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

Monday, November 16, 2015

Week 50 Working with Lee Donaldson

Lee Donaldson 

What a week!! This past week, 2 people from the Mission Office in Salt Lake City came to the mission. Brother Lee Donaldson, a former Mission President, came out with Elder Lawrence and I on Monday night to go teaching with us! It was an incredible experience. Every mission that has a new mission president gets a visit within the first few months. So that was why they decided to visit.

That night, we were visiting with Roger Bryant. Roger was just baptized a few weeks ago right before I came into Ellicott City. About a month ago, I had the opportunity to go on exchange with Elder Lawrence and meet Roger before his baptism. It didn't even feel like the same Roger! He has such a strong testimony and has been an amazing miracle. Anyways, Roger was supposed to get the Priesthood 2 weeks ago, but he started to receive some anti-Mormon material from friends and said that he wanted to wait until he got these questions figured out. Well, Elder Lawrence and I did all that we can to study and prepare, but when we got into the lesson, we were pretty unsure how it was going to go.

As we started the lesson, Roger immediately brought up this concern. Little did we know, Brother Donaldson was the perfect person we could've brought to see him. Brother Donaldson is incredibly intelligent and even speaks Hebrew! He explained the concept of how a Father wants the best for their children. Wants them to become like him. I've never felt the Spirit so strongly than when Brother Donaldson went through the scriptures and explained certain Hebrew words, and Roger could feel it as well. He said "Wow. This all makes sense now." Brother Donaldson went on to say: "Roger, I go out with missionaries like this about every week in a different mission. And for some reason, God always leads the missionaries to take me somewhere where I am needed. Tonight, you needed a logical explanation about this and I have that for you." It was absolutely incredible. He then said "Roger, there is a reason God needs you in his church. There is family waiting for you to do their work." We hadn't said anything to him, but Roger had always brought up how he wanted to do his father's work! Roger was amazed and felt the Spirit so strongly.

Yesterday, Roger received the priesthood and a calling in the church. I got the wonderful opportunity to be in the circle to ordain him and I am so grateful for that priesthood and the blessings that come out of it!

Life has been incredibly busy! A few days after going out with Brother Donaldson, we had a meeting with him and President and Sister Christiansen. Brother Donaldson said "I fully believe you can double the number of baptisms in this mission and this is how." Well, there were quite a few changes that seemed like they would be so hard to make! We knew that when we announced those changes to the whole mission, there would be quite a lot of different opinions. Well, Thursday came and we announced those changes to all those in leadership. There were many different opinions, but by the end of it everybody knew: These new rules are in place so that we can work even harder, find those that are being prepared, and learn the Gospel even more. I'm grateful that we have the opportunity to double the amount of baptisms in this mission.

Elder Lawrence and I got to meet with Michael and Bianca this week. Bianca is a member of the church, she is about 20 years old. She married Michael a few months ago, who is 23 and not a member. We met with them 2 times, and on the 2nd time, talked about the Restoration and Baptism with Michael, and he agreed to be baptized on December 12th! We are incredibly excited as we continue to meet with him for this special date! Also, Roger has a daughter that is 10 years old and she wants to be baptized. Brother Donaldson taught us that the best way to lead the mission is to work hard in our area and make it an example. Well, Ellicott City is an incredible place to serve and we are trying to make it an example for the mission with the Lord's help. 

I love my mission, every part about it! Thanks for the support!

- Elder Leavitt

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Week 49 Called to be an Assistant to the President

Well, so much has happened within the last 2 weeks, I’m not even sure where to begin! I guess I will start by talking about transfers this last week.

Saying Goodbye to a great Companion.
Transfer Day, leaving Winchester & heading to Ellicott City.
Last Sunday, I was fully expecting to stay in Shenandoah Valley with Elder Mumm. At around 3 in the afternoon, we received a call from Elder Lawrence, one of the assistants. As usual, he proceeded to tell us all of the missionaries in our Zone that would be getting transferred on Wednesday. When he said “Elder Leavitt” I wasn’t sure if I had heard that right! I had only spent one transfer in Shenandoah Valley and was not planning on leaving at all! So when Elder Mumm read the list back to him, he left off my name, but Elder Lawrence said “And Elder Leavitt also.” So, I spent the rest of the day wondering where I was going! At around 9:30 that night, President Christiansen called. It was a very humbling experience to hear him say “Elder Leavitt, you’ll be coming up here to Ellicott City to be an assistant with Elder Lawrence.” I felt a lot of emotions, mostly unprepared to have that calling, but I knew that God would help me in fulfilling that role. On Wednesday, being called up to the podium to give my testimony as the new assistant, I thought I was going to pass out my heart was beating so fast! But it went well, and it was so amazing to stand there and see the 200 wonderful missionaries we have in this mission! It is truly a humbling experience.

