Wednesday, March 7, 2018

MARCH 5, 2018

Hallelujah y'all, 

This week was another great week in paradise!! We were just out evangelizing and praising the Lord and what have you, and it was fantastic!

Elder Jensen and I are just having a great time serving, working hard, and laughing along the way. One day last week during personal study I didn't realize Elder Jensen had gotten up and as I walked out of the study room next thing I know I am staring up at a massive blow up Duck that he had found in the closet and strung up on the wall hahaha. Bless my heart for sure! 

We have been working with this part member family, Jeremy and Becky Nelson, and they had us over last week for a lesson. Jeremy has been asking questions about the word of wisdom, and some wheels have been turning. Unfortunately some missionaries in the past were a little too blunt and ended up offending him about a year ago. He has just recently been attending church with his wife, and so hopefully been thinking more about the gospel. We shared a lesson on faith and the stripling warriors, and made sure to try and gain trust. Jeremy then asked us if we could help him on Saturday put up a trampoline for the kids. It was an incredible opportunity to go and do service for him, but also to be able to talk with just him without any family pressure. We ended up talking to him for quite a while and hopefully mended a few bridges there. Still trying to figure out how to best help him, but definitely going to try and have some members invite him to Elder's Quorum since he feels like his only friends are those outside the church that are social drinkers, etc.

We also had a couple great lessons with our man Chris Corrona and were able to bring our ward mission leader with us as well one of the times since he is a convert that used to be Catholic as well. Nothing better than taking a convert to a lesson! He has been talking to his friends about the B.o.M and of course they are all like woah man that is crazy stuff. He stands strong though! He was like, "Do you believe in Moses and the burning bush? Jonah and the whale? What about Noah's ark? Yeah, then why not the Book of Mormon? Haha let's goo Chris!!

Danny was able to make it to church again this week, and we were able to have a great lesson on the priesthood with him. He is doing great and seems to really fit in High Priest's Group. Brother Helm invited him over to dinner this coming week as well, so that is great! The members all seem to be starting to jump all over the missionary work in this area, and it has been awesome! Only taken a little while to get some excitement, but it really seems like things are starting to pop over here :) A famous Mormon singer, Gladys Knight, is having a big testimony presentation in April where she sings and also shares her conversion story down in Slidell where the stake center is. We as missionaries/members are starting to rally the troops (reach out to neighbors/friends, etc)  in preparation for that! Some amazing things are starting to come down here, and just trying to get some more outreach in the community. Last time Gladys Knight came to Louisiana was in Baton Rouge and the current Stake Relief Society president was found and ended up being baptized :D

I was able to go on exchanges with Elder Hoopes this week since they are doing exchanges with all of the new missionaries, and so that was a total highlight! The boys were back in business :D We had a great exchange preaching the gospel and reminiscing on the good times haha. Not to mention we got some good 6:30 a.m pinecone punting in :)

So many other investigators to talk about and amazing progress, but I will end with the miracle of the week: 
Last night we decided we were going to finish the week with some pounding. We went to this big apartment complex and began tracting. We got there, parked, and then started walking since no inspiration comes from standing still. We said a prayer as we had no idea which building to hit, and felt prompted to hit building H. We ended up hitting all three floors with 4 doors on each floor, with very little interest even after getting a foot in the door after pointing out some nitrous oxide. Anyway, we get to the top and literally the last door. After knocking this lady opens and yells "Elders" and then her dog runs out. Before we could say anything we are chasing her dog around the complex. Well, turns out she was baptized in New Orleans about 30 years ago when there were 2 big buildings and several wards. Apparently she was sitting outside on her balcony and recognized us when we got out of the car. She didn't holler at us, but I guess she didn't need to! She knew the Lord would send us, and was so excited to see us when we knocked on her door. We got all of her information, and she even remembered the Elders that baptized her when she was 12. She lives with her daughter and granddaughter and is excited to have the sister missionaries over there! Total miracle to finish off a great week.

Well, I will leave it with that, but just so grateful for the opportunity to serve. I love my mission, and especially my Savior Jesus Christ.
Elder Wilson

FEBRUARY 26, 2018

Hey y'all, 

What can I say this week was just great!! Elder Jensen is doing awesome and seems to be transitioning really well. He saw his first alligator in a little pond and boy it was like candy/butter to a baby haha. We also found a huge trailer park full of spanish people and are doing a little neighborhood study teaching English class as a second language every Wednesday afternooon :) Our first class was quite the hit! I mean how could it not be when you got 2 guys that don't speak spanish lol. Just kidding the spirit was really bringing a lot back and we were able to talk with the little kids that are fluent in both languages if we ever needed help. That was way cool! Since there isn't really a way for them to attend a spanish lds church here in Mandeville or Covington we figure the seeds will be planted for future opportunities if they ever move other places :D 

We have been following up with many of our investigators and praying that they will start progressing. Our investigator Danny made it to church yesterday and seemed to love it. A ward member was kind enough to take him to High Priests with him, while we attended Elders Quorum with an investigator named Anthony that we have been helping. The work is good, and the joy is great!

