Monday, July 27, 2015

Week 34 Rui Chen

This week was probably the most memorable of my mission, mostly because of an amazing miracle with a 25 year old guy from China named Rui Chen.

It all started last Friday night, we received a call from a member, Luis Lopez. Luis told us that he had just seen a guy named Rui outside of the church, Rui had come up to him and said "Excuse me, do you attend this church? I would like to learn more about this church." He gave Luis his information and told him he would love to meet missionaries. A few minutes later was when Luis had called us and passed off the information. That night we tried calling and texting, with no answer, so we didn't think much of it.

A few days later, we were going up to Luis Lopez's house, and I remembered this guy named Rui he had told us about. I texted Rui and asked if we could come see him, and he immediately replied this time, saying that he was home and that we could come over. So we drove up to his house, knocked on his door, and met him for the first time. He invited us in and we started getting to know him, asking about his religious background. He explained that he hadn't been very religious, but lately he had been looking for a church. He had visited the Temple Visitors Center with his dad a few weeks ago. He started asking multiple questions about the church, rumors that he had heard, other things that he had been wondering about. One of his questions was "Do Mormons make their own furniture?" Which was actually a question I hadn't got before! But the Spirit started to come into the room more and more. He then asked us how he could serve a mission. He explained that he was also looking for people to date that had good standards and someone that he could marry and have a good family with. We started explaining that there was a YSA Branch, where people between 18-30 met, and he liked that idea. He started to talk about baptism, and we explained the process of baptism and how everything works. He loved everything about the church, and by the time we got out of the lesson, I was so excited for him!

Within a few hours, we had called the YSA Elders and told them all about Rui and that they needed to go see him. The next day, I'll never forget this, we got a call from the YSA Elders. They talked about how prepared Rui was and how amazingly ready he was. They then said "oh and he is getting baptized August 8th, and coming to the YSA Activity tonight." I was so excited!!! Rui came to church yesterday and is on pace to be baptized August 8th, it was such an amazing experience to be a part of.

Another quick miracle was that we were walking down the street, looking for people to talk to, and this truck passed us and something that was in the bed fell out of the truck. We went and picked it up and a few minutes later the man in the truck realized something had dropped out and so he returned. It turned out to be a guy from Honduras who was super appreciative of our help and agreed to let us come over to his house! Miracles like that are so amazing, I'm so grateful for God guiding us to where we need to be.

I've learned throughout my mission how diverse this place is. I meet people everyday from so many different countries, and it is so cool to get to know their culture and language and get to meet so many different people from different backgrounds. It has helped me realize how much God cares about every single person. This last week we met people from India, Iran, Pakistan, Chad, West Africa, Shri Lanka, Ghana, and more! I've had so many experiences with so many different amazing people and I love it.

Victor is getting closer to baptism, it's just been hard to get his family to be able to come to church because of his parents work schedule! But we will be seeing him again tonight and we are super excited about that!

My family attended my good friend, Gabe Reid's farewell yesterday.
He was sought after by many Universities and has chosen to attend & play football for 

Stanford University. He is putting that on hold for now so that he can go and serve the Lord for 2 years in Samoa! He is an amazing young man and is going to be an incredible Missionary!

The last week or so for my studies I have been reading a lot in Joseph Smith History and in the Pearl of Great Price. I have found so many amazing things that I had never realized before! I love in verse 6, Joseph Smith explains that one of the reasons he wasn't agreeing completely with any of the churches was because the persecution they gave each other and the people if they weren't baptized. I've realized that many of the people that I meet on my mission, won't ever be baptized, but I still need to show them the love that God would show them in everything I do.

Another thing that I have always loved from JSH is Joseph Smith explaining that Satan must have known that he would "be an annoyer and disturber of his Kingdom." I love the way he explains that, and as sons and daughters of God, we should always try to be an annoyer and disturber of the kingdom of Satan. I'm so grateful for the opportunity I have on my mission to disturb the work of Satan, and assist in the work of the Lord!

