Monday, March 30, 2015

Week 17

My Easter Care Package!
The Easter Bunny found me in Maryland!

The weeks fly faster and faster, it seems like I just sent an email 2 days ago!!

 This transfer has really gone by so fast, and on Sunday night, I will be finding out whether I will be staying here for the next transfer or getting moved. I feel like I'll be getting moved, because they want to bring Sister Missionaries back into the area, so yesterday felt like my last Sunday with the Frederick Branch, and was SO special! The very last song was "God Be With You Til We Meet Again" and since I'm the piano player I got to look out and see everyone singing it together, the highest attendance that Frederick Branch has seen yet. I'll never forget this place, it will always be the branch that I started my mission in. And who knows, maybe something will change and I will get kept in this area, and I can spend another transfer with all these dear friends that I have made. Either way, I know that the Lord knows where I am needed and where I need to preach the Gospel next and I am so grateful for that.

There have been a lot of things going on with members in the Branch, and the Branch has grown so much closer because they are reaching out to the members that are in need. For example, Maria Quinones, who is only 14, just found out she is pregnant. That obviously has been incredibly hard for her mom, who is a single mother with 3 or 4 kids. Their family is less active and has gone through many hard things. But the Branch has helped them SO much. Strangely enough, about a month ago we got the prompting to go visit them, and Maria came out and talked to us. We talked to her about the Atonement and that God can help us no matter what we've ever done. At that time, we had no idea that she could be pregnant, but she knew what she had done, and was probably feeling the guilt of Sin badly in her life. I know that it was meant to be that we visited with her and randomly chose that lesson.

Happy Easter, We Love & Miss You Elder Leavitt!

Things have been tough with setting appointments, lately people seem to never be home! But we have been working a ton with Axel to teach his little sister Carla, and she has actually liked the lessons a lot so far! Their parents are still very catholic though, and try to keep Carla that way too.

Mom made me an Atonement Advent Calendar for Easter.

Well, Easter is this weekend!! General Conference and Easter, always such a great pair, and I know that it is going to be amazing to hear the Prophets and Apostles of our Heavenly Father. For my spiritual thought, I have 2 quotes:

"Our great personal challenge in mortality is to become a saint through the Atonement of Christ. The pain you and I experience may be where this process is most measured. In extremity, we can become as children in our hearts, as we humble ourselves and pray and work and wait patiently for the healing of our bodies and our souls. As Job, after being refined through our trials, we shall come forth as gold."
- Kent F Richards

"It was required, indeed it was central to the significance of the Atonement, that this perfect Son who had never spoken ill nor done wrong nor touched an unclean thing had to know how the rest of humankind - us, all of us - would feel when we did commit such sins. For His Atonement to be infinite and eternal, He had to feel what it was like to die not only physically but spiritually, to sense what it was like to have the divine Spirit withdraw, leaving one feeling totally, abjectly, hopelessly alone." 

I testify of the power of the Atonement and that He truly knows everything we are feeling. He knows every thought that crosses our mind, and how it feels to be us. He knows what it is like to be a Missionary, a Father, a man on the street, a man dying from cancer, anything. He is truly our Loving Brother who has done all he can to help us back on our pathway to our Heavenly Father. I'm so grateful for this time of year, and I hope that everyone continues to think about Jesus Christ, more than ever, as you listen to Conference and have Easter. I'm so grateful for my Big Brother.

Thank you so much for the support, 
Elder Leavitt

P.S. Last night's menu was cow intestine tacos and cactus juice!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Week 16

"Yeah I know that I am nothing, as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things." - Alma 26:12

I've thought about this scripture quite often this week, realizing that in God's strength, we REALLY can do all things! I love this Scripture and the thoughts that it gives me. This week has been tough, a lot of appointments fell through and a lot of people blew us off in the streets, but with the faith that God can help us in ALL things, we have kept positive and worked hard!

The Zamora Family continues to progress, learning and reading! Alfonso, the father, is a little bit confused about Moroni appearing to Joseph Smith, but we have found scriptures talking about people being resurrected at different times, and are in the process of helping him understand. He LOVES the Book of Mormon, and they are progressing well. Sadly, they are busy on Sundays with work, so we have to find a way for them to see the importance of coming to Church.

We are working with quite a few relatives of Members and Less Actives, which is nice because they are always around people who are already members of the Church! That way they are in an environment where they are seeing what members are like and the people that are involved! We are working with Walter Gonzalez, who just got here from Guatemala, and he is reading the Book of Mormon also!

This transfer has gone SO fast, and we're trying our best to work super hard until the end, every single day. Elder Pettersson, my companion, goes home in 2 weeks, but he still has stayed devoted to the work and focused. I feel like I won't be staying in this area after this transfer, so I'm trying to do everything I can to work hard and find people for the next Missionaries to teach!