Miracle: On Friday it was really rainy and we were without the car, which just adds to the miracle :) I love biking out in the rain and I am pretty sure the blessings of missionary work are increased like 10 fold. We decided to head up to our Gold Mine apartment complex and just go to town knocking. When we got there we prayed and specifically told Heavenly Father of the circumstances and our desire to serve him regardless. We started walking around, but weren't feeling any spiritual promptings. At first I was kinda getting frustrated, because nothing was happening/we weren't feeling any promptings. How easy we are to forget what patience and faith can do. I then heard a faint whisper to talk to people outside. I then saw this lady trying to get this massive desk/furniture out of her car and ran over to help her. She said she didn't need help at first,  (like everyone does) but I already had my arms grappled underneath and wasn't going to let go. We started talking to her and turns out she was baptized 10 years ago and used to live in the house of our investigator Chris! She said she loved the LDS church, but after her divorce went back to her southern roots. She invited us over for dinner next week to talk more though! It was a miracle and the Hand of the Lord was definitely present.

My good friend, Erik C. Parry, shared this quote with me, "If you are truly on the right path, it will always be uphill." What an interesting thought.  I think it means that when we are striving to follow the Savior Jesus Christ than the harder the adversary tries to hit us off the path. Furthermore the path that we are on seems to be an uphill battle. This thought came to me at what seems like the perfect time as usual. Elder Jensen and I have been giving what seems to be everything to the Lord and working hard trying to find investigators to teach and strengthen/invite members to reach out to others. However, the missionary work funnel seems to be growing at the top, but those dropping through the funnel by making commitments to coming closer to Christ seems small. Lately, Elder Jensen has especially been asking me why this is the case when we are trying to do everything we can. I have been really thinking and pondering about this and a few scriptures have seemed to enlighten me along with now this powerful quote. Mosiah 23: 21-22 states, "Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith. Nevertheless-- whosoever putteth his trust in him the same shall be lifted up." This has brought me peace knowing that the Lord is mindful of each of us with our individual struggles and challenges. I believe that He tries our patience and our faith along the uphill battle, because he is molding us into the sons and daughters that he wants us to become. It allows us to further trust him and his timing.  I like to think of the obstacles set in our paths as opportunities to show our commitment to the Savior.

Well, I love y'all and thank you so much for your prayers and support. Stay blessed!
Elder Wilson

FEBRUARY 20, 2018

Hey y'all, 

This week was just a superb week!! We are really trying to help our investigators make the steps to church as well as just finding tons more people to teach. Alvin's fiance, Desiree has 4 daughters and we were able to have a great lesson with them and bring some members with us to invite the 16 year old to the stake dance this coming weekend. We are praying she accepts! That family is great and just trying to help them. Also just trying to keep following up with all our other investigators. It has been a bit tough with Mardi Gras and vacations, but we are making it work. We also had our final technology training for smart phones in the mission. Luckily it hasn't been too much of a change, and has been nice having the few apps to help the missionary work. We also have been sharing Mormon messages too so that has been way cool. Another tidbit about Elder Jensen: He butters his bread with the bread already in his mouth... We're doing great haha.

If anyone knows the south they would know that the people down here don't mess around when it comes to Mardi Gras. Like the celebration lasts the entire month haha, it is unreal. And I'm not just talking partying with fruit punch and apple sauce, even if it is Smuckers. I'm talking all out butter. Bless their hearts I love the people here. So what do missionaries do to share the gospel and adapt to the culture while still striving to maintain the sacredness of the call to serve? Well, with full approval we got ourselves in the Covington Parade to show a little Mormon publicity. Just trying to get the name out here honestly! Fear No man! We just started hip hop dancing and my days back in the Fried Rice dance group and China town in Sacramento really came in clutch. What can I say, the people seemed to love the Mormon missionaries :D Also, Elder Jensen just out of nowhere starts doing back flips and it was intense. Talk about using your talents. I made sure to keep him safe though, no worries. Many members took pictures so I will attach those at the bottom :) Throughout the week people kept approaching us asking if we were the ones in the parade too which led to some great conversation starters and transitions to the gospel. Just baby stepping, and in this case hip hop stepping. I think I may petition to add that into a new "Finding Tool" for missionaries ;)

