Week 75 – Reno is the BOMB

Grillin' up burgers at Jonathan's house
February 22, 2016
Hello everyone!

This has been a crazily awesome week! Honestly it has been a very spiritual week, full of miracles!

Apartment flooded by the washing machine
To start off, last week I uploaded a picture of our apartment flooded by the washing machine...and no one was able to get to the problem until Tuesday afternoon because of the President's Day holiday. So our apartment smelled like mold for the first half of the week...but we are just glad that it was taken care of.

Definitely a highlight of this past week was the exchange I went on with Elder Woolsey. He is a STUD missionary who has only been out about 7 months, but he is rock solid. We had a total blast together in the YSA 1st Ward in Reno. There are two YSA wards for the UNR campus, and he serves in one of them. It was way fun serving there for the day. It was also kinda weird! But they have actually been having tons of success the past little while, and many young college kids have been joining the church. And the coolest part about all of them is that they are all ROCK solid.

Exchanges with Elder Woolsey
It really grew my testimony, because Elder Woolsey was telling me about all of their investigators and recent converts, and 90% of them do NOT have their parents support in joining the church, yet all are very solid. There were a handful who hadn't even told their parents yet…they just get baptized and hope it works out later down the road. It’s also funny because many of them join the church because their boyfriend/girlfriend is a member, and many are dating missionaries who are in the field right now. They had two convert baptisms this past week, and I had the opportunity to interview one of them, and she has such a strong testimony! She brought her study journal with her, and it was so exciting and fun to see someone my age join the church who was so pumped to learn about the gospel. Her journal was more full than my scripture study journal!

Kenzie and Garrett after Kenzie's interview
The other baptism that happened in the YSA ward we were able to attend on Tuesday night. It was a girl named Kenzie who was dating another YSA member, named Garrett. Garrett's parents live in the Prater ward in Sparks, and so I knew his family fairly well. They would often have us over for dinner, and they would invite Garrett and Kenzie, so I was actually one of the first missionaries to teach her - just after dinner appointments.  We then committed her to actually sit down and take the lessons, so we passed along her information to the YSA Elders. That was about 3 or 4 months ago, and she just got baptized this week! Kenzie's parents are divorced, and her dad was totally cool with it, but her Mom was totally against it. Her mom called her all sorts of bad names, and said that she would never talk to her again if she joined the church. She offered her
Garrett's family with Kenzie (on the far right)
alcoholic drinks on many occasions and tried to persuade her against it. Early on in her teaching progress, the Elders promised her that if she read her scriptures and prayed daily, her Mom would attend her baptism, and so Kenzie took that promise to heart and made sure to read and pray every day while she was learning and progressing towards her baptism. Two days before the baptism, her Mom told Kenzie that she would NOT attend the baptism because she was disgusted with her choice. However, on the day of her baptism, Kenzie's mother showed up. She wasn't happy, and as soon as the service was over, she left super quick, but the promise was fulfilled because she was faithful and read every day and prayed every day. Kenzie said, "My mom wanted me to wait, to make sure if it was what I wanted. But I told her 'Why would I want to wait for something I know I am going to do regardless?' and besides, I couldn't wait any longer to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." Kenzie already has such a strong testimony, it was awesome to see. Because Kenzie was baptized on Tuesday, she had to wait until Sunday to be confirmed and receive the Holy Ghost. We had a lesson on Friday with her while I was on exchanges, and she was SO stoked to get the Holy Ghost. I had never seen anyone be so happy to be confirmed before, it made me realized that I often take the Holy Ghost for granted! 

Serving in YSA was lots of fun. It helped me grow and get out of my comfort zone, because I can talk to anyone about the gospel all day, but we were street contacting on campus at UNR, and as soon as I was put in a place with a bunch of people my age, it got really hard for me!! Thankfully Elder Woolsey is a stud and showed me the ropes. 

That is A LOT of meat!
(Grillin' up hamburgers with Jonathan's family)
We went and had dinner with Jonathan and his family this past week, and it was a great experience. We actually cooked hamburgers for them, and had the other 4 missionaries of the branch come join us, too. It was a great opportunity for us to get to know Jonathan's mom better. We also had a lesson earlier in the week and she really opened up to us and explained that she has noticed good changes in Jonathan, but that she still had lots of questions, because Jonathan hasn't been telling her anything about what goes on at church. He just always asks for rides, and then never communicates about what he learns or why he likes it so much. This bothered her, especially when he then asked to be baptized without telling her anything. So we committed them to pray together about baptism and the church, and she agreed. She is open to let him be baptized, but it won't be this Saturday.

