I also received a package from Grandma and Grandpa Hicken, and they got me a couple of really, really nice ties (I have to say that they have amazing taste in ties- every single one they send instantly becomes my favorite), two bags of cookies (I have to mention- they have Reeses on them, and I didn't eat them for a couple of days, but then I remembered that Madi is over one and a half thousand miles away, so now I can say that they're super, super good), a little frisbee ring, a couple of new shirts, and some socks. Oh, and a bunch of candy. Thanks Grandma and Grandpa!
We've got three investigators with a baptismal date! Two of those were because of a spiritual witness after a prayer that I said. These people are Elder Pavon's sister and her husband, and they truly are those people who 'are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it.' We had a great lesson about the Plan of Salvation, and the next lesson we did a little cleanup with answering some questions, when we decided to invite them to baptism. They said yes, if they received a witness of the veracity of the gospel. That lead to a question about how to recognize an answer. For Hermano Lopez, dreams are a common method of communication with the Lord. He asked me how I feel the Holy Ghost. For me it feels like cold hands on my shoulders, and a shiver goes down my spine. After that, I said the prayer. It didn't feel any different than any of my other prayers, but it was earnest and sincere. After that, Hermano Lopez thanked me a ton, and said "Gracias por tochando mi corazon, Elder." He said that he felt a similar sensation of someone with cold hands brushing against his arms. It was a really cool, powerful moment. We've got the baptism set for the 12th. It's moments like that that make me go 'I'm doing my job. Maybe I'm not such a bum missionary after all.' With our other baptismal date, he's 10, and so our worry is that after baptism he won't go to church, because his family (or, more specifically, his mom) is inactive. We're pushing his baptismal date out to the 19th, to give more time to make sure he's prepared, and to talk to the mom about how important it is for her to go to church, because Chris and his older brother really want to come to church. They enjoy themselves at church, but their mom doesn't go, because things in the branch aren't perfect, so it's a struggle to get her kids (excepting the three that are old enough to make decisions- two are active) to church.
One exciting part of my week was getting my Facebook cleaned up and ready for the mission to go live with online proselyting. That will happen within the next month, if not a couple weeks. That means that I will be able to keep in touch with the investigators and members I meet and teach in my mission, as well as giving me an opportunity to share the gospel with friends from back home. I won't be able to contact member friends back home unless I'm using them in a lesson, or if we will be allowed to have Facebook chat discussions. If that ends up being the case, I'll be able to utilize my entire friends list of 211 to spread the good word.
Ben Steadman messaged me, asking for ways to prepare for a mission, and I couldn't respond, so this next part is for Ben:
1. Learn now to ligten up. Some missionaries (and members back home, too) are so worried about being obedient that they take the word of the law too far, and loose sight of the spirit of the law. It's super unhealthy physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and from what I have seen, hinders the work. This isn't to say 'be disobedient,' but more of a suggestion to lighten up, realize that you're never going to be perfect in this life, and keep going doing the best you can. If you can learn this, you will be able to handle the ups and downs of the mission like they're molehills, instead of mountains.
2. Learn how to feel the spirit, and develop your relationship with your Heavenly Father as much as you can. You know the scriptures. You know the Gospel. What you're teaching, you already know. What you need to learn, rather, is how to teach with the Spirit, because without the spirit, you literally loose the ratifying seal of the Lord to teach. You cannot teach if you do not have the spirit, and something you learn very quickly on your mission is that He is the real teacher, not you. As such, get used to silence. Silence is not bad. One of my favorite quotes from the MTC is "Never interrupt a member of the Godhead when He's speaking." Go to the temple often, and go with a purpose. Go with a question, and ponder it in your mind beforehand. Strengthen your testimony, because I don't care how strong you think it is right now, it is absolutely certain that it will be tested to the limits on your mission. Shore it up. Learn how to ask questions and live without some answers.
3. Develop social skills. Learn how to put yourself out there, how to start and end a conversation with a complete, total, random stranger. For me, an introvert, this is a hard part of my mission. Both of my companions have been good at it, but I still have a hard time with it. I'm getting better, for sure, but for someone who gets tired after interacting with people, especially strangers (that's what introvert means), it will always be hard. The trick is to find where your talents are, and use them to further the work. That's another thing:
4. Know who you are, where your talents lie, and let the Lord use them. Don't be afraid to use your musical talents, for instance, to further the work. This is one point where many missionaries have issues. Yes, you can play the piano on your mission, and yes you can play songs that aren't hymns, so long as they are sufficiently in harmony with the sacred nature of your call. The Lord has been preparing you for your mission your entire life, so don't put your talents off limits.
Other than that, brace yourself, and have fun!
Here's a funny little anecdote to end on.
Sunday afternoon we went to give the sacrament to a sweet 85 year-old man. The whole day the sky had been clear, maybe with a cloud here and there. While we were in the elevator, it started raining with a vengeance. Even with my umbrella (Elder Pavon didn't think he'd need his) I would've gotten completely soaked. We waited a few minutes, and then, just as fast as it had started, the rain completely stopped. Within fifteen minutes there wasn't a cloud in the sky. As we were walking towards the train stop, this guy stops us. He's this big, muscled black dude from the 'hood' - tattoos all over and horrible dental hygiene. In a big voice he says "Thank you for bringing back the sunshine! God must love you. Thank Jesus! (You do believe in God, right?)" It was pretty funny. Just goes to show you how many people recognize from our attire and name tags that we are men of God. It really made my day.
Well, that's all for now, folks.
Elder Richard Brandt Hull 헐
PS: Glad to hear everyone had a good time at the Hull family reunion. I'm looking forward to going to the next one.