Elder Lawrence and I, heading to Ellicott City.
Well, so far the role of being an assistant has been an amazing experience, I am learning so very much! It has been insanely busy, and there is so much to do to continue to help the mission, but it has been great. This past week we prepared all week for Lee Donaldson from the Mission Office to come out and do a Mission Tour. I will be sharing a few of those experiences in my email next week because I’d like to share some other miracles this week.

I will miss serving with Elder Mumm.
I would like to share a few of the miracles from my time in Shenandoah Valley that I didn’t get to share yet. The first is a girl named Reyna. Elder Mumm and I had spent almost all of the day in pouring rain, and we were feeling pretty cold and wet. It was about 10 minutes until our dinner appointment, so we were knocking a few more doors before getting in the car. We knocked one last door, and started to walk back to the car, and in the pouring rain, a girl around 20 years old was walking towards us to get into her house. We stopped her, and even though it was pouring rain, she stopped to listen to what we had to say. We told her who we were and asked her if she would like Sister Missionaries to stop by. She looked close to crying as she looked at us and said “Well, I was just trying to get inside. But you know what? A few weeks ago somebody very close to me passed away and I’ve been looking for purpose in life.” We testified that she would see that person again, and she told us that the Sisters could stop by. It was so great to see how in the last few seconds before we would be getting in the car, God provided us with someone to meet that was prepared. The last I heard, the Sisters in Shenandoah Valley are trying to work with her, and I hope and pray that all will go well with Reyna.

Another cool miracle was with a man named Chris. Chris was a referral from the Sisters, so we decided to stop by and meet him. He seemed very nice, and told us that we could come back in a few days. Well, those few days passed and we went to his house to have a lesson, but he wasn’t home. I said “Well, on Friday we will put him on date for baptism when we come back.” However, Elder Mumm and I had just read a talk called “A Challenging and Testifying Missionary” and we were super pumped about inviting people to be baptized, and one of the parts said to never wait a few days to invite someone to baptism. So, we decided to call him! Elder Mumm told me that when Chris answered, I should invite him to be baptized. Well, Chris didn’t answer, but I left a voicemail. I didn’t do a great job on the voicemail, l was struggling for words and just seemed like I didn’t really know what I was doing and by the time I hung up, I was kind of upset with myself, but Elder Mumm and I just laughed it off. I told him I was going to redeem myself, so I called again, and this time Chris answered! I realized that if I wouldn’t have had that stupor of words, I wouldn’t have called again and would never have gotten to talk to Chris. God definitely works in mysterious ways! Anyways, so I started talking to Chris and after a few minutes, we invited him to be baptized on November 28th.  He brought up the concern that he was going through hard times, which gave us even more reason to explain baptism and how much it helps. By the end, he told us that he’d be home the next day and that he wanted us to come over and explain baptism more to him. It was such an amazing miracle!

That theme of inviting people to be baptized became something that Elder Mumm and I stressed in the entire Zone. It was absolutely amazing to see! At the beginning of the transfer, we were getting about 30 baptismal invitations a week as a Zone. Last week, we had 360! 360 sons and daughters of God were invited to be baptized by the proper authority. Elder Mumm and I also designed cards that talked about Baptism and used that as a way to bring up baptism. We had amazing miracles throughout those weeks, finding so many new investigators! At the beginning of the transfer, we had 2 people that were on date for baptism. By the end, we were up to around 15 that had accepted a Baptismal date! The missionaries began to love talking about baptism, and stressing baptism with everything. As missionaries that is our purpose anyways! It was so cool to see the ways missionaries had developed to bring up baptism, and it made contacting people even more fun and the Zone completely loved doing it.
Jason Wright
 Author of Christmas Jars and The Wednesday Letters.
The last miracle I’d like to share comes from something that we do as a mission called “Social Media Split.” Every third Saturday of the month, we go around and ask members to take pictures of us doing service or teaching and they post it to their social media. The objective is so that all of their non-member friends begin to learn more about missionaries and what we do. Well, President Jason Wright, a member of the Stake Presidency in Winchester and a famous author, is big about doing these social media splits. He shared an incredible miracle that happened because of it. A few months ago, a man from Africa was looking through Facebook and somehow came across this page that had all of these pictures of missionaries in the Maryland Baltimore Mission. He became very interested and contacted somebody that had posted a picture, Brother Todd Jensen in the Shenandoah Valley Ward. He began to chat through Facebook with Brother Jensen. As the months went on, Brother Jensen taught him all of the missionary discussions through social media, and found missionaries to go and meet this man. This man was baptized, received the priesthood, and is now preparing to serve a full time mission. All because he saw a picture on Facebook of missionaries teaching people. What a miracle!

One of my Best Friends, Carson Bryant received his call
last week to serve in the Washington D.C. North Mission. 
That mission boarders mine. 
He is going to be an awesome Missionary!

I’m so grateful for my mission. I have gained such a testimony of the divine help we have from our Heavenly Father. He is always watching over us, even when we feel like we have nobody around us to comfort us. I pray that we can all continue to share the Gospel and live it to the fullest! I love you all, thank you for your amazing support week after week.

       - Elder Leavitt