Stuck in the mud - Part One
At dinner on Thursday, we were able to talk more about it and get to know her better. We fired up their grill and grilled some burgers for everyone (BTW, the weather here can't make up its mind, on Tuesday it was 70 and sunny, and then on Thursday we had a blizzard and got a few inches of snow, and now it is 60s and sunny again...) But we had the food all ready, and then the other two Elders were in charge of bringing the buns for the hamburgers. They called us at about 5:05 pm and said, "Hey, come outside, we have a surprise for you!" We were all confused about what it was that they had for us, and so we went running outside, and found that they had gotten stuck in mud, just like we had a few weeks ago!!! This time we knew what we were doing, and then someone actually came out and pulled the other Elders out of the mud with their Jeep that they had. We ran inside and ate quickly, and the other Elders had to go because they had a baptismal interview for their investigator, and so they really didn't have time to sit around and eat with us, they just grabbed their food to go. We were hoping to have a nice lesson with Jonathan and his family about the church and stuff after dinner, so we were happy.

Stuck in the Mud - Part Two
(Elder Jarnigan trying to go
four-wheeling in a Chevy Cruze!)
About 3 minutes after Elders Romney and Jarnagin left, we heard a knock at the door. We were joking that it was the Elders again, and that they got stuck once more...and sure enough, we opened the door and Elder Romney was on the door step and said that his companion and just driven into a ditch!! So once again, we went tearing outside, and once again, the same dude who helped the first time came and towed him out. I was helping attach the cable to the Elders car, and my hands got FREEZING because it had snowed that morning, and the mud was just like super cold, and the sun had gone down by the second time, and my hands went completely numb except for my left index finger. It hurt so bad, and for the rest of the night my hands were killing me!! But they are still intact now, so no worries. By now this had taken like an hour of our time, and we now were going to be late for our next appointment. So we went inside and tried to defrost ourselves while we ate, and then we spoke briefly with Jonathan's family, but mostly had to set up another appointment for this evening. It was certainly a night to remember!! 

Going on exchanges with Colton
He was awesome.
On Saturday, the Sparks stake had a mini-mission, where they had all the youth ages 16-18 come to the stake center and then they paired us all up with a mini missionary for the day so we could go on splits and show them what its like to be a missionary for one day! I was paired up with this really cool Priest named Colton, who actually lived at the member’s home, where I lived in the Sparks loft back when I served in Sun Valley. I recognized him, but I never got to know him very well. He was a super cool kid, and I was praying all day to have testimony-building experiences that would help him grow his testimony and his desire to serve a mission, and we honestly had a fantastic day! We saw tons of miracles...like we knocked on this one guy’s door who was a potential investigator that I had never met, and he didn't answer, and then Colton was like, "maybe we should try his neighbor’s door!" who was right across the hall from the other apartment. So we knocked on it, and it turned out to be this super solid Hispanic family that agreed to let us come back later this week!! It was cool to see that Colton could receive inspiration, too. I want to stay in contact with him and hear about his future mission experiences!

With our new favorite investigator
We are teaching another man…I attached a picture of him, and he is hilarious. He has been coming to church faithfully for the past few weeks, but we haven't been able to teach him until this past week. He always shows up to church super late, and then sleeps through all three classes!! He even snores, and the whole branch looks back at him, so we have to nudge him to wake him up. Then he speaks in this very loud, very deep, very raspy voice that is impossible to whisper. He cracks us up. He is set for a baptismal date on March 12th, but we aren't sure if that is going to happen. I will keep you posted on his progress.

Well guys, the church is true. I know it is. I have seen soooo many miracles first hand to say other wise. I read Enos today in my studies and he teaches us how we should pray... he says,

"I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him."

