Week 58 - October is almost Over!

The copier wasn't cooperating...
October 26, 2015

How is life for everyone? It sounds like we have a bunch of athletes in the family, and congrats to MJ for breaking 25 minutes and Nathandawg for breaking 20 minutes in your meets!! That is awesome. Except now I'm scared to race when I get home! 

Our humble abode
Dad mentioned that I am living in luxury…and yes, it is a nice apartment! We are blessed. We have great living quarters here in the mission.  My street address is 1609 G Street in Sparks, NV – so feel free to check it out. 

This week we had some great lessons!! The work is really picking up and we have found some solid new people to teach who we are really excited about. One of them is Renee, who we street contacted a few weeks ago.  Then just this past week we both felt prompted to go by and see her, so we did and she answered the door and told us to come back the next day, so we did and had a great lesson with her. She is about 50 years old and has tons of potential! We gave her a Book of Mormon and she read some and then did some more research about the church on LDS.org.  She didn't make it to church, but she said instead she read and found some answers to a few questions she has. She is coming to our ward Trunk-or-Treat tomorrow night which should be tons of fun. Speaking of which...no one here knows what a Trunk-or-Treat is! Almost every single person, except members, that we have invited has never even heard of one. It is certainly not as big a deal here on the West Coast. It seems many people did one back in VA. So we gotta spread the love here!!

We also had the chance to do two exchanges this week. The ZLs (Zone Leaders) of the Quincy zone came down and blitzed our area for the day. I was with Elder Cruz and we had an awesome day together. We contacted a lady on the street and she expressed some interest in our message, so we gave her our phone number. She said she wanted to come to church, but would call us if she needed a ride. Well on Saturday I called her and she said she would call me, and wasn't sure, and then Saturday night she called back and wanted a ride!! So we had her neighbor bring her to church! Only problem is that she is moving from Sparks to Reno this week…so we will have to pass her off to the other Elders! 

Elder Krey and I...
puttin people on the right TRACK
with the Book of Mormon - haha!
On Saturday I had the privilege of spending the day with the one and only ELDER KREY in Fallon. We had such a blast together. My time with him was definitely one of my favorites, because we just click together. We have fun, but we work like dogs all day too. We did some tracting together on Saturday, and we literally ran between doors. He is such a great missionary. We set a goal the first night we got together that we wanted to have 20 baptisms as a companionship, and we have yet to have one, so we want to see if we could be companions again somewhere and reach our goal. I love him so much. I uploaded a few raps that he did...he can rap about anything at anytime...you just have to give him a beat! It is so funny.

We got pulled over this week by the police...it was actually hilarious. We were driving East on Prater Way by the church and Elder Freeman looked in his mirror and said, "Dang – I hate when cops are behind me, I always feel pressure not to do anything wrong." I jokingly added, "You should switch lanes and see if they follow us." So he did. He put his blinker on and switched over...and then the lights came on!!! We couldn't believe it! We weren't doing anything wrong and Elder Freeman made sure to use his blinker and check the speed and everything. So we pulled over and they (there were two of them) come up to us and tell us that because of our bike rack, they couldn't see our license plate – which is total bogus, because before we installed hitch-mounted bike racks we got approval for it! But anyways, they ran our licenses and insurance and everything. And they asked us why we were pulling out of the neighborhood that we
Me and Elder Freeman
had just left, before they pulled up behind us. I wanted to say, "We were preaching the good word, would you like to learn more?!" because we had just left a lesson. But Elder Freeman said before I could say anything, “that's where we live!” (Because it was, we had just driven by our home) and they thought that was surprising, because we live in a shady neighborhood...the other day some kid was just playing video games in his living rooms and someone fired a few random gunshots and it went through his front window and killed him. Thankfully we have the Lord's blessing over us!! But anyways, it was a funny encounter, and we got a kick out of it. 

