Monday, December 14, 2015

Wax Man and a Priesthood Blessing

A service selfie

Me and Bro. Walsh

A classic game of soda pong

(I have officially run out of opening salutations.)

Well this is my last full week of work on my mission. I have so many mixed feelings right now that I'm feeling overwhelmed. My situation is one of much stress and mental conflict. I'm definitely excited to return home, but at the same time I am going to miss my mission. To be honest, I am not sure how to feel. Right now the only thing I'm sure I feel is exhaustion. I am just super tired right now. But I am powering through and enduring to the end!

On Tuesday we had Zone meeting and I thought the zone leaders both did a pretty good job. Elder Bushman taught on obedience and the avoidance of being idle on our missions and Elder Branson taught about having an attitude of gratitude? I think Elder Branson did a stellar job, especially considering this was his first zone conference he taught. I learned something about having a feeling of gratitude toward our Heavenly Father for all that we have. Literally EVERYTHING we have is a blessing from our Heavenly Father, including Jesus Christ. If we don't express gratitude for that which we have we are eligible to lose that blessing.

We got a call the day before from one of our members asking if we would be able to give a blessing to one of her nonmember friends on Tuesday. Her friend, Bonnie, was in the hospital about to have her foot or possibly her leg amputated because she had a bad case of gangrene. When we got to the room at the Kaiser hospital, one of the nurses came out to speak with us. She told us a little more about how Bonnie was doing and that they weren't sure she was going to survive the operation or not. I had a feeling the nurse was talking to us like we were Catholic priests, and we were going to walk around and purify the room and whip out the holy water. I was asked to offer the blessing while one of my companions anointed. It was definitely powerful to lay my hands upon a dying woman's head. I started to get emotional before I could even state by what authority I offered the blessing. I had a deep sense that regardless of what may happen, Bonnie was a much loved daughter of Heavenly Father and she would be alright. It was a pretty powerful experience for me.

After we left the hospital we met at the Zone Leader's apartment we exchanged with Elder Branson and Elder Bushman - Branson being with Elder Eccles and me in my area. Elder Branson is from Florida and he is super funny and we had a fantastic time together. He and I have very similar types of humor, so we had a blast during the exchange. He was in the airport with me when I returned to California, so he has been on his mission for a year now. I feel bad because during the exchange review I feel like Elder Eccles and I did a lot of venting about Elder Johnson, but he has been frustrating me lately. We get along fine, but he is definitely a contribution to why I am "enduring" to the end.

So, allow me to present to you all another example of how missionaries, despite their sacred calling, are still dumb young men. On Wednesday we exchanged back with the Zone Leaders and they stayed at our apartment to eat lunch with us. We had some candles that Elder Eccles had taken from the Zone Leaders' apartment when the exchange started and he lighted them after the end-exchange prayer. Well, he was dripping wax off the counter into a trash can, and for some reason I took it upon myself to put my hand under the dripping wax and have it harden on my hand. One thing led to another and by the time the lunch hour passed, my hand was completely encased in a quarter inch of candle wax. Elder Branson was really a major force behind this act of sheer stupidity. He fused multiple objects to my hand by dripping wax on them, including: a plastic spoon, a chewable vitamin C tablet, a chunk of bell pepper, a Christmas bell, and some tooth picks. The removal of the aforementioned wax was excruciatingly painful. Arm hair and congealed wax are a horrendous combination. So a word from the unwise: if you are aspiring to be a Batman super villain, do not be Wax Man, because I can already tell you it's a terrible idea. I'll be the first to admit that I am indeed an idiot for allowing this to occur. So in case you needed another example that missionaries are still just dumb young men with name tags, here I am. 

Despite how the morning may have started, we actually had a pretty productive day. After Elder Branson managed to swiftly and violently scrape off all the wax in my arm hair with a butter-knife (which, might I add, was the worse part of the ordeal), we tried finding some less-active members and potential investigators on Mare Island. Afterward we taught John Cappello, Mario Gonzalez and his mom Sarah, and the Wells family. I don't know what it is with me and children, but they seem to greatly enjoy my company. The youngest child of the Wells clan continuously tackled me throughout the entire lesson. I guess the kids can relate to my absurdity in a way they cannot with anyone else.

I am surprised I have not encountered as many Bible bashers in Vallejo as I thought I would, but we definitely find one every now and then. On Thursday we searched in American Canyon for some of the copious numbers of referrals we have been getting from Salt Lake. While we were looking for some people that lived in an assisted living home, a man named Robert walked outside and we began talking with him. Now most people who have bashed on me in the past have gone about it like so: they first pretend like they are interested in learning more about the church in order to get our attention, then they bring up a concern, whether it is Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, the priesthood, etc., we then try to address their concern but the given explanation never suffices, then as we realize what's about to happen the contender begins unloading every piece of anti-Mormon and false doctrine they know at us, spitting question after question but never allowing us time to answer (not that they would accept the given answer anyways). That's how bashers normally operate; they try to overwhelm us in lies and then interrupt us, bringing up a different concern, or changing the subject to prevent us from shining a ray of truth on the matter. But this man was different. He didn't boldly declare his beliefs that our church is a cult or Joseph Smith was a fraud, but he slyly and with great subtly tried to instill seeds of doubt into our hearts. He mentioned to us that he had read a little of the Book of Mormon before and was "greatly disturbed" that the book started with a crime. He tried twisting the story of Nephi and Laban by saying he murdered Laban, stole his stuff, impersonated him to deceive his servant and then was chased out of the country. As we shared our testimonies that God loves His children far too much to allow one wicked man's stubbornness to cause "a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief", he then asked why God could soften the servant's heart but not Laban's. I explained God cannot force us to change our nature. Laban was wicked and unwilling to comply with Nephi's request but Zoram had a desire to do what was right and the Lord was able to work with his desire. Something I don't understand is people who believe in the Bible and are appalled that in the beginning of the Book of Mormon Nephi is instructed to kill a wicked man. How can someone who believes the Old Testament possibly have a problems with that? I explained to Robert that Moses was commanded to slay the wicked rebels when he came down from mount Sinai in Exodus 32:26, 27:

"Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.
 "And he said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour."

