Monday, February 29, 2016

Week 65 Leap Day

Happy February 29th!

The work here in Ellicott City continues to hasten. As we approach the month of March, we are hoping for at least 3 baptisms to take place in the next few weeks! Ellicott City, over the last few years, has been in a little bit of a drought, but things are surely changing! And the crazy thing is, it's happening like that in every ward throughout the Maryland Baltimore Mission! President Christiansen told us that the baptisms would double if we did all that we could to focus ourselves and work hard, to be exactly obedient and have the Spirit with us at all times. It is amazing to be a part of!

Last night, we had dinner at the Christiansen's home with the Selby family! Brother Selby, Sarah, and Sydney were all there! The baptism had been put on pause for the last few weeks because the Stake President down in Fredericksburg, Virginia, where they go to school, wouldn't allow their records to be moved up here to Ellicott City. Anyways, we finally got it figured out and either way she will be able to be baptized into the Ellicott City Ward. We're hoping that her grandparents will be able to fly out soon so that she can be baptized! Being with them at dinner was great, Anna Christiansen, President's 12 year old daughter, is the exact same age as Sydney and they get along very well. Sydney and Sarah have definitely become family to all of us! 

President Christiansen with his daughters Anna and Camille.
Francis should finally be getting home from Nigeria this week! It's been about a month, and he said that was how long he was going to be gone for! We are eagerly awaiting his return so that we can finish teaching him the lessons so that he can be baptized! We're expecting that he will be baptized in March as well as Sydney.

On Wednesday, we had the New Missionary Meeting. This is a meeting that happens usually around halfway through the transfer for all of the missionaries that came out the previous transfer, plus their trainers. It was a smaller group than usual, but the meeting went well and we talked a lot about how important your first few months are on your mission. Sometimes I still feel like I'm in my first few months, but when I look back I really do know that those first few months really help you to start habits, whether good or bad, that will stay with you for the rest of your mission!

I also got to go on two different exchanges this week! One of them I went down to Annapolis with Elder Singleton, which is a really amazing place to be! The other one I stayed in Ellicott City with Elder Moss who is serving in East Baltimore. While on the exchange with Elder Moss, we had a pretty cool miracle that happened. Occasionally, we get texts to our phones with "Headquarter Referrals" and these are people in our area that have requested either a Book of Mormon or a Bible. Well, Elder Lawrence and I recently had been looking at the records of past referrals over a year ago that had never been contacted here in Ellicott City. We found one for a man named Richard Marsh, who had ordered a Book of Mormon back in March of 2014! But the missionaries had never updated it to say if he had received it or not. So, we gave him a call and he said that he was still hoping to receive his Book of Mormon! So, on the exchange, Elder Moss and I went over to his house. We knocked on the door and a man from Liberia answered and looked very confused, but told us to wait and that he needed to get somebody. We waited for about 3 or 4 minutes, and he hadn't come back to the door, so we knocked again, but there was no response. As we were walking back towards our car, a man came out from around the back of the house and started walking up to the porch, where we had placed a Book of Mormon with a note on it for him. We called out to him, and ran over to talk with him. It was Richard! He explained that he lived around back in the basement. He said that he had gone to an LDS church in Rockville, Maryland a few years ago and that he was really hoping to read more of the Book of Mormon and understand it! So, we have an appointment with him this week and we'll see how it goes!

Another miracle with the Headquarter Referrals, we received one last week named Leonard Wiley, and he requested a Bible. So last week we went over to the house, and a kid about 14 years old opened the door. We asked for Leonard, but he wasn't home, so he went to get his mom instead. His mom came to the door and was extremely nice (which isn't usual when you knock on someone's door at 8 in Baltimore) and said that about a month ago, they had found a church that they liked going to, but the only reason they went there was because it was pretty close by. She said Leonard would love for them to come over and teach him and the family! So this will be another family we will have the opportunity to teach!

Here is something pretty random that I noticed this week, and I'm not sure why it hadn't ever hit me before! I realized that if everyone understood the Articles of Faith that Joseph Smith wrote in response to the question "What do Mormons believe?" then there would be so much less misunderstanding about our church! I also realized that during my mission I have hardly even talked about those Articles of Faith! So I've definitely set a goal to use those more in my teaching!

