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:

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