Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Week 93 What an AMAZING Week!

Hey everyone, this email is coming a day late because we were in Zone Conferences yesterday for the west half of the mission! This last week was packed FULL of stories and experiences. I'll have to save a lot of them for a different time to prevent this email from taking over an hour to read, plus some are hard to explain through an email, but I'll share a few of the experiences that we had this week!

First, we had a great miracle with a lady named Deborah. We received a text from Church Headquarters with the name of somebody that had ordered a Bible. Those are always great because most of the time, they actually want you over and they are expecting your visit. We stopped by, she let us in, and we taught her, her mother, and her grandson about the Restoration. Deborah is exactly like Mary Cole in every way! So tonight we are taking Mary over there and having her meet Deborah and will be passing it off to the Sisters for them to teach her. If Deborah gets baptized, that will be 2 people that Mary has helped learn about the Gospel, and she only joined the church herself less than 2 months ago!

This was an absolutely incredible weekend! On Saturday, we had a Mission Conference for the East half of our mission with Elder Robert C Gay of the Seventy. He is an amazing man! He helped Mitt Romney get Bain Capital up and running, now one of the biggest investing companies in the world. He served as a mission president in Ghana, and now helps out with the Self-Reliance Program of the Church. He gave great instructions and helped us out so much! We held the Mission Conference for the West half on Monday and it was great as well. It was so amazing to be able to work with him and learn from him.

Chandler is on the front row, far right.
As part of the Mission Tour that he performed, he went out teaching with us on Sunday! We went to visit a doctor from Cameroon, his name is Armel. We had one of the most Spiritual lessons of my entire mission as we talked to Armel about the struggles he is going through, particularly with his marriage. He talked about how he felt that most of the things that he has experienced in his life have been random events, not planned by a God. Elder Fisher and I both shared experiences of trials in our lives that could have been random, but taught us a very important lesson and were part of an eternal plan. Elder Gay shared a story about a doctor that talked about how she saw God everyday in her work in medicine. The Spirit was so incredibly strong as Elder Gay promised that us being there with him was in fact part of a plan and not a random event that just happened. Armel felt that Spirit and there was the most amazing feeling in the room. Elder Gay told him to email him and that he would send him a book about a doctor's conversion story. We gave him Alma 36 to read from the Book of Mormon about Alma's conversion story and how he came to realize God's plan for him. The next day, Elder Gay had already gotten an email from Armel! We'll be seeing Armel on Friday. He has 3 children, his whole family is amazing!

While Elder Gay was here, he also held a fireside for all of the investigators and recent converts. He shared amazing stories and doctrines of the Gospel, and as part of the program, Mary bore her testimony! She is absolutely incredible. She talked about how after living for almost 70 years, she realized that she needed something more than just a belief in God. With all of these wonderful people in the audience, going through the same thing that she was just a few months ago, she testified of the Book of Mormon, of the reality of one true church, and of a living Christ. She shared an experience she had never shared with us before. As she was being taught, she was hesitant at first to set a date to be baptized. She continued to learn with us, had wonderful experiences, and one night, she woke up in the middle of the night. As if there was someone in the room with her, she heard "Mary, what are you waiting for? You know it's true." I will never forget those words and the feeling that I had while listening to her testimony. I wish that you all could meet her! She told us that instead of reading mystery books now, she reads through each of the manuals that have been made for the Presidents of the Church! 

Larry is preparing to be baptized on October 8th! He came to church on Sunday and loved it! He loved how diverse it was, in the Ellicott Ward we have people from America, Mexico, Canada, Jamaica, Germany, Peru, Honduras, Nigeria, Guatemala, Colombia, China, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, the Czech Republic, and many other countries! He participated well and enjoyed the testimonies. His aunt is a member of the church as well, so he has great family support. It was interesting because on Sunday, we had saved a spot for him and he hadn't showed up yet and the sacrament meeting had started. As I was sitting there thinking during the Sacrament, I turned around and Larry was already there! He had come in without me seeing, and was sitting by Elder Fisher and a few of the members. I was so grateful and felt a little rebuked because I was beginning to doubt that he would come! I had a similar experience a while back with Victor Soriano and his family, who got baptized about a year ago now! 

