Monday, December 28, 2015

Week 56 "Live the whole year to God and nobody else"

This picture is of our entire mission taken at our Christmas party.
(Im pretty much right in the middle)

Merry Christmas! I hope that everyone enjoyed their Christmas this year, I'm so grateful for this wonderful time of year! And Happy New Year! I can't believe we are almost into 2016! It's amazing to think that I spent my entire 2015 in the service of the Lord.

This week was so great! This is one of my favorite times of year, you can always feel a different atmosphere around this time. On Wednesday, we had our Mission Christmas Conference. We all joined together and got to spend time with each other. We played "Minute to Win It" games, competing as zones, and got to have a Talent Show and Devotional. I loved seeing all 200 missionaries together, it was an awesome experience!

"Minute to Win It Games"

(Because we are serving in the east part of the Mission)
Elder Fisher, Elder Abraham, Me, Elder Moss, Elder Lawrence, Elder Wind

(All 5 of us are from AFHS)
Elder Allen, Elder Jones, Elder Ressler, Elder Chamber and myself.

On Christmas Eve, we went down to Annapolis where Elder Wind and Elder Singleton are serving as Zone Leaders. Together, we wrapped up about 50 copies of the Book of Mormon in Christmas wrapping paper, and then included one of the Baptism Cards that we came up with in each. We got the entire day to walk around the Harbor, on a beautiful 70 degree day, and pass out presents! We said "Merry Christmas" to all those that we passed and offered them the gift. Many said no, but many said yes! When they would accept, we would tell them a little bit about it and some people were excited and opened it up right there! It was definitely one of the most memorable experiences from my mission. For one, it was Christmas Eve and I was walking next to the ocean and it was 70 degrees outside....but the main reason was because we got to talk to people about the Book of Mormon and the power it brings!

Christmas Morning at the Goncalves Home
with Elder Fisher & Elder Lawrence.

Christmas was also an amazing day! We spent the whole day with different families, some from the Chesapeake Ward where Elder Lawrence served, some from the Columbia Spanish Branch where I served, and then to the Peterson's house to Skype and have dinner! Skyping was awesome, I loved getting to talk to the people that I love! That night we went to President and Sister Christiansen's home to play games and eat even more food.  



On Sunday, the Selby family all came to church again! They are one of the coolest families I've gotten the chance to teach on my mission. Brother Selby is returning to activity in the Church, and one of his daughters isn't baptized who is 12 years old, named Sydney. After church we went over to their house to get to know them more and start teaching Sydney and it was so much fun! They are a great family, and Sydney will be getting baptized sometime next month!

This weekend, Kevin Morales was baptized!! Kevin is 16 and one of the people that I taught while I served in Frederick at the beginning of my mission. While I was there, he was starting to make progress, but wasn't ready for Baptism. I was so incredibly excited to hear about his baptism. Alex Morales, who was baptized with his wife earlier this year, performed the baptism! I wish I could've made it to see, but I'm so grateful that I got the opportunity to help teach him. Also, Jerry, who I taught while I served in Shenandoah Valley, was found again by the Martinsburg Elders. Jerry's dad is getting baptized this Saturday!!!!! It's so cool to see that people I've gotten to meet have now gotten to the point where they are ready for Baptism. Sometimes it just takes time!

I love this quote that President Christiansen shared with us this week.

“Life is for us, and it is for us to receive this year, and not wait for the Millennium. Let us take a course to be saved this year. Let us review the acts of the old year, repent of our sins, if we have any to repent of, and say our prayers; then look forward to the New Year with peace and gratitude to God, and commence the labors of another year, and strive to live the whole year to God and nobody else.”

Let us all set goals to continue to improve ourselves and become more like Him! Have a Happy New Year!

- Elder Leavitt

Maryland Baltimore Mission

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Week 55 Merry Christmas

"Sometimes a single phrase of testimony can set events in motion that affect someone's life for eternity." - President Dieter F Uchtdorf

I absolutely love this quote from President Uchtdorf! I'd like to begin my email this week by sharing the testimony I have of sharing testimony with others. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to be able to share what we know with others. To share experiences, insights, thoughts and feelings with other people and to be able to feel the Spirit testify o f the truth. I know that our words, the things we say, can truly affect someone's life for eternity. 

Well, as the last few weeks have been so crazy, I didn't get to even send an email last week! So I will try and think back and remember everything that has happened!