We learn from this that the Lord's work will never cease nor be hindered. He will press forth His work in His own time, and no person or group of people can impede His plan. Of course, like all bashers, this explanation was not suitable and Robert just continued to bring up another concern he had. He inquisitively mentioned how he thinks it's peculiar that in the visitors center in Oakland "we worship a talking statue of Jesus and think it's the Christ". He was really just firing blind at that point in the conversation. The way that Robert was trying to discreetly deceive us reminds me of how Satan lies to us. Now I'm definitely not comparing this man to the Adversary, but I believe the way he tries to dissuade us from the truth is very similar. Satan is very crafty and subtle in instilling doubt into our hearts. He doesn't come out and make grandiose, combative accusations, but he brings up small concerns, and twists the scriptures he knows all too well in order to cause us to question a book or church in which we have already received a witness of their truthfulness by the Holy Ghost. The Adversary is very good at his job and this is why we must continually build our spiritual defense daily by keeping the simple commandments Heavenly Father has given us. If we build our foundation upon Christ by obedience to His commandments then we cannot falter.

Saturday morning we went to get breakfast with Brother Aguilar at IHOP. At the end of the meal the waiter came over to our table and informed us someone else had requested to pay for our meal, so our tab was taken care of. We saw him walk out and waved to him in appreciation (even though a member took us out and we wouldn't have had to pay for it anyways). It wasn't anyone we recognized; we think it was just some member who was passing through the the area and stopped for breakfast. That's the fourth time an anonymous donor paid for my expenses, not including the philanthropist who has financed the entire expense of my mission. I place my mission benefactor in a much higher sphere of charity than someone paying for my pancakes. 

After breakfast we tackled a list of potentials in Vallejo and American Canyon and tried contacting them, and we had moderate success with. I'm pretty proud of myself for not having a crippling case of trunkiness. I think I have done a pretty good job of staying focused without my companions having to drag me from door to door. Perhaps it just hasn't hit me yet that my time left is short. I've just kept reminding myself that I'll never be able to work in the Lord's service in this capacity again, so I can't afford to waste the time I still have; it's been helping me stay focused so far. It also helps that I have seen lots of missionaries near the ends of their missions and how unappealing it was, so I promised myself I would not get lazy and have my mind at home like many of them did. 

We got a call from one of our members who asked us to help clean up her shed that was left trashed by their friend. While we were cleaning we were all finding some pretty cool stuff which she ended up gifting to us at the end of the clean up. She gave me a really cool fountain pen. I don't have ANY use for a fountain pen, but it's so cool I couldn't say no, so now I am the proud owner of a fountain pen! That night was the Vallejo 1st Christmas party which was super fun. The party just got me more excited to be home with my family for Christmas.

Sunday was my very last Sabbath day in my mission (well everyday from now till I go home is a last for me). I was asked by Brother Jenny to give a short talk in sacrament for my last Sunday here in Vallejo. It was an overall good day at church. Unfortunately, Elder Johnson's father passed away on Saturday and he received the news on Sunday. President Wright called him to inform him and he drove down here before sacrament meeting started and spoke with him. Elder Johnson is handling it really well; he doesn't seem to be letting it affect him at all. It's amazing the moment you understand why you're in an area or with a companion. Although he doesn't seem to need my consolation, it's still something I can relate to.

After lunch we looked for some potentials in American Canyon and we stopped by David Walsh's house for my last visit. After our lesson with him we were finally got a hold of some of our referrals. One of them was a man named Ebby, who used our number we left on a card at his door to call us. He told us how he has a friend who is a member of the church and because of his example wants to read the Book of Mormon and come to church. So that's one referral we were able to pick up as an investigator. The other referral we were able to pick up is Julia, who was referred to us by her separated husband in Maryland. She let us in and we sat down and had a really good 'How to begin teaching' lesson. She told us about her current beliefs, her struggles in her marriage and family, and her expectations from us. I exhorted her to read and pray about the Book of Mormon and that not only would the answer she will receive change her life, but also save it, including her marriage. When she heard this she began to cry. I then invited her to be baptized and she said she would if she knew it was true. The message of the Book of Mormon is life-changing and free to all who sincerely seek it. People just have to be willing to put forth the effort necessary to bring to pass that change.

We were called back to the Kaiser hospital to give another blessing to Bonnie, the women who got her foot amputated on Tuesday. She was doing a lot better than she had been last week. The doctors told her last week before surgery that her chances of surviving the operation were 50/50 and even then would still look bleak afterward, but now she seems to be doing pretty well. Her recovery from that point on was a concern, and they had already seen the miracle of a successful surgery take place from our blessing, so they asked us to give her another. She asked me to give the blessing again, to which I obliged. From the experience we were not only able to introduce the Book of Mormon to them and interest them in reading it, but we also brought the Spirit into their lives, which is one of the most important things we can do for someone. 

Well, I will send one last email before I get home to top off approximately two years of emails, but essentially this is the last one; or rather it's my last full week to report on. I can't believe I'll be home in a few days. None of this feels real to me. I know this last little stretch is going to absolutely fly by, so I am going to make the most of it. Thank you all for your support and aid in making this miracle happen in my life. These last two years have been the best thing that have ever happened to me, of which I will be forever grateful for. I'll TALK to you all soon!

Merry Christmas!
Love, Elder Hayden Ellis

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