My testimony of Jesus Christ continues to grow. He is the most amazing Man that has ever walked here on this earth. Every day, we have the opportunity to try and improve, to get better, to change, to turn away from our sin, all because of Him! We have the opportunity to develop Christlike attributes, to try and do all things as he would do them, think things that he would think, love people as he would love them. I truly love my Lord and Savior.

I love this quote by President Jeffrey R Holland: "Above all, never lose faith in your Father in Heaven, who loves you more than you can comprehend." I believe that everything comes down to us gaining a testimony of the love that Heavenly Father has for us. If we truly understand the Doctrine of a Heavenly Father, we will always strive to be our best, to obey him, and most importantly, to become more like Him.

Thank you for all the support, as always!

- Elder Leavitt

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Week 64 Miracles From Around the Mission

This week, we finished up the second half of Zone Conferences in the Columbia, Baltimore, Harbor, and Annapolis Zones! Once again, I love being able to hear all of the miracles that are happening between the boundaries of the Maryland Baltimore Mission. I would love to share a few of them:

The first one I'd like to share actually comes from 2 weeks ago in the Martinsburg Zone. A few months ago, President Christiansen decided he wanted to put missionaries in this small college-town called Keyser. Missionaries had been covering that area, but they lived 45 minutes away and never really got over to it, but he felt prompted that if missionaries were to live in that area, there would be people that would be baptized, and eventually his goal is to start a branch in Keyser. So, in November, Elder Chisholm and Elder Roundy, 2 very young and hard-working missionaries, got put into Keyser together. When they got there, their area book had no pages. Their phone had no numbers. They had absolutely no idea what to do! They felt overwhelmed, upset, and just completely at a loss. They managed to make it through the first few days until Sunday came around, where they introduced themselves to all of the members of the Cumberland Ward that Keyser is a part of. They were asked to give talks, which helped to gain member trust. That day, a member came up to them and told them that he had somebody for them to teach named Samantha. Only a few weeks later, Samantha was baptized. They started to gain trust in themselves that they really could work hard and find people in Keyser. Well, it is now their 3rd transfer together and they are about to have their 4th baptism! They have seen so many miracles, and it was amazing to see that President had a prompting to put them there and they have seen the results from it!

The next one came from the Inner Harbor Ward in the Harbor Zone. Each Zone Conference, we have one recent-convert give his/her testimony of their conversion. Delijah, a 24 year old that grew up in Baltimore, just got baptized in October. His story was amazing and I'd like to share it with all of you: A few years ago, Delijah was searching for truth. He grew up not really going to church, but he believed in a God. Around the age of 18, he decided to move to Las Vegas for a job opportunity, and there he made friends that weren't the best influences. Yet, he always was made fun of because he stayed away from all of the drugs and violence, and read the Bible often. 2 years ago, he moved back to Baltimore, still searching for truth. His dad told him that if he didn't find a job, he would kick him out of the house. One day, him and his father got in an argument about this while on the metro. Delijah got pretty upset and decided to go to the back of the metro away from his father. He went and found a spot towards the back. In front of him, there was a man reading something in Korean, but the man didn't look Korean at all. This confused Delijah a little bit so he asked "What's a white kid like you doing reading Korean?" This man, which just so happened to be a return missionary that had served in Korea, began to tell Delijah about missionary service and how this letter was from one of the people he had met while serving. Delijah was so interested in it that he wanted to learn more and got the contact info and a Book of Mormon from this member of the church who had "coincidentally" decided to take the metro that day. The next few weeks went along and Delijah got kicked out of his house and started to stay in an abandoned house. After a few weeks of that, the police caught him and arrested him for having stayed in this abandoned house. They had pictures of him out on the porch reading the Book of Mormon!! After being put on probation, he was able to meet with the Elders, and continued to learn more and more about the Book of Mormon. His testimony grew. In October of 2015, Delijah was baptized! He has an incredibly strong testimony, and I'm pretty sure he knows the Book of Mormon better than anyone I've ever seen. He stayed for the entire Zone Conference and participated just as the missionaries would! And the best part about all of this...Delijah will be serving a mission this October!

During Zone Conferences, one of the things that we focused on was how people that are going through change in their lives are always the most accepting of the Gospel. The brainwaves change and they come out of their homeostasis, and they are the most willing and able to learn at these times! Because of this, we talked a lot about trying to find those people: asking questions such as "Who just moved in? Who just changed jobs? Who just had a baby?" to be able to know where to work. The Elders in Brooklyn Park shared a pretty cool miracle of just this. They were walking up to contact a man that was walking out of his house. Elder Fisher had this weird prompting to ask a specific question, so he said "Hey, do you know anybody that recently had a baby in the area?" Obviously this caused a little bit of an awkward situation! The guy kind of gave him a weird look and said "Umm...that's kind of a strange question....I don't really know. But my wife is 6 months pregnant!" Well, now they are teaching this young couple about the Gospel of Jesus Christ! 