I have learned so much on my mission. Even with the weeks that don't go quite as planned, there is SO much to learn! Mostly, the Love of our Savior. He is ALWAYS there for us, no matter what the situation. No matter what we do, how we feel, where we are in life, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is someone that we can always count on. This week I have seen that the Lord loves every person in this entire world. No matter what their situation. I've met people with so many different stories and backgrounds, and I have learned to never judge from first sight. We walked up to a guy smoking outside his trailer park, and started talking to him. He had walked from Missouri to Frederick, Maryland to try and find a new life, and even though he doesn't believe in Christ, I know that Christ loves him. And how sad it is, but this man doesn't realize that he has a Father and Brother in Heaven that love him more than he can even imagine.

So that brings me to realize: My Purpose is to share the Love of Christ with all people. My message is that we have a Brother who died for us. A Father who provided the way and a Plan, and loves us more than we can even know. I hope everyone of you know how much the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ loves you!

Share the Gospel!

-Elder Leavitt

Monday, March 16, 2015

Week 15

Special St. Patrick's Day Package from Home!
We are the "LUCKY" ones to have Chandler as part of our Eternal Family!!!

Work, work, work! There is so much to be done and the time really has flown by this last week!

We have been working with an incredible family, the Zamora Family. Like I said last week, we found them by helping the mother get her car unstuck. I'm so grateful for the Winter storm we had (they called it Storm Thor) because without it, we never would have met them! They are such a great family, that is slowly, but surely, progressing. Alfonso, the father, doesn't really believe that there can be a living prophet and one true church. But he is always telling us that we know so much about the bible, and that he wants us to help him "change his heart and beliefs." So, we are helping him see the importance of a Latter-Day Prophet and Church! He loves the Book of Mormon and is reading it. His wife is much quieter, and doesn't put her opinion in much. But every time we come, they have their folletos (I honestly can't think of what that means in English...brochure or pamphlets I guess? Sorry!) out, their bibles out, they are always ready for our appointments and excited to talk about the Church! So progress is going well with them.

We also have Walter Gonzalez, the nephew of a less-active member named Oscar. We had him on date for a little while, but he has fallen off because he has been missing church! But he is reading and praying, and we are helping and teaching him! He just came from Guatemala about a month ago, and had talked with Elders while there.

I had an amazing experience this week while at a Members House, the Salvador Family. We were talking about the Atonement, and I felt the Spirit so strong, everybody in the room did. Hermana Salvador was crying, and Hermano Salvador was telling his conversion story. All of a sudden he looked at me and asked me why I had come on a mission. It hit me so hard, and the Spirit was so strong. It made me think for a second and I told him why. The reason I came out here is because I've been blessed by this amazing gospel and I want other people to have that light and joy in their lives constantly. That is why. It was such a spiritual moment that I will never ever forget!
Allen & Mosi, Branch Preisdent's sons
Bryan Bobailla

We are also teaching a lady named Bety and a young boy named Kevin. We had a huge breakthrough with a less active member named Saida. We visit Saida every Thursday when she is off work, but she usually doesn't let us share a message, we just talk with her and her brother and cook snacks for her little siblings and all their friends. But this time, we had brought a recent convert named Bryan Bobadilla. When we asked Saida if we could share a message, she finally said yes. So we all sat down and I could tell she was already about to cry, she looked so stressed and we could tell it was different this time. She looked at us and asked that each of us just bear our testimony. Bryan went first and did an amazing job, telling his conversion story. Saida was already crying, and for the first time we finally had made her see what she had been missing for so long. The gospel! The joy that it brings. Elder Pettersson bore an amazing testimony, and then for some reason when it was my turn, she asked "Elder Leavitt, have you ever gone through something incredibly hard?" I was planning on just sharing with her my testimony of the church, but when she asked that, I realized exactly what I needed to do. I told her about my experience with my Liver Disease and how much that had increased my testimony. It was such a cool experience. Then she bore her testimony. She told us that she wants to come back to church and that she has missed these amazing feelings given by the Gospel. She has just been going through a lot, being 21 and having a 4 year old child she has to take care of, always working, no family support. It was a breakthrough we had never had with her before!

The families are still amazing in our branch! This week I ate cactus, more cow stomach, and pupusas! The pupusas are amazing, from El Salvador! Every Sunday Morning, we go over to a family in our branch and they make pancakes and pupusas for breakfast!

For my spiritual thoughts, first I have a quote from Elder James E. Faust: "Hope is the anchor of our souls. Hope is trust in God's promises, faith that if we act now, the desired blessings will be fulfilled in the future. The unfailing source of hope is that we are sons and daughters of God and that His Son, Jesus Christ, saved us from Death." Hope is something that at times, especially during the hardest of times, is hard to have. But if we have hope, we have everything else! We have faith, we have charity, we have every attribute that we need to continue in the work of the Lord. Even though hope seems like something hard to have, we should work towards it! Work towards having hope throughout everything we go through. 

