No letter from Elder Hull this week. He did email us the following photos though:
Wellllllll. Today has been super eventful. Over the past couple days I received a strong feeling of finality. I had a feeling that I was going to be transferred out. I said goodbye to one of the families I've been super close to since I got here, and it was pretty sad. It's a single mom and her sons- I've sent a picture of them before. The youngest is preparing for baptism, and is pretty hyperactive. I took him under my wing and did my best to teach him. Apparently I have had a greater impact than I could ever have thought. His mom was crying when I told her that I would probably be leaving. She thanked me and said that Chris had grown so much from my teaching him, and that few missionaries had left an impact on their family like I had. Everyone was crying when we left... except me. I was smiling from ear to ear, because we had been super discouraged with that family. They haven't been coming to church like they should, and we don't feel good about baptizing Chris until they do. But last night I left with a smile and a warm, happy feeling, because the Lord has worked miracles through me, and I can see the fruits of my labors. I am happy with my work here.
Anyway, Elder Pavon had been getting the same feeling, so we were worried that we might be blinded out. Fortunately, only I will be leaving my first area, and will find out where I'm bound tomorrow! I'm excited. A change of scenery will do me some good. I've been getting pretty dang frustrated with some things that have been happening in the area lately.
So, story time :) ...... We were having our district meeting on Tuesday, but it was the last one in the transfer, so we decided to have brunch together. After we ate, it started to rain super hard. Like, super hard. We went out to see it (our church has two sides, divided by a little urban courtyard back alley thing with a glass panel roof), and accidentally got locked outside. That may have been my bad. The sisters decide to run through the rain around the building, and we thought they would open the door for us, but they gave us some sass and didn't. Then, right as they were about to go back inside, a waterfall in every sense of the word started to cascade down in from of the alcove with the double doors leading to the classroom.
You see, the glass roof had been replaced recently, and the Jewish (no offense, but they do have a well-earned reputation for miserably underfunding building repair and maintenance) administrator didn't pay to install a gutter. The courtyard is two stories, with some offices above our classrooms. The water cascaded down the windows. It was super cool. The only problem was that the water started pooling very very quickly, and started flooding towards our chapel and our classrooms. The sisters ran through the waterfall and came back with a mop and a broom, soaked to the bone. It was pretty darn funny. We have a video of it. In the rather frantic efforts to remove the pools of water from our building that followed, I ended up scooping up water with a dustpan and throwing it back into the courtyard. The only problem with that is that the ground is tile, and somewhat broken tile. I was pushing the dustpan super hard, and it got caught on one of these outcroppings, ripping off the first layer of my skin just under the first knuckle of my right hand. It bled a fair bit, actually, and stung pretty bad. I'll be sure to include pictures to get some extra sympathy ;) That, and I think that being wet lowered my body's ability to fight off sickness, because for most of last week I was sick with a sore throat, super congested nose and sinuses, a racking cough, and fatigue. It's been a rough week in that respect, but otherwise it wasn't too bad. The battle-wound just needs a day or so, and it'll be completely covered again, and I won't need to wear a band aid all the time. I personally really hope it scars, but that's just me.
I have not gotten your packages yet (I think). The Mission office gets them, and then it's up to us and our district and zone leaders to come and pick them up, although if you mark them specially they'll call us. For example, if it has something that needs to be refrigerated, they'll call us and tell us we have a package. I did get a package from the Mogles, though, with a pack of sour watermelon sharks. Tell them thanks for me! I also got a letter from the Accordinos, which I am super grateful for. I'll try to get a reply out by next week or so. I'll check to see if I got the packages when I go to Rego tomorrow.
Yux. Paratu. Papoy. (funny thing, 'para tu' means 'for you,' in the familiar form)
The missionary lemonade stand Mom mentioned seeing in Utah is something we do quite a lot, actually. We get the whole district together for something called a street sweep. We whip up a cooler of lemonade, and take a table, and lay out pamphlets, Books of Mormon, English Class cards, and pass-along cards, and spend a couple hours just street contacting. It's actually been pretty successful. When it's not too cold we do the same thing in the winter, but with hot chocolate. It made me super happy to see that picture, though :)
Well, I gotta get packing! I'll fill you all in next week!