This Saturday, Lavanda is getting baptized!  We were able to teach her a bunch this last week, and she is all good to go. We are really excited, we haven't had a baptism in a while, and so we are really looking forward to it. She is really a funny gal, and it’s fun to build relationships with these people. We are excited to get her more involved with visiting teaching and all that good stuff, because she just needs some good friends in her life, who she can rely on. 

So remember a few years ago when I wanted to have really long hair? And I hated getting haircuts?? Well those days are over...I got a haircut last week and asked for a number 2 on the sides and a number 4 on the top....I have gotten progressively shorter throughout my mission...I started with "just a trim" Then a #4 and a #6 and then it became a #3 and a #5 and now its a #2 and a #4. So you guys win!!! Elder Han is a great barber, too!! (And he doesn't charge a dime!!) 

Later today we are going to play TENNIS with some Priests in our ward, and I am pumped!! I haven't played tennis since the MTC...so I will have to get all the rust out of me. But I am actually really excited to play with my homies in the ward. They are on fall break, so they can come chill with us. 

In the New Testament this week I was reading through 2 Corinthians. I'll be honest, there was a lot I didn't understand and completely comprehend, but there were a handful of things that I learned. One verse I really liked was in chapter 10, verses 5 & 6:

"Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; and having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled." 

I really like that scripture. As missionaries, obedience is something that is constantly talked about, trained on, and discussed, and I like how it says revenge all disobedience. In other words, not letting anything disobedient happen. I know that as we ALL do that, even for you who are not missionaries, you will see many miracles in your life!

I know that this is HIS work and HIS gospel that I get to spread with others. It is such a great blessing in my life to dedicate all of my time to helping others come closer to Christ in the wake of my own conversion.

I love you guys! Have a great week!


Elder Todd

Week 57 - Fall is Here!!

Exchanges with Elder Corry -
who's from OAKTON, VA!!
October 19, 2015
Hello everyone!!

Fall is here, finally!  At least here in Reno. This was the first week that it finally got cooler...so we had to call our gas company to come and turn on our gas because we needed our heater!! And then our heater turns on randomly by itself sometimes, and we come home and its smoking hot in our house...sometimes you just can't win. But I think that we've figured it out! But I love this season....with the leaves changing colors and the cool air at night, and the football games....oh wait...that doesn't apply to me....maybe next year!

With my comp - Elder Freeman
We had another great week! This week the work picked up a bunch and we were able to have some good lessons and find some new people to teach. The Sunday before Conference we had our fast Sunday, and Elder Freeman and I fasted that we would find a family of 4 to add to our teaching pool within the next 3 weeks. We set out working hard to find that family, and the first 2 weeks went by without any new families. Then this past week we got a referral from the Spanish missionaries that cover our area, and so we went and followed up with the referral...and lo and behold, a family of SIX that want us to come back and learn more. We were so pumped. I'm going to be honest...I was beginning to lose hope that the family wouldn't come, and that maybe we were doing something wrong. But that was not the case.   The Lord answered our prayer and our fast! I got the idea to fast from the Elders that taught the Ocampos...because they did the same thing, and were blessed with the Ocampo family! And I tried it in Cold Springs, and we found 7 families to teach the last transfer that I was there. And now, it worked again! I have a testimony of fasting with a specific purpose and goal. We asked the Lord to bless us with the family within the first three weeks of the transfer. We found them 2 and a half weeks into the transfer....coincidence...? I think NOT!

With Elder Bramall
I had the opportunity and privilege to return to Cold Springs again for the day, this time with Elder Bramall. Because it has been about 6 months since I served there, much has changed, and so I took him around and introduced him to some of the families that Elder Krey and I found and began to work with, but for some reason just didn't turn out. We were able to set up a bunch of appointments with those families for the elders there now to go back and teach them!  Elder Bramall is awesome. I also went on exchanges with Elder Corry, who is from the Oakton Stake, and he came to Sparks with me. We had a fun day together and went to the hospital a few times to give blessings, which is always a neat experience.