So he teaches us that we should kneel down, and "cry" unto the Lord. In my mind this means making the prayer sincere. Like we have to really want the things we ask for, and we need to really be grateful for the things that we say that we are grateful for, and we need to be willing to act upon the answers that we get to our questions. I know that Heavenly Father hears and answers our prayers when we pray like Enos and kneel down and pour out our hearts to him.

I love you guys, have a great week!!


Elder Todd
Someone took this picture of Elder Romney
and me out street-contacting
With Alberto
Romney's selfie of getting stuck in the mud
Elder Freeman came back for a visit!

Week 74 – Alex’s Baptism

February 15, 2016
Hello everyone!

My 2nd week in the Sierra branch was great. It went by so fast...I can't believe I am already sitting here typing again. But we had a lot of fun. We worked hard all week and were able to find lots of new people to teach...and the best part, they are all couples! Like of all the really solid people we are teaching, I would say 90% of them are couples or families. It is lots of fun. I am still trying to adjust to the language/culture difference, but it is fun nonetheless.

Alex with Presidente Castiblanco, the branch president

So Alex was baptized on Saturday, and it was great! The branch had a great turnout and it went very smoothly. Elder Han confirmed him on Sunday in Sacrament. He was pretty excited. It is fun to serve in Spanish again.  It’s definitely pushing me and stretching me to become better, because I thought I was finally figuring out how to do missionary work in my native language...and then I got transferred! But I know it will come with time.

Going to the temple with the Sparks Zone
We had the opportunity to attend the temple this past week as a zone, and it was very fun. I decided a few days before I went that I wanted to take a question to the temple and receive an answer while I was there. I had tried it before, but I didn't feel that I had received an answer. So I came up with a very specific and direct question that I needed help with, and as I studied it out in my mind during the temple session I received an answer. It was a testimony builder to me that 1) Heavenly Father does answer prayers, especially when they are specific, and 2) having a true desire and real intent (meaning that you are willing to act on an answer, whatever it might be) are important in finding an answer. It was a very spiritual experience that I am grateful for.

Exchanges with Elder Short!!
So I got to go on exchanges with Elder Short this past week!! It was so much fun because it was exactly a year ago that we were together in Sun Valley. He is now a district leader in the zone serving in the Skyline ward in English. We had a great day together, and it was fun to reminisce on the good times we had together. He is a great missionary who understands his purpose and truly wants to serve the Lord. He is also great and natural with talking to people in the streets and his Spanish has come a long way. I love Elder Short so much!

A quick update on the other two teenagers, Beba, and Jonathan that we are teaching:

So the other day, Beba told us that she no longer wants to be baptized because she is happy again and feels that being baptized is no longer necessary. We had a powerful lesson with her on Thursday when she told us that, and we discovered that since Church last Sunday, she hadn't read from the Book of Mormon or prayed much. So in other words, she went about 4 days without feeling the Spirit, which is all Satan needs to intervene and work on her. We pointed this out to her in the lesson, and she realized it and committed to read the scriptures regularly again. It is amazing how little time Satan needs before he can creep into our lives without us really even noticing what is going on. This is why it is so important to read the scriptures EVERY day!!

Elder Han and I helping Jonathan ask a girl out
Jonathan is solid as a rock. He taught the lesson in young men’s yesterday and did a good job. We love teaching him. He knows everything there is to teach an investigator and more! We are going to start teaching and studying Preach My Gospel with him. His parents still aren't all for it, but they are warming up to the idea. We are going to have dinner with his family this Thursday, and we are planning to talk about it with his Mom. His dad is anti any religion, and doesn't really care, but his Mom wants to see him change and make sure that he wants to do this. We will let you know how it goes next Monday! We also helped him ask a girl out yesterday after church. He went ALL out, and bought this girl tons of food and a BIG OL' Teddy Bear with all of these notes and stuff....it was great.

At the temple with Elders Short and Han
This week in my studies I have been reading through Jacob in the Book of Mormon. I really like Jacob 3:1

"But behold, I, Jacob, would speak unto you that are pure in heart. Look unto God with firmness of mind, and pray unto him with exceeding faith, and he will console you in your afflictions, and he will plead your cause, and send down justice upon those who seek your destruction."

