Monday, July 25, 2016

Week 86 Marcia's Baptism

I can't believe we're already at the end of July!! I feel like each month just gets shorter and shorter. July has been quite a month to remember though, especially with this last week!

On Saturday, Marcia Threatt was baptized!! She's been coming to church for about 2 months now. She works doing ASL, and one of her friends is in our ward, Brother Kowalski! He invited her to come and interpret and help each Sunday, and she's loved being here! It's been such a cool opportunity to see her desire to become a member of the Church. It's also been great to see the ward's excitement towards missionary work continue to increase with the recent baptisms of Marcia, Mary, Sydney, and Francis. I have truly loved serving with the people here in Ellicott City! The baptism went great, and then on Sunday, we got the opportunity to stand in the circle for both the confirmations of Mary and Marcia. Two amazing new members of the restored church!

Mary, having only got baptized 3 days previous, went out teaching with the Sisters last week! They were giving a tour of the church to a lady named Tina. Mary was such a huge help they told us! She testified of the Book of Mormon, of the Restored Priesthood power, Baptism, everything that you can imagine! She technically wasn't even a member yet since she hadn't been confirmed, yet she was sharing the Gospel with those around her! Tina came to the baptism and also to church on Sunday, and the Sisters are working with her to help her progress towards Baptism.

This last week was transfers! It's become a process that I've enjoyed being a part of, getting to pick up all of the new missionaries and drop off those that have served so faithfully. 2 of my previous companions went home, Elder Mumm and Elder Ence. I'm grateful for them and for the lessons that they taught me! I'm excited for this new transfer, another one here in amazing Ellicott City!

President Christiansen, Elder Fisher & I
with a new Missionary.
Elder Mumm is right next to Elder Fisher.

One of the great miracles that we had this week was being able to hear from Kunle Omisore again!! We had started teaching Kunle back in March, and he was the one from Nigeria that had amazing experiences going to the temple and meeting members and wanted to learn more. Well, then he took a 4 month trip to Nigeria! But we knocked on his door this past week and he is back in town and ready to meet again! It must all just be part of the Lord's timing.

We held our monthly Mission Leadership Council this past week. I always look forward to those opportunities to learn from the other missionaries, and especially to learn from President & Sister Christiansen. I'm so grateful for the wonderful people out here and the great friends that I have made, the wonderful influences all around!

This next Sunday, there will be more boundary changes! This time, it will just be at a Stake level here in Columbia. Ellicott City ward boundaries will probably change...which is tough! Whichever way they'll split it, we will probably not get to be in the same ward as the Christiansens anymore and possibly not with the Selbys either! But I'm sure that it will be a necessary change that will help everyone out!!

I'm so grateful for my mission. I'm so grateful for all of the lessons that I've been able to learn, the wonderful things I've been taught. I'm incredibly grateful for those that have prepared me and gotten me here. I miss all of you! I'm grateful for you. Thanks for your wonderful examples.

- Elder Leavitt

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Week 85 Turning 20

Hey everyone!! This was an incredible week! I remember growing up always wondering what it would be like celebrating your birthday on a mission...but today has been one of my favorite birthdays! Especially with the wonderful day we had yesterday getting to witness the baptism of Mary Cole, and today we got to go to the Harbor with some of the members in Ellicott City and play basketball, so it's been a perfect one! Thank you for all of the birthday wishes!

Mary's baptism yesterday was so incredible. A few days before her baptism, we got to meet her son and granddaughter and they were incredibly kind and so excited for the baptism. Then, yesterday right before the baptism, Mark, the son who lives in Delaware, came up to us and said "Elders I need to tell you something! So, I always see these 2 guys walking out of my apartment complex into their car. But this morning I saw them again and I realized they were mormon missionaries! So I talked with them and I"ll be going to church next week up there!" It was such a miracle! We told him how cool that was and got to know him some more. Along with her son and granddaughter, she invited her husband, niece, nephew, and a few others! They all loved the baptism and the husband will now be taking the lessons and coming to church! Mark even said he wants to come down to our ward next week to see his mom's confirmation in Sacrament Meeting. Mary was SO nervous for the baptism, but there were SO many members and people that came to support her that it went so well and was one of the most spiritual experiences I've ever felt. I'm reminded of how President Christiansen always talks about the scripture in the D&C that talks about how in the ordinances, the power of Godliness is manifest. When you are in a place where an ordinance like baptism is performed, it is impossible not to have the Spirit in the room. We're so excited to see how the Cole family continues to progress, especially with the husband and son! Mary is such an incredible example of Christlike love and diligence, she is an amazing lady and feels like a grandmother to me.

President & Sister Christiansen took Elder Fisher & I
out for dinner to celebrate my Birthday.

This week is transfers! I'll be staying in Ellicott City again! It's crazy because it will not only be my 7th transfer here, but my 7th transfer with a companion from Grantsville thanks to Elder Lawrence and Fisher! I feel like I know as much about Grantsville as anybody that lives there! I've loved serving with both of them and am excited for the next transfer.

 Jason Wright spoke on "Why I Believe" last night
here in Ellicott City. Notice Jason's hand & Chandler's ear.

This weekend we'll be having the baptism for Marcia! Marcia has been coming to church for about 2 straight months now with her member friend, and she loved Mary's baptism and is so excited for her own on Saturday! She's great. She is learning how to do sign language and with Ellicott City as the deaf magnet ward, she is getting a lot of practice in! Marcia's baptism will be great.

Things are going well! This will be a busy week, but I'm excited for it! I'm so grateful for my mission and these wonderful experiences that I have had so far and continue to have daily. Thank you so much for the wonderful support!!

- Elder Leavitt

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Week 84 Another Amazing Week

Hey everyone!! I hope that it has been an enjoyable summer so far! We've been experiencing 90 degree weather with 80% humidity...yet it's still been enjoyable! :)

So much happens every week that I always feel like I'm going to forget some of the stories and experiences! So sorry if I'm all over the place. To start, I'll talk about Ferris Watson!! Ferris is our investigator that is 17 and from Camaroon. He came to America about 7 months ago! We've been teaching him for about 3 weeks or so now, but tonight was our final time to see him. He'll be moving to Ohio to live with his father and he will be getting baptized over there in the Cincinnati area! It's been so great to get to work with him the last few weeks. Many memories I'll never forget while teaching him! I always expected that on a mission you would teach in some pretty random places..and that's how it was with Ferris! Whenever we would teach him we would be in the laundry room of his apartment complex, sitting on washers and dryers and whatever we could find teaching the Restored Gospel, and that image I'll never forget. I'm grateful to have known Ferris and be able to teach him! We asked him if there was anything we could do for him but he said the only thing was to add him as a friend on Facebook!

Mary's baptism is on Sunday!! The last two weeks have been so great while working with her. We continue to make so much progress with her husband David. He sits in for the lessons now and loves talking to us and we've gotten to know him much better. He served in Vietnam and has three Purple Hearts! He's an amazing man. She had her baptismal interview tonight and is so excited for Sunday. Yesterday, we got to meet her son and granddaughter. Her son, Mark, is a police officer in Delaware! He's so great as well. He told us how he was very touched by a Mormon family about 8 years ago that treated him very well and gave him a Book of Mormon. He even said that when he heard his mother was learning about the LDS faith, he picked up his Book of Mormon and started reading. Mary was so happy to hear that! Mark and his daughter Sierra will be coming to the baptism soon! Within a few months, I can see the entire Cole family becoming members of the Church! Mary, David, Mark, and Sierra! We're so excited for the baptism on Sunday.

Mark Martin is on date for the 6th of August! He's come to church once so far and really enjoyed it . He has loved reading from the Book of Mormon! It's been cool to see the way his personality has changed the more the Spirit comes into his life. He has really opened up and has been progressing well! 

Elder Fisher and I had a pretty cool opportunity this week to go up to Mount St Mary's University in Emmitsburg and teach a group of Young Men about Missionary Work! There were about 60 young men from the Frederick Stake that had come for a week long camp to prepare for missions. It was something similar to what I did a few years ago, we called it Kodiak Camp. I remember it being one of the most spiritual experiences that I've ever had! Elder Fisher & I told stories, told them about preparing for a mission, and bore testimony. I couldn't help but feel that I had just barely been in their shoes, preparing for my mission. I felt so excited for the experience that they were going to have! It made me even more grateful for every moment so far in my mission. It was an amazing opportunity to talk to them and bear testimony of the greatest work of all time.

While in the Frederick area, I got to see Axel Lara! It's been a few months since I've seen him. He was baptized last February and is still getting ready for his mission. Seeing some of the people that have been baptized and the progression that they continue to make is one of my favorite parts of my mission! He thinks he's going to get called to Utah...I hope so! We'll see! 

An evening in Catonsville at DeEtte Peterson's home.

A few nights ago, we had quite the experience! We were trying to contact a lady named Angel. One of her friends told us to go by and that she was looking for a church that she could attend. So, we stopped by and met her mother. Her mom said we could come back on Thursday. But, as we were walking back to the car, this guy from across the street came out of his house, walking towards his car. Instantly, he looked at us and said "Hey, are you LDS?" We replied that we were, and he came over to us saying "My Elder friends!" We were already a little bit shocked, we were in Baltimore County at this time, over in Catonsville, MD, about 15 minutes outside of Baltimore. First off, there is hardly anybody besides the Members that know the phrase "LDS" or even who the Mormons are. Second, he had come out at the perfect moment for us to be able to talk to him. We continued to talk, he told us about how he served as a missionary for an Evangelist organization a few years ago. He and his wife just had twins about 4 months ago. He then said "You know, I am intrigued by the Mormon church. I think it's incredible that they put so much emphasis on the family unit in a country that the family is deteriorating. I truly believe that Joseph Smith could've had a vision. I believe that the Angel Moroni appeared to him." At this point, we were even more shocked that he knew so much about the LDS faith. Then, he told us that his sister just graduated at BYU-Provo and that she wasn't a member either. He then kind of rushed off to his car, but told us to knock and talk to his sister. We got his number and he'll be inviting us back to talk more about the family unit and ask more questions! He drove off, but we then went up to his door and talked to his sister about attending BYU and got to know her. We also met his parents and his wife! They are the Cramer family! It was such an amazing miracle! For someone to be living in Catonsville that knew that much about the church was one thing. But the timing and the way it happened just made it even greater. I'm so grateful for the Lord's hand in all things!

Thank you so much for the support, have an amazing week!!

-Elder Leavitt

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Week 83 Happy Independence Day

 Happy 4th of July!! I hope that everyone had a great one! All of the fireworks for us have been postponed to tonight, so we'll see how it goes!

New Boundaries for Maryland Baltimore Mission 

Old Boundaries for Maryland Baltimore Mission

This was definitely one of the busiest and craziest weeks of my mission! Mostly because on July 1st, the Mission Boundaries officially changed. We lost the Annapolis Stake and gained the Chambersburg and Lancaster Stakes. It was fitting that it happened around the 4th of July, now that we have so many historical places in our mission! From Gettysburg where Abraham Lincoln gave his Address, to the Antietam battlefields, to Fort McHenry where the Star Spangled Banner was written, there is so much history! I've attached some pictures to show the before and after of our Mission Boundaries. Anyways, on Friday we went up and visited with all of the missionaries from the Chambersburg Stake. It was great to get to meet all of them and talk with them. It was interesting because they have iPads in their mission, but we don't! So they have to send their iPads home actually. We stayed overnight in York, PA, and then went to the Lancaster Stake the next day! It was my first time in Pennsylvania, and it was great! Lancaster is full of Amish people, which was an experience that I've never had before, but even got to see a family mowing their lawn using horses! Then today we went up to PA again for a training with some of the missionaries. So it's been a lot of travel!

I didn't actually take this picture of a lawn being
 mowed by horses, but someone sent it to me so figured I'd send it! 

Despite the travel, it was a great week here in Ellicott City! Mary was out of town, but got back last night! We're seeing her tomorrow, she is still preparing for July 17th! We had a pretty cool experience with her this past week though. While she was out of town, we were thinking about which chapter we could ask her to read and focus on for the week. We decided on the Book of Enos, which teaches the principles of faith, prayer, and many other great principles that apply to her right now. So, on Tuesday of last week we gave her that chapter to read. On Thursday, we called the Relief Society President, Sister Gardner and asked if she would mind texting one of her favorite scriptures to Mary. She's been such a great help in the whole process and said that she would! We hadn't said anything to her about which chapter we had sent Mary, but later that night we got a text from her telling us that she had sent Mary her favorite verse....Enos 1:37! It was so cool to see that she had picked a verse right out of the chapter that Mary was going to be studying. Simple and tender mercies and miracles like this seem to happen every day in the Mission field when you keep your eyes open for it! 

Mom sent me this picture, she is so
excited that I've hit the 80% Mark!

We had a little bit of a sad experience with Ferris this weekend! We saw Ferris almost every day last week, and he even accepted a baptismal date for July 16th! But then on Sunday, we found out that his dad wasn't going to give him permission to be baptized. Ferris is only 17 so he would need parental permission. His dad lives in Ohio and doesn't want Ferris to get into anything that his whole family isn't involved in. So we'll be seeing Ferris tomorrow to see how we can help him and hopefully be able to get the dad involved in some way. 

We had a huge breakthrough with Joe Jolissaint's parents this weekend! Joe is a member in our ward that was baptized when he was 18, about 7 years ago. He and his wife live with his parents, who aren't members of the Church. Over the last few months, we've tried to get the chance to teach them, but his dad has been a little bit hesitant. On Sunday night, Joe and Megan invited us over to dinner and Joe's dad made us an awesome dinner! Afterwards when we were going to share the lesson, his dad Greg wanted to join in! So Greg, along with the mother Debby, joined while we sat with Joe, Megan, Joe's friend Kyle, and Kyle's wife Joslin. 4 awesome members! We taught all about the Restoration: Jesus Christ, prophets, priesthood, Joseph Smith and the First Vision. It was one of the most spiritual lessons I've ever been a part of. You could feel it so strongly as each of the members, more importantly, as each of the family members and friends testified to their parents of the happiness that the Gospel can bring. Greg and Debby loved it and we are now teaching them and continuing to prepare them to be able to receive the Restored Gospel and one day be sealed in the temple, just like their son! 

Well, the work goes on! It's such an amazing work to be a part of. I'm so grateful for this opportunity! These are truly days never to be forgotten. I'm incredibly excited for the next week to able to see how the Lord's hand will continue to influence His work. Thanks for all of the wonderful support and love!!

- Elder Leavitt

Last 4th of July package from home!