Another thought as I was reading in 2 Kings 6:15-17. It talks about the chariots of angels protecting us. Elder Jeffrey R Holland said "Remember and never forget that if our eyes could be opened we would see horses and chariots of fire as far as the eye can see riding at reckless speed to come to our protection." This goes along so well with hope! Even though we can't see it, we have protection from both sides of the veil! Heavenly Father is so concerned for us and our protection and well-being that he literally gives us body guards. As a Missionary, I've felt that presence of protection from harm and am so grateful that we have that promise. Even though we can't see them, we all have that protection.

Have hope, persevere! That is all that we can do. Have hope that you can be an instrument in the hands of the Lord, and he will help you do exactly that. Thank you so much for all of the support, love you all!

- Elder Leavitt

Monday, March 9, 2015

Week 14

It has been BITTER COLD here, so I got this package from home to keep me warm!

Hello everyone! I have been so busy with meetings, I've hardly had the chance to write emails the last few weeks! I hope everyone is doing super well!!

The last few weeks have been so crazy!! To start, we now have a new Branch Presidency. President Rivera had been in there 5 years, and with our Stake Conference coming up, we were told that there was going to be a change. Last Sunday, March 1st, we had an amazing Sacrament Meeting where the new Presidency was introduced. The new President is Hermano Castillo, who will do an amazing job, he is such a good worker and loves going out with the missionaries!! There are many less active members who had been offended by President Rivera, and many members also, but the support for him was SO strong, and since it was Fast & Testimony Meeting, many people got up and bore their testimony of how great of a person President Rivera is. The next few weeks will be much different with the Branch and a new Presidency, and we feel like we can work so hard with them, they are willing to work!

Every Thursday, we get the opportunity to teach English classes! It's so interesting to see people trying to learn English and struggle with it, it gives me hope that even though I'm struggling with learning Spanish, other people struggle too! I love teaching them, it is such a cool experience! And they are non-members, so we also get the chance to teach them the Gospel throughout the class! And then on every Friday, we play soccer. 50 people or more come and play!!!! It is so much fun, and crazy!

Axel Lara our recent convert, has been staying strong! He comes to church every week, even with a hectic job! He has such a desire to learn more, so we've been going in depth on a lot of doctrine. He has also been joining us to go on visits! His testimony helps people see that Mormons are normal people, especially with someone that was so recently baptized. He is so busy with school and work, but still makes time to come out with us. We have gone to dinner with him and his dad, and his dad really does know this church is true. He told us that he would be baptized, he is just too busy with work! That's how a lot of the Hispanics are out here. Work, work, work! They work themselves so hard, they don't even have time to meet with us or come to church.

The last few weeks there have been so many changes with people we have been meeting with and our new investigators!! We had met this young kid named Steven, a freshman in college, who seemed like such a blessing for us! Sadly, the very next night he texted us saying that his mom won't allow us to come over. It was something that was really hard on me, because in our few talks with Steven, I had gotten so close to him. I didn't understand why this would happen, but I know that one day his mom's heart can be softened and people can meet with him! The other day we met this family named the Zamora family, because we shoveled snow and they invited us in. They are soooo amazing, I'm so grateful we met them! They have let us come in all the time, and honestly I think they will get baptized soon! They have 2 little kids, a 12 and a 5 year old! They are a miracle. We wouldn't have met them without the snow! When we first met the husband, Alfonso, we were a little worried he would be hard to teach. He's so cool though! He never wears a shirt, has long black hair, and a cool tattoo! He loves us and invites us over repeatedly.

We've still been doing a lot of work with our Less Active Members. Some are starting to come back to church! It's hard at times because most of the Less Actives are divorced/single women, and since we can't meet with them alone, we just have to do visits at the door! Usually they put Sisters in the area, but we don't have any Sisters in our District, so it's up to us to go visit these elderly women, we bake them cookies and just do small things like that. It's made me see that we don't have to go out and teach them 20 minute lessons, just doing the small things really helps them so much.
One quote I really love is "You can't light a fire in a soul, unless it is lit in yours." Make sure the Church and this Gospel is lit in your soul! We all have the duty to share this Gospel, and it is so amazing to be able to see people receive it!

Well, I love all of you! Thank you so much for your support!

- Elder Leavitt

P.S. I ate cow was one of the worst experiences of my life for sure!

We were able to go and do a session in the Washington D.C. Temple 2 weeks ago.

Acts of Service, Shoveling snow!

Cleaning off Axel's car for him.

Well said,  Elder Leavittt!

Mom says, "this picture says it ALL!!!!"

Week 13

Sorry everyone, no blog letter this week. Chandler didn't have enough time to write one, they had appointments they had to get to. It is sad news for everyone that reads the blog but good news to know that they are working so hard and staying so busy!! We love you Elder Leavitt!