I really like this because it is SO important that we do look unto God in all that we do, through steady prayer, scripture study, and church attendance. As we do those things, we put God on our team, and he is able to help us out with the other aspects of our lives. There is nothing that can or should take priority over those 3 basic things. If we don't have time for those three basic things, then we need to take a step back and reevaluate. I love the hour between 8 and 9 each morning, because I get a whole HOUR to study the scriptures. It is great. I know that as we do those things, God will bless us and guide us. I know that to be true.

Well that’s about all for this week! The address for the church that we meet at is 4751 Neil Rd, but we don't cover the area right around the church. We cover downtown Reno and around Plumb Ln. if you want to check it out on the map.

I love you guys, the Church is true!! 


Elder Todd

Our desks - where we study everyday
Our kitchen
Big map..you know me, I am the map nerd!
With Elder Han at the temple

Week 73 – La Rama Sierra

My new companion - Elder Han!!!
(He and I did scouting together when we were ten years old.
Elder Han used to live in Ashburn, VA!)
February 8, 2016
Hola everyone!!

What is new back in Virignia? Anything crazy? Any other big storms that have hit the city lately?? Or are you still recovering from the last one? How is school treating everyone??

So I am slowly transitioning into Spanish mode right now...and honestly it has been harder than I thought! I have come to this area a few times and each time I really haven't had much trouble with the language, but since I have been transferred here I have realized how poor my Spanish is!! I have a lot to get better at.

Going to the airport for the last time as an Assistant to
pick up the new missionaries
So I am serving in a Spanish branch that covers two stakes: the Reno and Reno North Stake. We have about 100 people attending Sacrament meeting on average, and it is awesome!! The Branch is divided up into three areas, and we cover the central area that includes all of "downtown" Reno. There are TONS of Hispanic people. Literally everywhere we go there are Hispanics. It is awesome. We are teaching a bunch of people right now. We currently have 3 investigators who are on track to be baptized this transfer, one this Saturday! The one this Saturday is a 9-year-old boy whose Mom is a returning less-active member. It is my first time teaching a child, and its pretty hard actually.  The other day, we had a lesson with him and he got embarrassed about something and climbed behind the couch for the last 45 minutes of the lesson. Even with all of the coaxing and asking and begging from us and his family and the members we brought with us, he didn't want to come out. But he is a good kid and will be baptized this Saturday! 

It is fun to serve in a branch with other missionaries again.  We all have dinner together every day and that is a blast. We have two Hermanas and two other Elders that serve with us. One of the Hermanas is Hermana Underly, who was in the CCM with me, and goes home this transfer!!! It is so weird. But the other 4 missionaries in the branch are all super solid and I love them a ton. As of right now the Branch has 5 baptisms lined up for the transfer, which we are all excited about.

Saying goodbye to Elder Freeman...
he's done with his mission!
The other two investigators that are going to be baptized soon are both teenagers, and they are SUPER solid. One is a 17-year-old named Beba, who is the sister of Mildred – who Elder Han recently taught and baptized when he served in Sun Valley.  Mildred then moved to Reno after she and her husband divorced. Beba has been going through some hard times lately  and has been bullied most of her life because she struggles with same-sex attraction. She used to have suicidal thoughts and would smoke marijuana to get away from it all. However Elder Han and Elder Baker(the guy that I replaced) began teaching her when Mildred moved to Reno a few weeks ago. The Gospel has totally changed her life. She hasn't been to school for 3 years because of all of the bullying, and two weeks ago she went back because she finally felt confident enough. She has stopped smoking weed, too, and she is on track to be baptized the 27th of this month!!

The other investigator is named Jonathan, a 16yr old who is SUPER solid. He ran into Elder Han and Elder Baker about 2 months ago, but he lived in the Sisters area of the Branch, and so they had to pass him off to the Sisters. But then this transfer, we changed the areas a little bit, and we took over the area that Jonathan lived in, so now he is ours! But he reminds me a lot of Owen...he is so passionate about the Gospel! He read the Book of Mormon in 4 weeks when he first got it and doesn't want to stop learning!! The only reason he isn't a member is because his parents aren't so sure about it. His dad is pretty much against it, and his Mom is on the fence about it. But yesterday his Mom attended Sacrament, and he got up in Sacrament meeting and bore his testimony, and it was super powerful!! He said, "I don't know when, but I will be baptized." His Mom was really emotional throughout the whole meeting, and yesterday we were all fasting for his parents hearts to be softened...and I have no doubt that it definitely worked. His mom agreed to have all 6 of us missionaries come over for dinner later this month, and although his dad still isn't on board, his Mom's heart was definitely  softened yesterday. So we will keep you posted on how it goes with him!

