Week 83 – A BOMB Week in Reno!!

The six missionaries serving in the Sierra Branch
April 18, 2016
Hey everyone!!

As the subject line suggests, this week has been absolutely AWESOME! And I feel like I say this every week, but this week it is really true! We saw tons of miracles, many of which were really big! The Lord has blessed us immensely this past week. Let me share a few of the miracles:

Elder Han and I with the Luciano's daughter
First, the Luciano family is doing well! We taught them 3 times this week, which was a huge step because in the past we could only see them once a week. But they are opening their schedules more to have us come by. Their 17-year old daughter is progressing the best out of all of them still. She is reading the Book of Mormon regularly and praying, and she tells us of the spiritual experiences that she has while she does so. We are super excited that she has those spiritual experiences on her own, because that is crucial to someone's conversion…their ability to have spiritual experiences on their own. She is all set to be baptized on May 14th. The parents are also progressing – but slowly. They are cutting back on cigarettes and they are excited about their progress in that regard, but they are not reading the Book of Mormon on their own. Therefore, they aren't progressing as fast as their daughter. Truly, the daughter is pulling the family along, and always reminding them to quit smoking and read the scriptures. She was the only one who came to church this week; the mom and dad had some other things to do. The mother is really hesitant to come to church with us, and we aren't sure why. But she promised her daughter that she would come next Sunday, so we will see what happens. We aren't sure if the parents will be ready for May 14th. We are going back tonight for another lesson.

Next big miracle: This Friday, I was on exchanges in an area in South Reno, where it is mostly high-end neighborhoods with lots of wealthy white people. There are quite a few members down there, but the work has been struggling in that area for the past year or so, and hasn't seen much success. I went to the area with Elder Stotts, who is in his 2nd transfer, and is still pretty much a greenie. He doesn't know the area super well yet, and so we had a hard time planning the night before for our day together. To be 100% honest, I was not exactly looking forward to the day, because we didn't have many lessons planned, just a lot of knocking doors in a hard neighborhood. But, I knew that if we had a great day together then it would really make a difference for the new Elder, and help him grow. So the next day, we went to work with smiles on our faces, and we prayed like crazy that we could see miracles.

In the morning while we were doing our studies, we got a text to our phone that was a referral from www.mormon.org for a man named Alan. We were excited, but I was skeptical because they usually don't turn into anything. But we worked all afternoon and it was about 4:30pm and we had seen ZERO success. We talked to every single person we saw in the afternoon, but nobody was interested. We happened to be in the neighborhood of the referral we got earlier, so we decided to go and knock on it. We knocked on the door, but nobody was there. We were walking back to the car, and then Elder Stotts said, hey let’s go see if there is anyone in that open garage down the street. So we walked towards the garage, and a man in his 30s came around the corner walking his dog. We stopped him and started talking, like we do with everyone, and then he said, "Ya know its really funny that I run into you guys, because just the other day my Mom said that she would be sending two missionaries from a church over to my house." Our jaws dropped, and we asked him, "Are you Alan?" And then his jaw dropped and he said, "Yes, how did you know?" with a skeptical/scared look on his face. We then explained what had happened, and we confirmed that he was the man that we had received a referral for. He immediately invited us into his home, so we went in and had a GREAT first lesson.

Exchanges with Elder Stotts...turned out to be one
of the best days of my mission!
It turns out that he grew up in a family in an Asian religion that did not believe in Christ or God or anything like that. His mom lived in Chico, California, and she recently ran into the missionaries and they began teaching her in California. She absolutely loves the church, and is going to be baptized this Saturday. Her life totally changed, and her son, Alan, noticed that change, and began asking. She then offered to send the missionaries over. That is when we showed up. We had a great first lesson together, and just introduced ourselves, set some expectations including inviting him to be baptized when he finds out that the things we teach are true, and taught him about the nature of the Godhead, because he didn't even have a baseline knowledge of God. He accepted all of it, and Elder Stotts and Elder Corry were able to go back on Saturday and teach the Restoration to Alan and his wife, and they are both 100% on board. Elder Stotts and I left the lesson with the biggest grins on our faces and we couldn't believe it. It is exactly what we needed that day, and more importantly it is exactly what Elder Stotts needed to grow. He was able to recognize that his thought was a prompting from the Holy Ghost to go and look in the garage, and that was a huge moral boost for him. It was also a good reminder to me and a humbling experience, because I did not have much faith in our day together, but it turned out to be what Elder Stotts said, "One of the greatest days of my mission!" And I agree…it was one of the best days of my mission. 

What also made the miracle with Elder Stotts so big was that in our companionship study we did lots of role plays on three topics: Establishing expectations and explaining our purpose in a first lesson scenario, inviting someone to be baptized in the first lesson (which is really hard for most missionaries, but it makes a huge difference down the road in the teaching process), and inviting the head of the household to offer a kneeling prayer at the end of the first lesson. I don't think Elder Stotts enjoyed doing that many role-plays on those hard situations in our companion study, but we used all three in our lesson with Alan, and they all worked out great. He was grateful after our lesson with Alan that we had role-played those things. Another small miracle.

My stud companion, Elder Han!
The last of the big miracles of the week came to Elder Han and me. On Wednesday, I received a phone call from a woman who introduced herself as Emily and said, before I could introduce myself over the phone, that she wanted to set up a lesson. She gave me an address, and a phone number and said that her boyfriend named Francisco wanted to learn about the church. This is always very promising, but Emily was speaking to me in perfect English, so I figured it would be a referral for the English missionaries. I explained to her that we were the Spanish missionaries, but she told us that her boyfriend actually prefers Spanish. We were pumped, but it almost seemed too good to be true. But nevertheless, we aren't going to deny someone a lesson (and basically their salvation) so we set up an appointment for Thursday morning.

We went over to Francisco’s house Thursday morning and he turned out to be the most solid investigator I have ever met in my whole mission. He is about 50 years old and works at a restaurant in town. His girlfriend, the gal that called us, is a member of the church in California. He grew up with a Catholic background, but never really attended church regularly. He told us that he has had many experiences with nice Mormon people, but he was never ready to receive the missionaries into his home until now. At one point in his life, his mom had to receive physical therapy 3x/week and he would take her every time.  The therapist was a member of the church, and would regularly teach Francisco about the church.  The therapist even invited him many times to come to church with him, but Francisco always declined.

He told us that recently he has been feeling kinda empty in his life, but he didn't know why, because he has a good job, a comfortable home, and a nice girlfriend who he loves...he seemed to have it all, yet something was missing. Then it occurred to him that maybe it was something spiritual that he was lacking. That is when he told his girlfriend to have us come over. We had a great first lesson with him, and he accepted everything we taught him. He told us that from the moment he saw us on his doorstep he knew we brought the truth. He said that he felt very comfortable when we were in his home, and we testified that it was the Holy Ghost that gave him those good feelings, and that the Holy Ghost only testifies of truth. He agreed to be baptized in our first lesson on May 28th. I was smiling the whole lesson, because I was just so excited by the whole thing!! He told us that he didn't know how to send texts, but could reply if we texted him first. He told us to text him and ask him how his reading of the books was going to make sure he was doing it. He also told us that he didn't want to be one of those people who we visit once a week for a year, and after a year we ask him, "Francisco, why aren't you baptzied?" But that he was really ready to act now and find out for himself. It was the best first lesson that I've ever had with someone. 

We went back Saturday morning with a member of the branch, and they became instantly friends. The first thing he told us was that he has been thinking about getting a new job, because with his current job he can't attend church, because our Sacrament starts at 11:00 am and his shift starts at noon. We couldn't believe it! We taught the Restoration and he accepted all of it. He said he was still on track to be baptized, and it was something he wanted to do. After we recited the famous First Vision (the most powerful part of every Restoration lesson) he said that it was almost as if the light from the picture that I held up went all the way up to heaven, and he felt the presence of God tell him that Joseph Smith was a prophet. He had lots of questions from our first visit about where the Book of Mormon came from, but we answered all of them with the message of the Restoration.

We learned that the restaurant where he works is about a 10-minute walk from our church, so he agreed to come to church for the first half hour or so, and then head off to work. The member we brought with us offered to pick him up, because Francisco doesn't drive. And sure enough, Francisco came to church with the member yesterday! We sat by him and expected him to get up and leave after half an hour, but 30 minutes into the meeting I leaned over to him and asked if he was going to leave. He said, he liked it too much, and wanted to stay until the end. So Sacrament ended at like 12:15 and we thought for sure he was going to have to book it to work, but then he insisted on staying for Sunday School also!! So he stayed until 1pm and then took off for work. We still don't know what happened with his work, we will find out on Wednesday when we go back to help him paint his house a little bit and then have another lesson. He is what you call a GOLDEN investigator that literally fell into our laps. 

Francisco is truly an answer to our prayers. We have been praying and fasting to have success in our area, and now the gears in our area are starting to move forward. Francisco lives on the opposite side of our area, where almost no Hispanics live, so we never are in his neighborhood. That to me is a testament that Heavenly Father is blessing us because of our labors. You would think that one of the thousands of people we contact on the streets would become that solid investigator that we all long for, and sometimes it is! But not for us right now, I know Heavenly Father truly has answered our prayers. Now we have Francisco who is awesome, and also the Luciano family who is progressing slowly but surely. We are finally starting to see fruits from our labors, and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the whole world than where I am right now. I love being a missionary. 

These experiences have certainly built my faith and hope for this work, and truly in the power of Jesus Christ. However, we learn that God always provides miracles in 2 Nephi 27:23…

"For behold, I am God; and I am a God of miracles; and I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and I work not among the children of men save it be according to their faith."  

This is how God works. I know that we receive a testimony “after the trial of our faith” (Ether 12:6) and sometimes, we have to just do what we know to be right, and then have the faith that it will all work out and we will be blessed in the end. This is how the apostle Peter I am sure felt, when Christ invited him to walk on the water towards him, he had to just do it, and then he was blessed. It is my testimony that we are experiencing miracles all around us every day...some small and some big.  I know that God exists, because he blesses us with these miracles regularly. I know that this is the true church because the miracles I have seen this past week only confirm that statement. 

I love you guys! Have a great week!

Elder Todd

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