Now here are some of the miracles that are happening here in our area, Ellicott City! First, we had an amazing miracle with our neighbors Tyler & Jessica. They fit perfectly in this whole idea of finding those that are going through change, they just moved in a few weeks ago and just had their first baby! We helped them move in and they have liked talking to us since. Anyways, we were sitting in Columbia Zone Conference on Thursday, and both Elder Lawrence and I kept getting a prompting that we needed to invite our neighbors to have us in to learn more. We had built a good relationship, but we really hadn't made an invitation. Well, after Zone Conference we had to run to the apartment to grab something. It just so happened that Jessica pulled up at the exact same time as us, so we got out and started talking to her! We told her a little bit about the importance of the family and asked her if we could come and teach her and her husband and she said "I will definitely ask him when a good time is!" Well, the miracle continued because we ran inside to get something and when we came out, Tyler had just pulled up! So we had almost the exact same conversation and he said "I will definitely ask her when a good time is!" It was so great! So now we will be teaching them and they are going to be the best members! 

That same night, we were driving to pick up the other Elders in our ward, and we passed the street where Fred lives, the one armed man that helped us with the generator back in January.  I immediately got an impression we should turn down his street and go visit him, but for some reason I ignored it! It might have been that we were going to be late to pick them up, I'm not sure. But it kept coming back and finally I looked at Elder Lawrence and said "Hey, we need to visit Fred because if we don't I'm going to regret if for a long time." We didn't even have any of our scriptures or pamphlets with us because we were in a different car! But, we drove over there and within seconds, he walks out of his house and kind of looks at the car, wondering who we are. I got out and he recognized who we were, but he was on the phone. I said "Hey Fred, we just felt like we should come by and see when we can come teach you!" and he said "Well I'm on the phone with my girlfriend, but hey if you come back on Tuesday you can have my full attention!" and with that, he went back into the house! So...tomorrow we have an appointment with him! I definitely learned that I need to follow promptings as soon as they come!

We have made some great progress with Eric as well, he wants to be baptized! We have an appointment with him on Thursday. He kicked his girlfriend out of the house because she wasn't a good influence, and he told us that he is trying to make all the necessary changes to become a member of the church! Also, Sydney came to church this week, she is doing well! 

Lately we have been teaching so many Nigerian families! I don't know what it is, but the people from Nigeria are just so humble and willing to learn! It's been a miracle to see how many people from Nigeria are interested in the Gospel!

One last miracle from the Ellicott City Ward, the Spanish Hermanas are now teaching Roger's wife and daughter!!! Irma has been pretty against the Church but now that she has the Spanish missionaries teaching her, she is growing so much! So we are hoping that soon Roger will be able to return to activity and that Irma and Mariah will be baptized!

The hastening of the work is so apparent here in the MBM! The Columbia Stake, where Ellicott City resides, had a total of 22 baptisms in 2015, which was the lowest of all the Stakes in the mission. Well, it's February 22nd and the Columbia Stake has already had 11 baptisms! We've already reached half of what we did last year! The mission is definitely on pace to double the baptisms and it has been so amazing to be a part of. 

I love my mission! The experiences just continue to shape and mold the rest of my life. I'm so grateful for everything that has happened. Thank you for your support!

- Elder Leavitt

I received this text from Sister Christiansen this week: 
"Your son is amazing. He is a natural leader and is so very respected by all who know him - the missionaries, senior missionaries and ward members across the mission."

She also sent some Pictures to both our family and Elder Lawrence's family and prefaced them by saying;
We sure love your sons and appreciate all their hard work in furthering not just the work in their area, but also in the whole mission. Here are some pictures I have taken over the past few months. I apologize that most of these are at lunchtime at meetings or at the airport.  It surely is not reflective at all of what they spend most of their time doing, but hopefully they are fun to look at anyway:)

Elder Michael Teh & his wife of the Seventies.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Week 63 The weeks just keep on flying by.....

Happy Valentines Day! I hope that everyone had a great day yesterday! 