Our Jeep Compass
In my studies, I am in Helaman right now.  There is some great stuff in there (like the rest of the Book of Mormon!)  I find it so interesting that in the early chapters of Helaman, the Nephites fall off the deep end and their cities are destroyed by the Lamanites.  Chapter 4, verse 11 tells us about their loss and that it"...would not have happened had it not been for their wickedness."  This line reminded me of the vehicle training that was given at the most recent zone conferences, that talked about how obedience gives us protection. When we live the commandments, we are blessed. Later in that chapter, verse 15 says, "and inasmuch as they (the wicked Nephites) did repent they did begin to prosper." So it's really not rocket science on how to be successful...it says in the scriptures, "Inasmuch as you keep my commandments, you will prosper in the land" or something along those lines...a bunch of times!! Nephi and Lehi went to work to try and help these Nephites repent – and those who did, saw the blessings that come from it.

While I was in Cold Springs on Friday, we went and taught a less-active member a lesson. She was baptized as a young girl in Fallon, NV but then she said she was active for "20 minutes" after she was baptized...and never had much of a testimony or liked the church at all. She grew older and went to college and got caught up in the partying crowd and did drugs, got tattoos, and piercings all over her body, and went down that path. Then about a year ago, some missionaries were walking in Sparks, and stopped her on the street and asked her if they could come by and teach her. She agreed, and gave them her information. The referral was sent to Cold Springs, and the Elders at the time tried a few times to contact her, but had no success.

When I went back on exchanges in July, we happened to be in her neighborhood and we decided to try her again, because she was still on our list of referrals. We knocked on her door, and she opened up her front door, but not the security screen. She told us that she wasn't wearing any clothes, and now wasn't a good time, (awkward but funny experience...I've never been so grateful for security screens!!) but we left her a card and told her to call us...thinking that she would probably never call, because 99% of people never do. However, a few weeks later, she did call the elders and asked them to come back. So Elder Krey and Elder Moore began teaching her and she fell in love with the gospel. She became SUPER active, and stopped drinking and smoking and began reading the Book of Mormon with real intent, and came back to church. She was doing great.

Then, about 2 weeks ago, she decided to make her own Halloween costume.  She had set aside an hour each night to read her book of Mormon, because that’s when her child was in bed and she had some quiet time. She decided to use that time to make her costume instead, and that it would only be a day or two without reading the Book of Mormon, and that wouldn't do any damage. So she went a few days without reading the Book of Mormon and made her costume. Well, a few days after not reading, her non-member husband offered her a drink of alcohol, and she accepted, and ended up getting wasted drunk. She asked the Elders not to come over the next day, and didn't come to church that week.

The Elders came by a few days later, on Tuesday, and they had a brief lesson with her, but she just wasn't feeling the Spirit. She told them what had happened, and the Elders just told her to start reading again. The next day, Wednesday, two members from the ward stopped by randomly to check in on her, and it was a HUGE answer to her prayers.
Wearing gowns to give a blessing
to someone at the hospital
She had been praying that day to know if the church was really the right path for her. She took their visit as an answer to her prayer, so she started reading again, and on Friday, two days later, I stopped by with Elder Bramall and we had a great lesson with her. She had read a bunch the day before, and was eager to get to church again. She explained to us how easy it was for her to slowly slip away from the Church, and let doubts creep into her mind and be tempted. All it took for her to stop her spiritual progression was to stop reading the Book of Mormon for just a FEW days...not even a whole week, just a few times, and then one thing led to another and she had tons of doubts and wasn't happy.

Elevator selfie
That's one thing I remember her telling us...that while she slipped for about a week or so, she just wasn't happy!! And she tried everything that usually makes her happy, but because she wasn't reading consistently from the Book of Mormon, there was something missing. What a great lesson this is to all of us. Satan is good at what he does, and he tries to deceive us the slightest bit to get us to fall...like telling ourselves we will be okay without the Book of Mormon for a few days. This is just how easy the Nephites fell...they just slowly let their pride get the best of them, and stopped living the commandments. Then the Lamanites were able to come and take over their cities. We cannot let Satan and his servants come into our lives and take over...we must constantly build up our personal defense walls by reading from the scriptures daily, going to church regularly, and having fervent, personal, prayer with our Father in Heaven at least twice a day. As we do those things, other doubts and trials might come into our lives, but if we have a strong defense that is built upon the rock of the Gospel, we will be able to withstand it all. I am grateful for my parents for providing a firm, gospel-centered, foundation upon which I can build my own.