More Three Amigos...this time with me, Elder Han,
and Elder Krey
This week we had a lesson with Jonathan, and he lives on the most northern part of our area, up on a mountain, and it was our first time to his house for both of us, so we got to the top of the hill, but we didn't know which house was is, there were about 4 in the vicinity, so we called Jonathan, and he was trying to explain to us which house was his, but while he was doing so, Elder Han drove us right into this giant pit of mud, which was topped with snow and ice....so needless to say, our 2015 Toyota Corolla got stuck. We had a Priest of an English ward, Kyler, come and join us for the lesson, so that Jonathan could build some friends with people at his high school (because the branch we cover is so big it covers like 6 or 7 high schools) and he got stuck, too! We were already late for our appointment so we decided to ditch the cars and worry about them after the lesson. We had a great lesson, and we left about 15 minutes early so we could get to our next appointment on time, but we got outside and we couldn't get the car un-stuck. We finally were able to push the car out with the help of Jonathan and Kyler who was with us. So we hopped in the car and took off for our next lesson, which was a good drive away. But then about 30 seconds later, Kyler called us and told us he was stuck too...so we flipped around and tried to help him get out, but he was way deeper in the mud than we were. So we called Jonathan and asked him to bring his Dad's truck over to the mud pit and tow him out, and his dad came but didn't think it would be a good idea to pull it out for some reason, and insisted on putting plywood under the tires and getting out that way. Finally, after 20 minutes of lots of pushing and pulling we got the Priest out, and we all were able to get out of there. We were both CAKED in mud and our car was covered in mud, too. We raced over to our next appointment with Beba, and we were 40 minutes late, but we were able to have a GREAT lesson with her, too. But it was a hilarious experience, standing deep in all of this mud and running around trying to find plywood....certainly one for the journal!!

Last time picking up the greenies in the van
With all of these youth that we have been working with, I have noticed a common theme. With both teenagers we are teaching and also Kyler, who was baptized a few months ago(Sis. Stevenson taught him), all of them have said that before they started meeting with the missionaries, the "Mormons" have always interested them. They all said that they have been curious about the church before they met with the missionaries, but didn't have enough confidence to ask their parents or their friends about it, until someone approached them. We can all learn some lessons from this, because hearing this made me look back on my high school days, and really I felt some regret, that I hadn't shared the gospel with as many people as I could've. I remember many times when people would ask me about the church, and I would answer their question, but I didn't ask them if they wanted to learn more!! So we all need to be constantly looking for opportunities to share the Gospel, and really pay attention to the Spirit, because the Holy Ghost knows who we need to talk to. This is why as full-time missionaries, we talk with EVERYONE we see. Literally anyone walking down the street we stop and talk to them. I have set a goal for the rest of my mission not to let a single person I see go by without talking to them, and inviting them to come closer to Christ. 

Alma 13:24 "For behold, angels are declaring it unto many at this time in our land; and this is for the purpose of preparing the hearts of the children of men to receive his word at the time of his coming in his glory." 

I know that there are people all around us who are prepared to accept the Gospel in their lives, and Heavenly Father needs our help to do so. He will help us know what to say, we just have to be willing to open our mouths and speak up! I am grateful for the time that I have to share the Gospel with everyone. I love it and I know that it is true, and that it changes lives.

Have a great week everyone! I love you!!

Elder Todd

p.s. all the pictures of the water plant I uploaded are from last p-day, one of our investigators in the Prater ward worked at this plant, and he took us on our a tour!! It was really neat, to see how it works. The plant takes in all of the raw sewage from Reno and Sparks(which includes lots of gross stuff) and 12 hours later they have clean drinking water that they dump into a nearby river...and they have a 100% turn around rate! I wish I had more time to explain how it all works, but basically bugs do 80% of the work, and break down all of the gross waste and then they put some nitrogen and chlorine in the water, and then take it back out, and BAM you have clean water. It was pretty gross and also extremely interesting to see how it all works!  Here are some pics: