Saturday, May 30, 2015

Week 25 First Week in Columbia

Hello from Columbia!!

Wow. As much as I miss Frederick, I'm so grateful that I am here in Columbia. First of all, what a beautiful place to be! The most green I've ever seen in my life, beautiful houses and buildings and architecture, it's an amazing place. The branch is amazing, the members that I have met are so nice and supportive and it is amazing to see!! I guess I look like some guy named Tyler Oakley, so that's what I'm known as to most of the Youth... In my area of Frederick, I was told I looked like the guy in Meet the Robinson's, so each Branch has a different identity for me I guess!  But I'm learning so much in this beautiful place. My District and Zone is amazing, and I'm so excited for the upcoming weeks!

Elder Ence & I helping out a member of our Branch.
Finding new people to teach is definitely tough though. We have been searching all over, and most of the people just don't seem interested! I've gotten common responses of, "Talk to me when women have the priesthood" or "I already know enough about your church", "There is no soliciting in this neighborhood" and "Why isn't science in the bible?" The people just don't see a need for the message that we have.

Finally, though, we found someone. Last night we had a miracle. We had received a referral a few days ago, but hadn't been able to get ahold of him yet, so I decided to send a text to the number we had received. I quickly got a reply, and the man said that he had been waiting for a text from the missionaries! He wants to come to church on Sunday, and we are finding him a ride so that he can be there. He is very interested in learning more and very excited to come! We also are working with a part member family, and the 9 year old really wants to be baptized!

The Villatoro Family is an amazing family in the branch. We have been working so closely with Hermano Villatoro, who is less active because of issues with various members. He is married and has 2 daughters, Cindy and Marcy, who are 16 and 14. Their family is amazing, and so much fun to be around.  His wife is one of the nicest ladies I have ever met before! We have been doing service with Hermano Villatoro, and he has really learned to trust and love us, he calls us his sons! Now with that trust, we are working on bringing him back to church! He is always taking us out to lunch and dinner, and telling us about his friends that he wants us to teach!

Jesus is the most recent convert in the area. He is only 8 years old, but has the strongest testimony of anyone that I know! He was just baptized 2 weeks ago. We talked about the Holy Ghost with him, and he said "Wow, I don't want to choose the wrong or else I won't have my best friend with me!" He is amazing. His prayers amaze me, and I've been learning so much lately, the innocence of children is what we all need to have!

Jesus, the newest member of our Branch.
Last weekend, I got to see my very first Quinceanera, for a girl turning 15 in the branch, Andrea Hernandez. We helped set up for it all night on Friday night, then on Saturday night got to come and eat dinner and talk to people. I would say about 80% of the people weren't members, so it was an amazing opportunity to share the gospel, and to see what the Spanish traditions are like!

 This weekend I got to go on an exchange with the Zone Leaders, so I worked for a few days in the Columbia YSA Ward! It was super cool to be able to work in a YSA ward, working with all these guys my age and even getting to go to an activity where we played basketball!

I have heard back from some people in Frederick. Elder Baca and Elder Chaico told me that Diana Ventura, the 6 year old daughter of Alex & Christina, bore her testimony and said that she hopes the best for me! I also got to see them up in Baltimore last Sunday, for another multi-stake testimony meeting!! 

On a Spiritual note, I heard a few amazing insights this week. First was a quote from our Branch Mission Leader, he said "When I was a Bishop, I always told my members: "Whether here or in the Celestial Kingdom, you'll have to forgive others sometime." I loved that. So much of our life we spend being mad at someone or holding something in and holding a grudge. Well, eventually we're going to have to clear it up if we all want to live together in the Celestial Kingdom! So we should learn from Jesus Christ, the perfect example of forgiveness, who immediately forgave people that were trying to kill him. The Character of Christ is truly amazing!

The other thing that I'd love to share is an insight on a verse in the Book of Mormon that I had never thought of much. It's very short, and it's Nephi talking about Lehi. All it says is "My father dwelt in a tent." Doesn't mean much right? But I heard a guy talking about this, and he said that if you look in the verse before, Lehi is reprimanding his sons, telling them that they need to shape-up. The man talking about this said "As a father, this verse means a lot more to me. I feel like Lehi went into the tent to be alone for a little bit. It's not easy being frustrated with your kids and having to reprimand them. Lehi needed some alone time and probably felt bad for what he had to do." I thought that was so interesting! It's made me realize that the scriptures mean more than we think they do! Every scripture has purpose in there, we can take every verse and really learn so much more about it!

I'm so grateful for everything that is happening on my mission, the wonderful things I've been able to learn!! Can't wait to keep learning more this next week!

- Elder Leavitt

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