Elder Richard Brandt Hull 헐
PS: Tell Spencer I say 'Hey.'
Hello, flamily and friends :)
I am so so so happy to hear that Spencer got his Patriarchal Blessing, and that Madi was able to do baptisms in the temple for the first time. There are a few indicators we use to measure the progress of people here in the mission, and both those events are among them. It is so important to always have a spiritual goal in mind, be it the next ordinance, be it doing ordinances for your family, be it receiving your patriarchal blessing, if you don't have a goal, you won't progress. Sometimes it's super hard to help people set these goals, or to help them realize how important they are, but when they do, it is absolutely amazing. I am proud of my siblings for making choices that allow them to advance in the gospel and the plan of the Lord. I love them and my parents, who have sacrificed a lot to teach us after the manner that the Lord would, and can't wait to go to the temple as a complete family when I get home. I'm especially excited to be able to baptize Madi for some of our ancestors :)
I've actually become something of a family history guru in the mission, being (as far as I know) the only one who has helped someone take their family names from photo albums and journals to the baptismal font, and soon the more sacred ordinances only available inside the temple. I love my family history so much, and can't wait for the time in my life when the Lord will inspire me and put things in order so that I can devote a greater amount of time to searching for my ancestors who are waiting for ordinances.
This week my zone got to have our first interview with President Reynolds, and Sister Reynolds talked to people who were waiting by district to get to know us better. I love them very much, and am so thankful that we have been given such great leaders who love the Lord.
I can tell that we're going to be great friends. I have a funny feeling that 1. I'm outtie this next transfer, meaning that I'll get transferred to a new area, and 2. A calling within the mission is approaching. I have mixed feelings about a calling. On the one hand, it's a lot of responsibility, and the spotlight will be on me. I also don't want to be one of those missionaries who just have to have one of those callings, for a multitude of reasons. On the other hand, I really feel like I have something to offer as a leader or
trainer, and that the Lord could use me well. I also believe that such an experience would make me a far better missionary, and give me a lot of confidence, and a feeling that I'm on top of everything, or rather that I can handle everything I'll come across in the mission. As in all things, though, I will follow the Lord's instruction to His servants, and go where He wants me to go.
Lately I've felt a strong urge to be able to rebuke wickedness with power, like Joseph Smith did in the 'fiends of the infernal pit' story. To be able to stand in defense of the gospel, and those who follow it, is, to me, one of the greatest callings I can have, besides that of parent and spouse, and perhaps teacher. There is a promise in my patriarchal blessing concerning this matter, and I am excited for the future. I just pray that I will be ready if and when the Lord calls upon me.
I implore each of you to stay true to the faith, for there are but two sides in life: that of the Lord, and that of Satan, that great deceiver. I like to think of it like this:
Every person's life is like a game of Go. This ancient Chinese game is played on a grid of 19 lines, by each player placing their black or white stones on the intersections in turn. The goal is to capture the most territory and as many of the other's stones as possible. This is done by surrounding the stone or formation on all four sides. Now, each and every action we make, every thought we think is either of God, or of Satan. These are the stones. There is no such thing as a neutral stone, just as there is no such thing as a neutral thought or action. We learn through principles of truth and light that Satan
would make it so that we cannot discern between the white stones of Heavenly Father, and his own black stones, and replace this clear image with grey everywhere, that we might be miserable, confused, and know not where to go. Now, in Go, territory can change hands very quickly, and concentration and patience are rewarded far more than offensive and 'decisive' strategies. This is exactly like life. We
cannot rush or force anything. We must be patient with ourselves, with others, and, in a way, the Lord. We know that He is a 'last watch God,' who tries our faith before He blesses us. Also, if we are not