Have an amazing week!

- Elder Leavitt

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Week 33 Emergency Transfer

This last week was a bit crazy....tornado warnings, an emergency transfer, and turning 19 all in one week!

So first, the weather has been crazy. I never realized how bad humidity could be until now, living in Maryland! It's just hot all the time and no matter what, you feel uncomfortable! Usually when it's hot you want it to rain, but here it just seems to get even hotter! And then randomly there will be tornado warnings and crazy rain storms! But it's definitely growing on me! :)

This last week, there were some problems between the missionaries in Frederick and the Branch leaders, so I am no longer serving with Elder Cornejo, he got moved to Frederick. I am back with Elder Chaico, and got to stay in Columbia. It was quite a surprise! We were having our interviews with President Christiansen and he told us the circumstances and what would be happening, and the next morning we were exchanging companions!

This past week I also got to see 3 of my closest friends from the mission!  The first two are both missionaries that have returned. Both Elder Pettersson, my trainer, and Elder Dutsin came to visit Maryland and I got to see them and say hi! It was so crazy getting to see them, I'm so grateful for their examples they have left on me for the rest of my mission. The 3rd was Axel!! The 19 year old that we baptized in Frederick. I went to Frederick for a meeting and got to say hi to him! It was so good to see him. I've made so many friendships on my mission that will last a lifetime!

Elder Dutsin & Elder Chaico
On Wednesday night, I was able to be in possibly the most spiritual lesson I've ever been in in my mission. It was with the Noboa family. They are an amazing family that love the church and have such strong testimonies, but they haven't come to church in years. They are so nice and always willing to talk, so we asked them if we could go through the lessons to practice our teaching with their family. They agreed, so on Wednesday we did a "practice" of teaching the Holy Ghost. These practices really are meant to help us, but we have realized that it helps the Less-Active Members just as much. Even with a practice lesson, their answers are real, and the Spirit can still be felt. I don't know exactly what was said, but I just remember feeling the Holy Ghost SO strong. Possibly stronger than I have ever felt. In those moments, promptings always seem to come and I looked at them and said "We know that God is proud of you and that he loves you more than you'll ever know." It felt as if Jesus Christ was in the room standing next to us, and their wasn't a dry eye in the room. I'm so grateful for experiences like that on my mission!

There has been a lot more desire from the members to help serve and do missionary work! Hermano Mora, a partly active member in our branch, starting telling us about how badly he wants to be a missionary! He told us that he wants to just go out on the streets with us and talk to everyone about Jesus Christ! It's so amazing to see the desire of mission work touch the lives of the Members.

Victor Soriano, the 9 year old that wants to get baptized, is doing well! We have now been able to get the mom involved too, she is super excited for her son to be baptized. We will be seeing the family tonight, they are so awesome! We've been continuing to teach Carlos and Viridiana, they came to church yesterday! Viri seems to love coming to church, and she says she has been reading the Book of Mormon, really wanting to know if it is true or not!

On Saturday, I got to spend my 19th birthday out here in the mission field! The Villatoro's took me out to lunch, then we went to a baptism of an 8 year old that night, then all went and played soccer! It was definitely a different birthday than I've ever had, but it was so great!! Earlier in the week, we were eating dinner at the Riggin's house, and they brought in a cake and surprised me with a little birthday party! I'm so grateful for the members here in Columbia, they are so caring and just so fun to be around!