For starters, this last week we had transfers! On Tuesday, we got to go to the airport and pick up the brand new missionaries! While we were waiting for them to come off of the terminal, there were 2 missionaries serving in Idaho that got home from their missions and we got to see their reaction of seeing their family for the first time in 2 years! It was my first time getting to pick up the new missionaries, and it brought back so many memories of coming into Baltimore, getting picked up on my very first day in the field. That feels like just yesterday! I remember how much I looked up to the assistants that picked me up and how they affected my mission because of their example. I don't feel like nearly as much of an example as them, but it was so cool because a few of them started proselyting and talking to people and passing out cards WHILE in the Airport! They had just entered the mission field seconds before and already started working! That was a true testimony of me of their desire to work and it taught me quite a lot! That night, we got to spend the night getting to know them while President did interviews with them. It was fun and we got to play some games and have a testimony meeting with them. They wanted to know everything about the Mission, so we told them about how obedient and hardworking they would have to be to help the mission double the baptisms!

The next day was Transfer Meeting. Transfer Meeting is always such a cool experience. All of the missionaries getting moved to an area all come into Columbia, and it's cool to get to be able to see them, see some of the members from different wards, and get to have that meeting. It's also a time for the new missionaries and departing missionaries to bear testimony. The newer missionaries also get to meet their trainers! This Transfer Meeting was one that I will always remember because of the strength of the testimonies that were given. There were about 13 missionaries coming in and 8 leaving, having finished their missionary service. Out of those 7 leaving, 6 were Sisters and 1 was an Elder. The Sisters after finishing their testimonies, sang a song called "Savior Redeemer" and I have no doubt everyone there felt the Spirit. Out of those 6 Sisters, 5 of them had served as Sister Training Leaders, they had trained a total of 15 Sisters (who had also gone on to be Sister Training Leaders or train other missionaries) and they all had a major influence on this mission! It was cool because as I was serving as a District Leader and Zone Leader, they were Sisters that I had gotten to work with and knew how hard they all worked!

That night we got to have dinner with President and the departing group, and since their flight was at 4 in the morning, everyone just stayed awake while they did interviews with President. At 4, we drove everyone to the airport where they were off!

The Mission is continuing to progress towards doubling the baptisms!! We've seen all of the productivity increase and miracles are continuing to happen! One that happened to us the last few weeks was we had a man named Brother Selby show up to church. He said he hadn't been to church in 4 or 5 years since he got divorced but wanted to start going again. He came up to us and told us that his 12 year old daughter, Sydney, hadn't ever been baptized because of the divorce and him going inactive. He also has a 17 year old boy and a 15 year old girl. So, he invited us to start teaching Sydney and to get her baptized! We got to meet Sydney for just a few minutes and she is the sweetest little girl ever! And then yesterday, we went over to Brother Selby's house (the kids weren't there, they are only there every other week) and had a good talk with him and got to know him more. This Sunday, we get to go and teach all of the kids! Brother Selby wants us to help refresh their memory of the church and then to get Sydney baptized, so we're super excited!

I do have some sad news, but I know that this story will end up happy!! So as you know, Roger, the recent convert here, has been doing really well and we have been teaching his daughter Maria and she wants to be baptized as well. But the past few weeks, things seemed a bit different and then all of a sudden on Sunday morning we were sitting in ward council and the Bishopric reads this email they had received from Roger saying he wanted to return to the Catholic church...we were so confused because Roger always told us EVERYTHING! But when we got ahold of him, we found out what happened. Roger isn't divorced, but they are not living together anymore because of some issues. But now, he let his wife, Irma back into the house, and she doesn't really want Maria to join our church and it's causing so much conflict that Roger just wants to be able to be with his daughter and spend time with her, and since Irma takes Maria to the catholic church, Roger wants to be with them. But Roger said "I will keep living the word of wisdom and do everything that I know is true." Please pray for him. I know that he knows this church is true, and I hope that his family situation can get figured out so he can return to our church with his family, and eventually have them for eternity.

This weekend, 2 of my previous investigators in other areas will be getting baptized, I'm so excited to get to see them again!


Christmas is this week!! I can't even believe it! Merry Christmas everyone! I'm so grateful for the opportunity I get to be a missionary over Christmas. As tough as it is sometimes, it is so comforting to know that I get to be a representative of Christ during this special time of year. I'm so grateful for our Lord and Savior. I'm so grateful for all that he does for us! 