The weeks just keep on flying doesn't slow down! This week went by especially fast because we had Zone Conferences. Wednesday we were in Martinsburg, West Virginia; Thursday was Winchester, Virginia; and Friday was in Frederick, Maryland! This next week will be Annapolis, Brooklyn Park, Baltimore, and back to Columbia! I love getting to see what is going on throughout the entire mission. Every Zone Conference, we get to hear from a Recent Convert that recently got baptized in that area, and I have loved hearing those testimonies! 

Here in Ellicott City, things are going well! The weather over the last few weeks has really changed up some of our plans, but we are still trying to do the best we can. Francis will be getting back from Nigeria here in a few weeks! We haven't been able to see Sydney for a few weeks, but luckily she'll be here this weekend and we are having a dinner with her family and President's family. We are also teaching Eric! The other day we got to see our neighbors who recently had a baby, we are still working with them and trying to figure out a good way to teach them. There are plenty of people here in the Ellicott City Ward that have been prepared and seem SO close! 

Yesterday Chandler met one of my friends, Michelle Wolfley.
She lives in the area where he attended Stake conference. 

Michelle's message to me on FB: " Look who I finally met today! I ask about him to every new missionary I meet so I'm sure word has been getting around that I was hoping to meet him!
 He actually found ME! I was super thrilled!
 Everyone LOVES him! All the missionaries always tell me how amazing he is!
 Truly hope he serves here soon!"

This weekend I went on an exchange into the Brooklyn Park Branch, which is South Baltimore. It was very humbling to see some of the areas there in the city, and I loved being able to talk to the people there. They are very nice and willing to talk to missionaries, they all seem to know who we are and what we do. One of our lessons was with a man named John, who has 3 sisters that are all members of the Church. We talked with him and he mentioned to us that the reason he didn't understand the doctrine of this church was because everyone always claims that we are the "one true church" and he doesn't understand why we feel like we can say that. Lately, I've been reading a lot in a talk called "The Answer is the Doctrine" by Elder Bednar. In there, Elder Bednar talks a lot about how the WHY behind everything is always in the doctrine. The reason we do everything we do is because of a specific doctrine of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When people don't understand why they do something, it is because they do not understand the doctrine! So, we took a second and thought "What is the doctrine behind our church being the one true church?" We taught him about the way that Jesus Christ establishing his church. The Priesthood, 12 Apostles, the Sacrament. And then we taught him about the way that the Restored church is established, and he was able to figure it out for himself! He realized the simple doctrines that Jesus Christ had taught had now been restored on the earth. He told us that things were really starting to click in his head and that he knew this was the church for him. It was such an amazing lesson! And the night continued that way. Wonderful people, hard circumstances (one man had been in prison for 15 years but is now on the path of repentance and baptism), still willing to learn and listen. It was truly inspirational.

Quote for the week: "Not only does God love us the way we are, but He also loves us enough to refuse to leave us this way."
 - Brad Wilcox

I love this quote. As a mission, and throughout all the missions in the world, Elder Oaks has told us to focus on "Teaching Repentance and Baptizing Converts." I believe that repentance is truly what Elder Wilcox explains in this quote: God loves us and wants us to continually change for the better. I'm so grateful for this wonderful gift that we have. The ability to improve! The ability to mess up, learn from it, and get better! I'm so grateful for the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I testify of our Savior and do so in the name of Jesus Crhst, Amen.

Thank you all, have an amazing week!

- Elder Leavitt

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Week 62 Most Memorable Week

This last weekend was one of the most memorable of my mission!
I got the wonderful opportunity to go back into the Frederick Spanish Branch, where I started my mission. I went with Elder Cornejo, who I served with in Columbia Spanish, and we got to go to a wedding at the Frederick Stake Center. The wedding was for Saida Martinez and Rudy Rivera. While I served in Frederick, I taught Saida, who was a less active member. She started coming back into church, and over the last few months, her boyfriend Rudy has been taught by the missionaries! Well, Saturday night they were married and then on Sunday, Rudy got baptized! It was so amazing to get to see everyone that I had grown so close to at the beginning of my mission. Kevin, Saida's little brother, got baptized just a few weeks ago. Her little sister and older sister should be getting baptized soon! It is so amazing to see what a change the Gospel has brought to that family. 

While I was there in Frederick, I also got to see Axel Lara again! Ironically, Sunday marked exactly one year since his baptism. He bore his testimony for fast and testimony meeting, announcing that his papers for a mission are being submitted and that he is leaving in the summer. It was so incredible to see him. He has truly changed my life. He is such a great example!