Birthday Package from Home


Here is a super cool miracle I want to share from the last week. The first started a few weeks ago, when Elder Cornejo and I were street contacting. We met this African-American woman named Rebekah and talked to her about the Book of Mormon. She was super interested and told us she had never realized us Mormons believed in Jesus Christ or had a book about him. We talked to her, and then passed off her information to the Sisters in the area so that they could teach her in English. Well for a few weeks, they just couldn't get in contact with her. Last week, we were walking around the area again, and once again saw her! She came up to us and said "It's so good to see you again! I have a new phone # and I need you to give it to the Sisters so they can come visit me!" So we did just that, and the Sisters got to go over and have a lesson with her, and then yesterday they called us saying that Rebekah came to church! It is truly amazing to see how God works and how he leads you to the people that you need to find. Rebekah told the sisters "I'm so grateful for that red head and dark haired kid. They helped me find this church!" It is truly such an amazing experience to be part of this work!
It was tough celebrating Chandler's Birthday without him!
"Patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting." I absolutely love the power behind this quote, it is so true! Sometimes on a mission, it is hard to be patient. You're always waiting. Waiting for someone to desire baptism, waiting for someone to call you and tell you that they are interested. I think sometimes we confuse the word patience, and think that if we wait, we are patient. It is all about the attitude that we have and I love the way that is explained. 

"Fight all of your battles on your knees and you will win everytime." I'm so grateful for the power of prayer. We have the opportunity to communicate with God, to talk to him and ask him questions, get feedback and counsel from our Father in Heaven. I'm so grateful for his love for us, that he is willing to help us no matter what, no matter when, he doesn't judge us, he loves us unconditionally. I know that prayer is so important, and I hope we don't take advantage of it, it is a wonderful gift from God!

Have an amazing week!

- Elder Leavitt

Monday, July 13, 2015

Week 32 Turning 19

"God doesn't care nearly as much about where you have been as he does about where you are and, with his help, where you are willing to go." 

I would like to start my email this week with that wonderful quote from Jeffrey R Holland. If there is one thing I've realized on my mission, it would be that. The fact that we have a loving Heavenly Father never hit me as much as it does now, as I go along the streets and cities of Maryland preaching the Gospel. With seeing people in every aspect of life, I know that it is not important at all about where you have been before in your life, as long as you are willing to grow closer to him and improve. My mind has changed from "I'm not so sure that person would be interested" to "I want to talk to that person and find out about their story." It reminds me of the show "The Story Trek" where he goes around the United States asking random people about their life story. I get the opportunity to talk to amazing people and hear crazy stories, and no matter where they have been in their life, God only looks at where they are willing to go.

My family went to President & Sister Richards Homecoming yesterday.
This is my sister Caitlin and little Brother Miles with Elder Tyler Day and Elder Colin Dutsin.

Well with that, I'll talk more about my week! This week was hot. Hot. Hot. The humidity takes a toll, especially with all the rain that's been coming down too! Earlier in the week, we were trying to get into the house of a Less Active Member, but he wasn't home, and it was pouring rain. There were even tornado warnings, and we knew a storm was coming in. We were just standing under a tree when somebody came out of another townhouse close by and said "Elders, do you want to come inside?" We ran inside, not knowing who they were. It turned out to be a member family from a different ward!! They kept us inside, gave us some dinner, and even gave us some names of some Spanish friends they knew! It was such a sign that God was looking out for us.

Victor Soriano, the 9 year old that we are teaching, is doing really well! The problem is just getting a ride for him to get to church. The parents are less active and are always working, so we are trying to find a way to get a ride for him. It's definitely been interesting to try and simplify our teaching, and we've had to think about a bunch of Object Lessons that we can use, trying to get into the mind of a 9 year old! 

We still have Pablo and Luis as investigators, but it's been tough to see them because of all the work they've had to do!

This week we got to go to Annapolis for a baptism, and we brought Carlos and Viridiana. They are a young couple, about 29 years old. Carlos was raised as a member but has been less active, and Viri isn't a member of the church. We've been getting to visit them more lately and they wanted to go to Annapolis with us! Viri loved the baptism, and after the baptism we all went and got to walk around and talk to the people on the harbor of Annapolis! It was such a cool experience! We've grown so close to Carlos and Viri, they are so funny and awesome. They invited us to come over for dinner last night, and we had an amazing lesson and got to find out the concerns of Viri, which was mostly her doubt of the Book of Mormon. But by the end of the lesson, she said "Well I guess I can't say it's not true until I read it. I'm going to read it." And so it was awesome! Carlos will be a huge help with that.