View of Sparks from the hospital elevator
Well, that is all for this week. Teresa is doing great…she didn't move, but she has quit cigarettes! She called while I was on exchanges and told Elder Freeman that she threw up after smoking one, and never wants to touch another one again...so she is going three days strong now!! She really wants to move, and actually found a place to move away from her boyfriend, but she just doesn't have the money to pay for two weeks rent...so she has to wait until the beginning of the month to get her money, and then she is planning on moving ASAP. We haven't seen Lavanda for a whole week, and so we are going to push her baptism back a few weeks to get her really ready.

Love you all!!

Elder Richmandawg

Week 56 - Another Week in Paradise

October 12, 2015
Hey everyone!!

First of all, Happy Birthday to James today!!! I can't believe that he is turning 9 years old...that is so crazy!! I feel like just yesterday we were at the hospital and brought him home...I remember walking through the halls of Seldens Landing and telling my friends that I had a new brother named "James." Little did I know at the time that he would be a total athlete and be way better at sports than I will ever be. I love you James!!

At the temple with my homies
from the Sparks Zone
So this week was the first week that we haven't had any meetings or anything...and it was lots of fun!! It was definitely a harder/slower week, we had lots of appointments fall through, and we are trying to find new investigators to teach and add to our teaching pool. Because we haven't had a lot of time to just focus on proselyting, many of our people have fizzled away and aren’t interested anymore. But that didn't stop us! We spent lots of time just hitting the pavement, and even doing a little tracting...a.k.a. good ole fashioned missionary work!! 

But despite all of the long afternoons, we have seen many miracles. The other day, someone bought us lunch while we were in line...she was just a college student at BYU-I and was driving through town, and while we were in line she came up and paid for us!  We love when that happens!! We also were able to attend the temple with the Sparks Zone, and that is always a total blast, to go with all of our friends. We filled up the little room in the temple, though, there was not an empty seat in the house for our session! I love going to the temple, I am excited to go with the family again when I get home!

Exchanges with Elder Kidman
One of the highlights of the week was that I was able to go on exchanges with Elder Kidman in the Reno zone. They serve in Spanish in downtown Reno. We had a total blast!! There is a Spanish branch in Reno, and they cover a portion of that. I absolutely love serving in Spanish. We had a funny/crazy day with lots of memories. There is a member of the branch there who has a really cool conversion story that I want to share:

This member's son was about 16 and in high school, and had a friend who was a member of the church. The friend invited the son to come to church, and he loved it. He began to take the missionary lessons and wanted to be baptized. He had to ask his mother for permission, of course, (because he was under 18) and she told him no because at the time she was a devout Catholic and loved her bible and wanted nothing to do with the Mormons. He freaked out of course, but didn't give up hope. He started doing worse in school on purpose, and brought home his report card one day and his mother saw his grades and got upset. He told his mother that he would start doing better in school and bring his grades back up once he was allowed to be baptized. So she finally caved and signed the paper and he was baptized.

With Elder Freeman at the temple
Three years later he wanted to serve a mission. His mother told him no, so the son decided to move to California and live with his Sister, and go to school in California. Three months later, the mother went to California to see her son and daughter, but she found out that her son was no longer in California. She asked her daughter where her son was, and her daughter explained that he had gone on a mission without telling her! She was furious, and refused to speak to her son. A few months later the mother had a dream in which she saw her grandmother (who had passed away many years before) dressed in white coming to her and asking her for something. The mother wasn't sure what was meant from the dream, and so she decided to turn to her bible for the answer. She opened up the bible at random and the first verse she read was 1 Corinthians 15:29, which reads:

"Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?"