"Distance means so little, when someone means so much!"

Valentine's Care Package

After weeks of trying, we finally got in contact with a referral we had received named Eric!! He opened the door, let us in, and said " do we begin?" So we taught him about baptism! He said that he wants to be baptized and we are now teaching him and his girlfriend Shanelle. 

I Went out to breakfast with Scott Meushaw this week.
He is an awesome member that helps the missionaries all the time.

The mission continues to accelerate and hasten the work! These next few weeks will be Zone Conferences, which is always the busiest time for us! But it has been amazing to see how the Mission has taken off! I have such a testimony of the keys that President Christiansen holds over this mission, he is truly inspired. I love my mission. I can truly say that I absolutely love it!

I testify of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I have no words to describe his love for each and every one of his children. I'm grateful to be a part of this amazing work. Thank you for your support!

- Elder Leavitt

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Week 61 "Preach Repentance & Baptize Converts"

"For behold the field is white already to harvest"
Elder Leavitt & Elder Lawrence

This week we started a new transfer! I got the opportunity to pick up the new missionaries and drop off the departing missionaries, it is always so cool to see how excited the new missionaries are and how much the departing missionaries have learned! I can't believe we are already in a new transfer and that it is already February!

A few weeks ago, we got to watch a special broadcast entitled "Preach Repentance and Baptize Converts." It was put on by Elder Dallin H Oaks, who is now in charge of the Missionary Department for the church! This was the first time that a broadcast had happened for all of the missionaries of the church in over a decade! It was an amazing broadcast, and they talked about how important it is for us as missionaries to talk about Repentance. I think before my mission the world repentance always had a negative connotation, but I have learned so much about it on my mission! I have realized that in order to be truly converted we really do need constant repentance.

The Maryland Baltimore Mission continues to hasten the work! We currently have the most people on date that we have had for over 2 years, and last week there were 10 baptisms, which is quite a record for this mission! President's belief that we can double the baptisms is absolutely coming true! We continue to work hard to find those that have been prepared in this area!

This transfer, another set of Elders were added to the Ellicott City Ward where we serve! It will be crazy, we have 7 missionaries in this ward now!! 4 Elders and 3 Sisters! There is a lot going on here in this ward! 


This week, Elder Wright, one of the Senior missionaries that works in the office, took quite a spill on the ice and ended up at the Hospital! We got a call from President Christiansen and went with him to go give Elder Wright a blessing. They were worried that he had internal bleeding in his head, but there he was smiling and being so positive! Just the day before, I had gotten in a car accident on the freeway (no injuries though) and Elder Wright had said "Elder Leavitt, react the way God would have you react, not the way Satan would." And as we stood there by his bedside, I told him that he was an amazing example of doing just that. He couldn't stop talking about how he knew it was in the Lord's hands and that he would be fine. We gave him a blessing, and he ended up getting 7 staples in his head and then taken to Johns Hopkins. But...only a few days later he was back home! He is doing well and recovering now and there turned out to be no internal bleeding!

A few weeks ago, we met new neighbors that were moving right above us! We had run home to grab something and they were moving stuff upstairs, so we helped them out! They are a young couple and she just had her baby this last week! During the Storm, we made cookies for them and brought them cookies and a Family Proclamation! We are super excited to try to teach them!

Something that has been really cool to see is that when Elder Cook came to our mission a few months ago, he told us that we should work on targeting those that are ages 17-26, that they were the most likely to accept the gospel and become members of the Church! far over 70% of the baptisms this year have been that exact age! It has been so cool to see the words of an Apostle of the Lord come true.

Francis headed over to Nigeria this week! He wasn't able to get baptized this last weekend because of the trouble the storm caused! But he will either be getting baptized in Nigeria this month, or when he returns next month we will baptize him here! 

This weekend we had Ward Conference and our Bishop gave a great talk about conversion! One of the things that came to me was that true conversion will never change the events or trials that will happen to us. BUT when we are truly converted, our reaction to those events or trials will be completely different. I've seen so many instances on my mission where people believe that God is easy to blame. It is so amazing to see that change, when they realize that those events led to a process full of learning and change. I know that in my life, there have been things that have happened that I didn't understand at the time, but later turned out to be great blessings in my life!

Thank you for everything and all of the support! 

- Elder Leavitt