walking forward, we are slipping back. We cannot allow our concentration on living up to our covenants to slip, for to do so would grant unto Satan power over us, and he will use it, however small it is. Also, the small moves in Go tend to add up, and sometimes there will be lingering formations or stones that are abandoned to be captured, but an equally threatening move has shifted attention away from them. It is wise to dispatch such lingering formations as quickly as possible. Similarly, it is the small and simple things that determine our salvation and spiritual health, rather than the large acts and events. Examples of those lingering formations are: friends making poor choices, who might influence you to compromise your standards, using technology too much, or in a way that invites temptation (this is a technique Satan uses a lot these days). Forgetting to read your scriptures and falling out of habit, failing to attend church, and all of it, or falling out of habit of praying daily, and fervently. Those last three are examples of how Satan will slowly drain your spiritual energy until you are weak enough for him to attack the previously unassailable formations like your testimony and your ability to feel the spirit and receive revelation. Quitting in the middle of a game of Go is taboo, and players are expected to play out the whole game. The game of our life is not over until we leave this mortal coil at the time that God has appointed. We are expected to endure to the end. One of the coolest things about this Go of life is the Savior. He can come in with the atonement and advise you on where to go, so that you can clean up your board and fill it with white. I promise you all that no matter how bleak the game of our lives may seem, no matter how large the sea of black on our boards may appear, there is absolutely nothing that the atonement cannot heal, save it be denying the Holy Ghost, and rejecting the Atonement and the Savior Himself. If you feel you are loosing your game of Go against the devil, please talk with your Bishop. He is divinely appointed to stand as a representative of Christ, and he will help you.
I love you all. Stay strong, and hold fast to the rod, for it is the way to happiness.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Elder Richard Brandt Hull 헐
This week was super good. I really felt like the Spirit was guiding our work. On Tuesday, for some reason, the matter of homosexuality and same-sex marriage was weighing on my mind, and I decided to spend a personal study hour to study it. I found exactly what I was looking for, and was very intrigued by the results. I'm worried, but not for myself. I'm worried for people who support and advocate homosexuality. Punishment always follows unrepentant sin, and with a sexual sin, such as homosexuality, it will not be pretty. So it was with the Nephites, with Sodom and Gomorra, with the children of Israel at the feet of Mount Sinai. So it will be with the people of the world, I fear. I fear that they are ripe for destruction. I fear not for myself, because I am sure in my testimony, and do my best to repent for my mistakes and imperfections, but for those who don't have a knowledge of the gospel, I fear. Especially those who don't really understand Heavenly Father's plan for us, and how important the Law of Chastity is. Anyway, on Friday we taught this young single adult who asked a question about homosexuals, and why the church's stance is what it is. Guess who had the answers? Yours truly. We also went over Romans 1 with her. I recommend you all read it. In the end, I closed with a testimony that although there may be challenges some people have to deal with their whole lives, such as autism or being born without a limb, we have a promise from the Lord that we will never find a challenge or trial that we are incapable of overcoming through the atonement. When we finished, she said that it was exactly what she needed, and that feeling of 'this whole thing was guided by the Spirit, and it took me this long to notice it' settled on the room.
There were several lessons like that this week, where I truly felt like an instrument in the Lord's hands. For example, there's a Dominican guy we teach who I usually can barely understand, and I usually take a back seat during those lessons. This time, I could understand almost perfectly, but only those things that I needed to understand, and words were truly put into my mouth that came out in perfect Spanish. It was truly remarkable.
As far as 4th of July, we had a little picnic with a couple members, some investigators, and the Bushwick English and Spanish districts. We went to Highland Park, which is absolutely gorgeous... especially when there aren't a billion people there. I'll include a couple pictures from the event. I learned that playing volleyball using an Ecuaball (weird Ecuadorian variation on volleyball) is hard, because the net is three or four feet higher. It also started raining on us a ton, so we spent a lot of time huddled together under the beach umbrella and pavilion the members had brought. It was super fun, though, and we ended up going home at 4. After that we got one visit in, got on the train to go visit the Branch President, who lives off the Sutter stop, and then stopped to think about what a bad decision that would be. It was the fourth of July, with fireworks going off everywhere that sounded a little too much like guns, it was late, and Brownsville is super super super sketch, and we're just the Mormon missionaries carrying iPads, a phone, our credit cards, and wearing watches. We decided to turn in a little early. So, no, we did not get to see any fireworks, and I'm not too bummed out about it. The night before the 4th people were going crazy, and I'm absolutely sure that many of those fireworks... weren't fireworks at all. I was in the study, which has windows facing out onto the street, and I was like 'nopenopenpoenopenopenopenope,' and went to play a game of Go with my companion in the kitchen, on the opposite side of the pad. We stayed up until midnight, and I won.