Annapolis Harbor

Viridiana and Carlos

Hermana Castro, a less active, has been making some huge improvement also. We have  been doing "practice teaching" with her, so that we can get better at spanish and teaching, and she has agreed to allow us to do that! But the practice has been much more than that, because she has been crying during the lessons and just bearing her testimony and now coming to church again! It has been so amazing to see!

I'd like to end with a wonderful quote that Brother Tim Barlow from my home ward told me:

Many of the people that have hiked Mt Everest have said:
"What the mountain reveals about us is what has any lasting value."
Perhaps changing a phrase in that quote could be more applicable:
"What the full-time missionary service reveals about us is what has any lasting value."

I absolutely love this and have a testimony of that statement. What the missionary service reveals about us is what has lasting value. I've learned so much on my mission so far, and continue to learn every single day. The time is just flying by! I turn 19 this week, and I couldn't be more excited to continue my work as a missionary!

Happy Birthday Elder Leavitt we Love you and Miss you!!

Have a great week!
- Elder Leavitt

Monday, July 6, 2015

Week 31 Happy 4th of July

Happy 4th of July!! I hope that everyone had an amazing Independence Day. I'm so grateful for this wonderful country that we have and that we have the opportunity to live here! I'm so glad to be an American. We were able to stay out until 10:30 to watch the fireworks, we went with a family from the branch and it was so awesome!

Just chillin waiting for the Fireworks to start.
My Companion Elder Cornejo is to the right of me.

Well, this last week started out pretty interesting! On Tuesday, I was conducting my very first District Meeting. That is where we learn more about principles of missionary work and get the chance to practice skills together.  As I was giving the announcements, I announced that we would be meeting President and Sister Christiansen on Thursday as they do their mission tour. Well, as I was making this announcement, I saw two people coming down the hallway, and it just so happened to be President and Sister Christiansen. I said "Well, looks like we get to meet them right now!" Everyone was so surprised that they were there! We all said hi and then President said "Well, Elder Leavitt we were hoping that we could join you for your District Meeting today." Umm, I was a bit nervous to say the least! But, I can testify of the power that the Holy Ghost has, because as I gave my instruction on Diligence, I was saying things that I don't even remember what I said! I just remember feeling such comfort and feeling so amazing as I promised blessings to the wonderful missionaries in my District. We had an incredible Meeting. By the end of the day, everywhere I went people knew that I had just conducted my very first District Meeting with President and Sister Christiansen there too! 

President and Sister Christiansen
President and Sister Christiansen are going to do an absolutely amazing job. They have been talking about how important it is to realize that you are on a mission to bless. To bless lives, bless people, bless everything around you to become better, and I have loved that!

One of the companionships in my district had an amazing miracle this week. They received a call from a lady that they had done service for. This lady was not a member, but because of the service they had done, she recognized missionaries as helpful and kind people. This lady on the call said "I have a woman here named Alisha. I just found her on the streets without a home and figured you could help her." Well, they obviously weren't exactly sure what to do, but they drove over to meet her.  They got there and met this woman, and she told them that she had just moved here with her boyfriend into the boyfriend's mom's house, but the boyfriend's mom had kicked her out of the house because she was white.  She had tried calling every church in the phone book but nobody would help her except for these missionaries.  So she was now stranded in Maryland. Well, they called the bishop and a few other people and found a place for her to stay for the night. She was incredibly grateful. Well, because of these members and the love that she saw from the missionaries, she wanted to learn more. After 1 Lesson, she told them she wanted to be baptized. Not only is she going to be baptized, because of the missionaries and members, she now has a job that provides housing in an old folks home. Not only does she have the desire to be baptized, she is ordering a bus that will come to the old folks home to bring people to the LDS church. She has shared the gospel, in ONE week, with over two hundred people and plans on having multiple buses to pick up all the people she has been sharing the gospel with. The Lord works in absolutely amazing ways.