She then put two and two together, and decided that her grandmother (who was dead) was asking to be baptized. She took this verse from the bible to her catholic priest and asked what it meant. The Priest didn't know, and told her that baptizing the dead was a foolish idea. So she took that verse to another catholic church and got the same response. She then took the verse to many other churches, all of which didn't have an answer. She finally decided to write to her son on a mission and ask him what he thought of the matter. He of course, explained what that verse meant, and that she could be baptized for her grandmother in the dream. The Mother was floored, and began meeting with the missionaries and was baptized a few weeks later. Crazy cool story, huh?! I love that story so much!! 

Anyways, I heard that story while we were on exchanges, and I just can't get it out of my head. But Elder Kidman and I had a really funny/scary experience the night before. When we go on exchanges, we usually begin the night before, and we start our exchange off by planning for the next day together, and who we will see and what we will teach. Elder Kidman and I were sitting in his car while we planned, and while we were sitting in the car outside of their apartment, an investigator of the English elders walked by with her dog. They had spoken with her before, so even though it was late at night we got out and spoke with her. She had her dog on one of those leashes that can extend and retract as the person would like. We were standing there talking to her, and her dog suddenly took off after a black cat. The leash allowed for the dog to take off, while the rope extended....but we all know that all good things must come to an end....so eventually the leash ran out of excess cord, and before any of us could do anything, and before the woman could figure out what was going on, the dog yanked the woman into the air and into a nearby ditch, where she landed face first!! Elder Kidman and I were just shocked at what had happened, and so he ran after the dog, and I jumped into the ditch and asked if she was ok...when I got a grass-muffled response, 'Yes" and she was able to slowly help herself up. Mean while Elder Kidman had come back without the dog, because we didn't want to separate ourselves, and we decided that the lady was more important than the dog. Once we got her on her feet, then we ran off after the dog and tracked that down...the dog's name was Bowser...is that fitting or what?? But anyways, crazy, huh?! She finally was able to head home under her own power. After she left we just busted out laughing, because it wasn't a laughing matter in front of her, but it was an event right out of a comic book!! I will certainly never forget that haha.

Elder Rivera came back to visit!
Elder Rivera came and visited yesterday and today!! He called me randomly on Saturday and asked where I would be, and he met us at the church yesterday. It was so good to see him!! He is doing well. We have emailed back and forth a little bit, but he is at Salt Lake Community College right now. And he brought with him back to visit his girlfriend...who is another sister from our mission, Sister Simmons!! Sister Simmons went home in August, just a few months ago. It was so weird to see both of them, especially holding hands and stuff!! It's also weird because just one year ago we had gotten together and I had just entered the mission field. Crazy stuff!!!

I don't know why this has been on my mind so much, and Mom will be excited to hear this, but I am really excited to come home and play the cello again!! And also pick up the guitar again. And though I will be WAY behind all of my siblings, they can show me the ropes and we can have some Todd Family jam sessions. 

Well, we are excited to have another week to work. We are hoping that as we continue to be diligent that the miracles and fruits will come. I know it will. We had to push Lavanda's baptism back a week...because the building with the baptism font is booked all day!!! So we decided to wait a week. Kind of a bummer, but nobody is in any rush. Teresa is actually not moving, so we are still going to work with her...and her boyfriend is going to move out instead, so maybe we will be able to baptize her! And Jackie is doing well. She is very anxious about coming to church and being judged...she has a lot of tattoos and is nervous about what people will think at church. So we are going to take a few ward members who have tattoos of their own to hopefully ease that stress that it causes her. We are excited for her though!!

The Book of Mormon is true, and we have a prophet on the earth today. Because of those two things, there is nothing to ever worry about, as long as we follow the counsel that both of them give us. I am grateful for both of them.

That is about all for today, but I love you guys!!


Elder Todd