burglars, which makes me a pretty big deal. I mean it's no big deal...but it totally is.

Saturday was a little bit slower than the rest of the week. In the morning we tried to visit some referrals we have received lately. I have never before been in an area where we have been sent so many referrals. I have been sent more media referrals from Salt Lake while in this area than all my other areas combined. Without fail, every time we are able to contact some names we are sent, we receive 2-3 more referrals that put us right back to where we were before. So we average around 19 un-contacted media referrals a day. Referrals are definitely not a bad thing, but we just can't keep up with them all! But I digress. We visited one of our referrals named Rachel and she wasn't home, but we left a card with our number so she could call us back. And she did! People don't usually respond to our pass-along cards, so when they actually do it calls for much celebration among my brethren and myself. At least we are know if people are interested or not so we don't have to keep knocking on doors of people who don't want us to come by.

We went to Best Buy that afternoon to purchase a thumb drive because my iPad was getting full and I needed to get my photos and videos off of it. It's crazy how many pictures I have taken on my mission. My mom would be so proud of me because she knows how much I hated photos growing up and how I hated smiling in them. Now I am so much better at both of these!

Just before dinner we visited Mario, who is a 17-year-old recent convert, and Sarah, his nonmember mother. We read in 2 Nephi in the Book of Mormon with Mario and talked about it. He has got a really awesome testimony of the gospel and was talking to us about his plans to serve a mission. Then his mom, who is an investigator, walked in just in time to watch the "A Savior is Born" Christmas video we have been showing people. She told us she wants to follow the Savior and be baptized one day, but right now she just isn't ready to be fully committed. The Savior will work with everyone at their own pace. Some people progress faster than others, and the Savior is willing to work with each of us according to our needs. So Sarah might not be ready now, but I know she will get there, because she definitely has the desire. For dinner that night we crashed the Vallejo 2nd/Los Santos Spanish branch Christmas party. There was also a talent show going on while everyone was eating, and the missionaries were assigned to sing "Oh, Come, all Ye Faithful" for it, which the Spanish Elders "left out" when they invited us to come to the dinner. But it was no big deal; my mission has really helped me to overcome my stage fright I had in the past. In fact, I was asked by Brother Jenny, the bishopric second counselor, to give a short talk on my last sabbath on my mission, and I cheerfully accepted. I wouldn't have been as optimistic about talking in sacrament if I hadn't served a mission.

I had such a crazy and high-maintenance Sabbath day. To start off the day, we had Ward Council/PEC at 7 am and one of my companions took forever to get ready in the morning so we were 30 minutes late to the meeting. So the day was already frustrating to begin with. Then after Ward Council concluded, we were speaking with Bishop Christofferson in the foyer when a rather dirty and unfamiliar face hobbled up to the front door. I opened it for him to enter and he walked in telling us he needed help: a shower, clean clothes, food, a motel to stay at, etc. Bishop talked to him and made no promises assistance-wise but welcomed him to stay for the church services. His name was Kevin and he introduced himself as a once wealthy but betrayed by family and now homeless man. He said he was a women in a previous life, so that says a lot. He was moaning pretty loudly during fast and testimony meeting so I eventually got up and went over to him and asked him if he was in pain. He spoke very loudly and I tried to get him to lower his voice, but it didn't register with him, so and I invited him to step outside and talk to my companions and me. We then stood outside and listened to him tell us how he is in agonizing pain and needs help getting on his feet again. He stood uncomfortably close to me and I was quite sure I could smell alcohol on him. He stayed around for a little while after that and he even spoke with the bishop about getting a ride to the Fairfield Crisis Center, but he randomly walked out of church before Priesthood meeting and didn't come back after that. The members were pretty appreciative I took him outside because you can never tell what's going to happen with people who aren't entirely in their right mind. It was pretty weird because I was in a similar situation in Crescent City. Elder Haynie and I would have to be on high alert whenever "Crazy Debbie", a former member, came to church. She had the cops called on her a total of four times in sacrament meeting, so we just tried to make sure she didn't do anything insane at church.

We had dinner with the Beard family on Sunday night and they know exactly how to speak my language when it comes to the culinary arts. We always eat like kings over there. Trevor Beard is probably my favorite member here in Vallejo. He is the coolest ex-gang leader and now temple-attending man I have ever met. Whenever we go over he always tells us stories about when he was still in a gang. He use to run a group of 2,000 that he built up himself that ran Fairfield, Vacaville and Vallejo back in the day. I'm very glad to be friends with him and he is definitely someone I am going to keep in touch with when I get home. The Beards made sure they signed up for my last dinner on my mission and they promised to make me anything I wanted. After a little indecisiveness on my part and some pressure on theirs, I told him I liked seafood, especially shellfish, and he offered to make lobsterand abalone (if he could find it), and there's no way I could refuse an offer like that! Although I'm pretty sure abalone is illegal here in California, Trevor is an ex-gang leader so I'm not going to concern myself with whether he can get a hold of abalone or not and just embrace it if he does.

Well, that is what happened to me this week. It's weird to think I only have one more P-Day after this. In addition to next Monday, I'll send an email right before I get to the airport, so you all can at least count on two more emails from me. I am excited to come home to my family for Christmas.

Love, Elder Hayden Ellis

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