As far as the people we are currently teaching, we will be seeing Victor Soriano tomorrow, he will be getting baptized in July or August!! Luis, the one that we helped push his car out of Costco, we will be seeing this week also! We met a guy named Pablo, who lives far away, but we took a member with us and had an amazing meeting last week and he wants us to keep coming. We are also working with a young couple named Carlos and Viridiana. Carlos is a member and Viri isn't. They are so awesome and came to church on Sunday! 

This is a little boy I stopped & played
 airplanes with on the street.

I've been learning a lot about diligence lately, the principle I shared in the District Meeting also. I love the examples of Nephi and Lehi. In the very first chapter of the Book of Mormon, Lehi has an amazing vision, and even after seeing all those things and being completely exhausted, he goes out and preaches to the people. Nephi, when in the trouble of getting the plates, tells his brother that they will not return until their work is done. As missionaries, we don't go back to that house early, we stay out and do the work and until our work is done! Nephi and Lehi are such amazing examples of that!

I love this awesome quote that was shared with me.  "Start by doing what is necessary, then do what is possible and suddenly you are doing the impossible" When we begin by doing what is necessary, we pretty soon are doing things that we never thought possible. I testify of that. On my mission, I've learned what it means to do what is necessary, and because of that, I have seen things that I thought impossible before my mission!

One more thought, I love this quote by Russell M Nelson "Real intent means to really intend to follow the answer." I think that sometimes we forget that we have to follow the answers we are given to our prayers and that God knows so much more than us! I love this counsel that we are given.

Seeing miracles every day, I know that God lives. I know that this is the true church with the true authority of God. I'm so grateful for this Mission and for the wonderful people I have got to meet!!

- Elder Leavitt

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Week 30 New Mission President

Wow! A crazy start to this transfer!! 

I'm so grateful to still be serving here in the Columbia area! It's an amazing place, with amazing members and amazing people to meet! My new companion's name is Elder Cornejo. He is from California and was actually just baptized into the church last year!! So he is a recent convert, excited to serve and share the Gospel! He has been out for about 4 months now, so I'm the Senior Companion and it is definitely a different experience!
I'm the second one in on the far right.

Transfer Meeting this past week was definitely a spiritual experience. With the final testimonies of President and Sister Richards, everybody was crying by the end. They have been such an amazing blessing to this mission, they are such amazing leaders and they honestly love every single person around them. I'm so incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to serve around them! The Christiansen's will arrive tonight and I will get the opportunity to meet them on Thursday! 

We had an amazing miracle with a family named the Soriano family. We had tried multiple times with no answer, but the other night when we tried Hermano Soriano answered! Within a few minutes, he told us that he has been waiting for his son to be baptized! The whole family is less active and the son is about 9 now. We asked if July 25th would work and he said yes! So we are going to be seeing his son Victor tonight to start the lessons, we are so excited!!! After so many times passing by and knocking, we finally got the answer!

A few minutes after that we ran into a guy who immediately broke down and started explaining what was going on in his life. He had been through a LOT. It was hard to hear. But we started talking and explaining and he looked at us and said "Wow. That's exactly what I need in my life." It was so absolutely amazing! 

Last night we had the opportunity to go to Annapolis for a Testimony Meeting. It was such a beautiful city and such a beautiful experience! I'm so grateful for the beauty of this mission! Everything is so incredibly amazing here!!!

Yesterday was a bit of a sad day for me. We went over to the Villatoro's house, a family where the husband is less active but the wife and daughters are active. When we got there, Hermano Villatoro told us that he just got back from the doctors and that he has a serious tumor in his brain and they don't know what to do. It was heartbreaking and the whole entire family was in tears. He is having another evaluation today and we will see what happens. As we left the house, I turned to his wife and asked her if there was anything we can do. She was in tears and so were the daughters. She said to please pray for him and I promised we would come give him a blessing also. Please remember him in your prayers. He means a lot to me and is such an great example to me. Thank you all so much for the amazing prayers and the support that you give me!

- Elder Leavitt