- Elder Leavitt

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Week 53 We must always be a Disciple of Christ

It is so hard to believe that we are already into December! The year of 2015 has truly flown by! 

I've come to a conclusion that there really never is a non-busy day while you are on your mission! The last few weeks have been crowded with Zone Conferences, Training Meetings, Leadership Conferences, everything that you can imagine! And this next week, we will be having Elder John U. Teh who is a member of the first Quorum of the Seventy come and visit our mission and do 2 separate conferences with us! That will be an incredible experience to have.

Sister Christiansen was kind enough to share these pictures of
 Chandler with me this week along with the following note:

"We LOVE your son. He is such a deep down to the core good person who works so hard and has such a powerful testimony.  He is also an exceptional missionary that all can look to as a solid example. We are so grateful for the privilege of serving with him! "

Tonight, I was going through emails of all of the people throughout the mission that are on date for baptism. As I looked, I saw a name that I recognized: Kevin Morales. Kevin was a younger kid that I taught back when I was in Frederick. He comes from a family where only his sister, Saida, is a member of the church. He is getting baptized on December 19th though! I'm so excited, I will definitely be attending his baptism, and I'm so grateful that even though it took some time, his heart was softened and he decided to join the Church!

This past week, we were able to take Rodger Bryant, the recent convert, to the Visitors Center for the Washington DC Temple. He also brought along 8 non-members!! He brought his wife Irma and his daughter Maria and one of Maria's friends, along with his friend Steve and Steve's entire family! Rodger and Irma are still legally married, but have been separated for quite some time now. She attends a Catholic church, and....speaks Spanish!! So for the first time in a little bit, I got to speak Spanish and have a great conversation with her! Irma has had a lot of doubts about our church and has heard many things against it, but absolutely loved the beautiful Christmas lights and the Visitors Center! Maria, the daughter, loved it as well! Steve and his family only stayed for a little bit, but I am sure they felt of the Spirit that was there.

First Presidency Christmas Devotional

I absolutely loved the First Presidency Christmas Devotional last night.  The closing speakers, Elder Bednar and President Uchtdorf, gave amazing talks. I loved the imagery with Elder Bednar's talk, explaining the story of Christmas from the view of the Book of Mormon, with the amazing story of Samuel the Lamanite and the believers that trusted in the coming of the Lord! 

Scott Meushaw & I at the Devotional Broadcast last night.

I love this excerpt from President Christiansen's email to us this week: 

"...Our minds are still reflecting on the wonderful First Presidency Christmas Devotional. What an incredible way to start the holiday season! Elder Bednar’s focus on light is what we would like to expand on specifically. It occurred to us that Christ’s light was never low, flickering, wavering or dampened. His light was never turned “off” or dimmed. It was always “on”! It was bright, clear, beckoning, guiding, illuminating. As His disciples and moreover full-time missionaries we are His message as we share of His light. Our light should also always be on! It must always be bright enough to be recognizable by all who we come in contact with. Others should be able to tangibly feel the warmth of our light. And our light must be bright enough to allow us to be their guides to the very source of this light. May we suggest that as a gift to Christ this year that we consider what we can do to recommit to being a 24/7 disciple whose light is always on, and is always bright! 

Of course, we already know how to be this! We do so by keeping the promises of obedience to the missionary way of life that we made when we accepted our call. In doing so we are then very diligent in doing all those things we ask each investigator to do. In addition, we demonstrate an even greater level of kindness than is usual to all those we live with, work with, serve with or meet. In the words of Elder Holland “we never check our religion at the door”

I love this! We must always be a disciple of Christ. The light shows to all of those around us! I'm so grateful for this wonderful time of year and for the blessings that I have been given to be able to celebrate of Christ at this time. I'm so grateful for all of the support!

- Elder Leavitt

Thanks for the pictures, Sister Christiansen!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Week 52 One Turkey Bowl I'll Never Forget!

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope that everyone had an amazing Thanksgiving Day. And since tomorrow is December, Happy Holidays!! I hope that everyone has a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year these next few weeks.

Turkey Bowl @ Naval Academy Practice Field.