We also had a miracle with a man named Dave Ort. Dave is 26 and had been taught about 2 or 3 years ago by missionaries. We had found his information on a weekly report from over a year and a half ago and decided to give him a call. He was very nice, and invited us to come over last night. We got the opportunity to meet him and had a great visit. We talked about how he is Agnostic, how he has slowly lost his belief in God. We asked questions, directed by the Spirit, about what he would want the Nature of God to be if he could have an "ideal God" and he talked about that God being "all knowing, all loving, all powerful." We shared our knowledge that there IS this kind of God that he is looking for. We taught him about the Book of Mormon and how other people have had his questions. After looking down for most of the visit, he looked us in the eyes and said "You're telling me that people in this Book had the same questions that I have?" It was just as D&C 123:12 states:

"For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations....who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it"

He absolutely wanted the truth! He just didn't know where to find it. We had that same experience with a woman named Julie this week. We helped her move into a new apartment. She has 3 children. As we helped her, we taught her about God and how truth has been restored. Full truth, not just partial. She invited us back, and we brought the Sisters with us to meet her and her family, and they are now teaching her! She accepted the invitation to be baptized and is progressing well.

In closing, I'd like to issue a challenge and share one last story! In October of 2002, Elder M. Russell Ballard gave a talk entitled "The Greatest Generation of Missionaries." In essence, he talked about raising the bar for missionaries in the church and it's a wonderful talk. The following General Conference, he gave a talk entitled "The Essential Role of Member Missionary Work." I've included this talk below if you're interested in reading it! 6 months after the raising of the bar for missionaries, he raises the bar for members of the Church. Here is one of the parts of his talk:

"We should exercise our faith and pray individually and as families, asking for help in finding ways to share the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Ask the Lord to open the way. Prayerfully set a date with your family to have someone in your home for the missionaries to teach. Remember, brothers and sisters, this is the Lord’s Church. Let Him guide you through constant prayer. With a prayer in your heart, talk to everyone you can. Don’t prejudge. Don’t withhold the good news from anyone. Talk to everyone, and trust in the promised power of the Spirit to give you the words you should say. Let them make the decision to accept or reject your invitation. Over time, the Lord will put into your path those who are seeking the truth. He is the Good Shepherd. He knows His sheep, and they will know His voice, spoken through you, and they will follow Him."

Throughout this talk, he talks about setting a date to have someone that you can invite to hear the Gospel. He promises that even if you don't have a name yet, that name will come to you through fasting and prayer. I'd like to issue this same challenge! Whether it be with someone who is currently struggling with the Gospel or for one that has never heard of it, prayerfully follow the council of our Prophet, who stated that "now is the time for members and missionaries to come together, to work together, to labor in the Lord's vineyard to bring souls unto him." 

Now, I'll close with the experience that goes along with this. We shared this talk and issued this challenge to a family in our ward, the Bartholomew family. They accepted the opportunity, and right as we were walking out the door after a wonderful visit with them, one of the little kids told Sister Bartholomew that she would like to run to the neighbor and give him an Article of Faith card. As we were headed to our car, they went over as a family to deliver this card. They told us that at a later day, they'd try to introduce us, so we headed off towards our next visit. The next day in church, Sister Bartholomew told us this: "Elders! I need to tell you what happened yesterday. As you saw, I went over with the 4 kids to help them deliver that card to Tom and his wife. Well, they weren't home when we stopped by, so we took a picture of the kids in front of their door and sent it to them. Later that night, we received a text that said 'Thank you so much for stopping by! We are actually out of town right now. Ironically, we are visiting Wyoming and actually just had the opportunity to go down to Utah and visit Temple Square, it was an amazing experience!' My kids were so excited to hear that!"

What an amazing experience, and I know that we can all have experiences just like that! So, that's my challenge and I promise that as you set a date and prayerfully ask for the Lord's help, you can have a wonderful experience in sharing the Gospel with those around you. I love this work!

Well...that was a long email! I wish I could share some of the stories that Elder Gay shared, but he did it in such a way that I feel like an email just doesn't do it justice! One day I will share them. Thank you so much for all of the support! I'd love to hear any experiences you have with sharing the Gospel!

- Elder Leavitt

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