I'm sorry to hear about President Packer's passing (can anyone say alliteration?). Change is on the wind, and I'm excited to see who gets called to be the new apostles in the next session of General Conference. That was a bad night, when we found out. One of our investigators may have attended the birthday party of one of the members with booze in tow and broken the law of chastity. His 'esposa' (this is a hispanic thing- they'll live in the same house and sleep together without being married, and call each other their husband or wife) now wants to go to a different branch, the investigator wants nothing to do with the church, and the member has a brother who has left the church now because of this. Just.... Please remember that even if you're 'just a peon' in the church, so to speak, your actions speak quite loudly, and there is absolutely no choice you can make that only effects yourself. Be righteous, and lead others on in righteousness. If you break a commandment... always remember that you can repent, but you must repent swiftly, and sincerely. The Lord will forgive you as many times as you sincerely repent. Yeah, that was a hard night. We went out and bought chocolate Oreos and chocolate milk to take the edge off of it.
The Lopez family is doing great. We've taught them pretty much everything. Just a couple commandments left. The only problem is that they don't go to church. The cause is the Hermano's job. He goes to work at a pizzeria at 4 every day, and works until 2. That means he gets home at around 3. Not a lot of time to be ready for 9:00 church. It's an issue we've had with a lot of our investigators and less actives. They accept what we teach readily, but when it comes to attending church, they say yes, but when it's time for church they flake out.
Oh, yeah, President Reynolds started as the new mission president this week! I absolutely love the Reynolds. I felt very connected to the Calderwoods, and had a very close, personal relationship with them- they have changed my life forever, but there's something about the Reynolds that just clicks. I love them immensely. They are my mission president and president's wife. Elder Pavon and many of the other missionaries feel exactly the same. I got the chance to talk to them personally and give them a hug before the meeting, because they were hanging out in the president's office when we got there an hour early. That was a really fun day.
As far as dad's 'complaint' about beer at the 4th of July fiesta, that's nothing. One time we went to knock on a members' door, and they weren't there. We were about to go (and super hungry, too), when their downstairs neighbors, who were having a barbecue, insisted that we eat something. Can someone say tender mercy? Literally everyone else was drinking beer, were talking about going to drink beer at a beer garden, and we even got offered beer. That was a little awkward. We knew it was time to leave when the hookah came out. Tangent: I'm so tired of people smoking. Its so gross, unhealthy, and just not smart. Everyone would be happy if everyone else stopped smoking. If you see a girl smoking, it doesn't matter how pretty she looks, I wouldn't even think about dating her (well, after my mission, of course). It's gotten to the point that I'm about ready to carry a water gun with me to put out the cigarettes, or just start swatting them out of peoples' hands and mouths. Just stop it, please! Ok, tangent over. Anyway, it's good that you guys went, to be an example to them. Honestly, that's one of the coolest things to see as a missionary, is when the members take the initiative to be a Christlike example and a member missionary. Absolutely love it.
I'm so glad that Spencer had such a good experience at EFY, both spiritually and socially. I remember what a good time I had, and I can still feel the effects of the session that I attended. I kinda do but also don't want to hear the Dominican guy singing. It's a general rule that by and large (although with some notable exceptions), Hispanics are tone-deaf, and don't quite grasp the concept of rhythm. They sure don't care, though, and make up for it by belting it out as loud as they can. It's great, and it makes me seem super cool :) Sounds like I'll have a lot to fast for on the 12th, though. Make sure Spencer knows how happy I am for him that he's preparing to receive his blessing, and that I bear my testimony to him of the comfort, counsel and guidance in Patriarchal Blessings, and that they truly are from the mouth of God.
Love you all- keep to the faith and fight the good fight. I know it's hard, but I know that the Lord is in the vineyard, and that He is at the head of this great army.
Elder Richard Brandt Hull 헐
Mission Start: 12/17/14