Well, things are crazy busy! Thanksgiving was fun, we got the opportunity to have a Turkey Bowl with some other Elders down in Annapolis at the Naval Academy Practice Field! It was super fun! It was nice to play some actual football for the first time since I started my mission! I've gotten to used to the other type of football that I'm not very good After the Turkey Bowl, we headed over and got to eat with President and Sister Christiansen, and then over to the Rim family from our ward who are from South Korea! I can definitely say that it was the first time I ever had a Korean Thanksgiving! It was a good experience though for sure, and they are a very nice family.

Thanksgiving at the President Christiansen's home.

Rodger Bryant, one of the recent converts here in the Ellicott Ward, has been progressing and it has been so cool to see. After receiving a lot of anti-material after his baptism, he has now had his questions answered and received the Aaronic Priesthood and is preparing to baptize his 10 year old daughter, who we are working with! Please remember Roger and Maria in your prayers!

We are working with another part-member family named the Ursos, and we will be visiting them on Friday. The Assistants in this mission hadn't had a baptism in 3 years! I think part of that was how much time they had to spend in the office and doing other administrative things! But with the visit from the Mission Office in Salt Lake a few weeks ago, we have been able to have much more time to proselyte, and we currently have 3 people on date for baptism!

This week, we will be preparing for a visit from Elder Teh from the Quorum of the Seventy! Next week, he will be visiting the mission and meeting all of the missionaries! I am super excited and nervous for this opportunity.

If you haven't seen the new Christmas Video put out by the church, I strongly recommend it. It is simple yet brings the Spirit every time I watch it! I love it so much. A Savior is Born. How amazing is that? That we have the gift of a Savior being born to save all of us. I am so grateful for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! SO incredibly grateful.

Thank you so much for your support!!!

-Elder Leavitt

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Week 51 Happy Thanksgiving

Mom is so HAPPY that I finally hit my "One Year Mark"
this past week on Nov 17th!! One more Year to go!

This week was incredibly busy, as usual!! I think that life as a missionary is never NOT busy, it's just something that you have to get used to!

This past Sunday Scott Meushaw, a member from my area here in Maryland
was visiting Utah and stopped by to meet my Family.

This week we were in charge of going to all of the Zone Conferences and instructing. Zone Conferences go from 8 to 5, so with doing that 4 days in a row, we were pretty exhausted! It was incredible though. It gave me a great opportunity to get to know all of the missionaries better! We went over all of the changes that Brother Donaldson and the Mission Office had suggested so that we could double the baptisms. A lot of the changes that are being made is administrative stuff. Less reporting of numbers, less phone calls, things like that so that we can focus on our areas more. The thing was that Zone Leaders and District Leaders just seemed to be so focused on helping everyone else out, their own area wasn't getting worked on very well. So, Brother Donaldson had suggested a few things that would help change that. The Zones so far have taken everything well! The whole mission is on board for the standard that President Christiansen has established: Double the Baptisms! The Mission averages about 200 baptisms a year, and so that number is going to be increased to 400. This past week, we have the most people on date for baptism in over a year! The work is definitely hastening! Tomorrow and Wednesday we will finish up the Zone Conferences and then be able to enjoy Thanksgiving, it will be quite a nice break from having all of those meetings! I have loved them though and the Spirit has definitely been there.

Dinner at the Goncalves
One tradition of Zone Conferences is to share miracles for 30 minutes. I absolutely love hearing about all of the cool miracles from around the mission! One of them that was shared I'd like to share in my email this week. A lady that was investigating the church was sitting in a parking lot at K-Mart waiting for her kids to come out. All of a sudden, a homeless man walked over to her and knocked on her window. She rolled it down just a little bit, expecting this man to ask her for food or money. The man looked at her and said "Mam, do you go to church?" She was obviously pretty surprised by this statement, and said "No, not currently." He looked at her and said "You should go to church" and walked off! Soon, her children were walking up to the car, and this same man stopped one of her sons, asking him the exact same question. He got in the car, told his mom "that man says we should go to church," and they all sat there in silence, pretty surprised at what had happened. The man never asked for food or money, just simply told them to go to church and walked off!

Another experience: Debby, a lady that the Shenandoah Valley Sisters were teaching, isn't able to read. She has never been able to read in her life. BUT, after she was baptized last week, she started being able to read from the pamphlets and the Book of Mormon, because in all of the lessons she is suddenly reading excerpts and joining in on the conversation!

Thanksgiving Package from Home.

I hope that everyone has an amazing Thanksgiving! I'm so grateful for all of the wonderful blessings in my life, including my family and friends. Thank you for the support!

- Elder Leavitt