On to a more spiritual note, this week was one of learning. We attempted to graciously drop an investigator that has been calling us from Colorado (referred to us by SLC--still not sure why us other than it was Elder Jensen's first week and anti always seems to be a part of Satan's weaponry) After many tries at bringing the spirit to answer questions, we were reminded that only a sincere heart can receive an answer that the Book of Mormon is true. Though opposition it brought conviction. On Thursday we had planned out our entire day and who we were going to try and visit. However, after the plans were set the spirit seemed to prompt a need for change. We felt like we needed to scrap all our plans and just tract/knock doors the entire day. After a little hesitation we did. We prayed about 2 different complexes to go to and started pounding. We met a few very nice people and taught several great lessons. However, it just didn't seem like anything extraordinary although the spirit was felt and we really thought that was where Heavenly Father wanted us to go. I have been pondering about this for several days now, and throughout the rest of the week I felt like I received an answer: Just like members that have to trust the missionaries before giving them a referral of a close friend/family member, the Lord does the same by testing us a little bit to see if he can trust us with his special children to find and teach. By showing our faith and willingness to follow His promptings regardless of the result he then begins to trust us. I believe that through that trust we can ultimately end up in with a referral from the Lord. Ether 12:6- "And ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith."

Miracle: We have been trying to take the advice of Elder Costa of the seventy in inviting members to reach out to neighbors and friends. We decided to pray all week about a family to reach out to this investigator family (John and Jessica) we met. We wrote Sister Helm down in our notes before going to church, and then at church she gave such a powerful prayer about missionary work in sacrament meeting. It was then that I realized that Heavenly Father was preparing her all week for the invitation to reach out, and we didn't' even know it. We approached her after sacrament and then went over to their house in the afternoon after church for a very short visit with a short spiritual thought. We told them about the family and the promptings to have them reach out. Sister Helm later that day brought the investigator family a plate of cookies and invited them over for dinner and a lesson when Jessica's husband comes back in town. LET's GOOOOO!!! We are going to make them out to be heroes next Ward Council and try and pump up other members!!

Sorry this became a little lengthy, but I want y'all to know that I know that the gospel is true. There is no other witness needed than from the Holy Ghost. I can't imagine my life without it or without the blessing of being a missionary. Life is good in the vineyard of the Lord no matter what.
Elder Wilson

Saturday, February 17, 2018

FEBRUARY 12, 2018

Dear family, friends, and Chris, 

This week was great!! It sometimes feels like I just blink and then I am writing another email for the week haha. It is crazy, bless my heart. At times I wonder if these emails even do justice with the blessings that the Lord shows me throughout the week, but I try my best regardless!

On Wednesday I picked up my new companion Elder Jensen, and he is straight out of the MTC. What a guy though! He went to BYU for a semester and is from Vancouver, Washington. It is funny because literally a year ago to the day my companion at LSU was named Elder Jensen from the same stake in Washington. They aren't related but knew each other. Small world. He is a funny guy and so I am way excited! Just picture this: He sleeps in a Hawaiin shirt and pajama pants hand crafted/cut at the knees. What more can I say. Reminds me of Sam Bennett at times haha. 

The first day we started off hitting the doors and found a couple way cool people along with Elder Jensen's first attempt to share a Spanish restoration pamphlet with a Hispanic guy at the door. The guy just started reading it and we nodded our heads :) Just trying to get this guy on the right track haha. We have really been trying to find people that are prepared for the message and humble enough to listen. The best part about missionary work is that "the Lord looketh upon the heart" and just asks that we give our all. 
Last week was the start of some Mardi Gras "festivities" and tomorrow is the official day. Our mission President has allowed us to attend one parade, and the one in Mandeville was last week so I made sure to break in the greenie with a little bit of Babylon ;) Jk the parades up here on the north shore are actually very family friendly so that was a blast! They say go where the people are right? haha. We ended up handing out over 400 pass along cards (before the parade) and talked to sooo many people. (only a couple drunk people haha) What better way to get the elder out of his comfort zone than giving him a stack of pass along cards and saying, "alright elder, good luck!" Haha just trying my best :D

Miracles of week: --We were out with a member contacting some people and everything was falling through. I felt prompted to call a PI that we met many weeks before named Jessica. She picked up the phone and said that today was the only day John (her husband) would be home for the next 4 months and so to come and share a message. We did and they are way awesome!! We had shared about the Restoration, and decided to have a shorter message on prayer. We are still trying to figure out how we are going to keep teaching them, but may end up having to hand them off to the sister missionaries. ---- We have been trying to get in contact with this lady being taught in Picayune that works in Mandeville, and finally Saturday we were in the area at the right time. We met her working at a local grocery store, and she told us she was getting baptized in one week. We were able to bear our testimonies and encourage her a little bit. We then told the missionaries teaching her and they said that they had been fasting for her that day and we answered their prayers. How cool? That was way neat. I love my mission and the opportunity to serve Heavenly Father. I think that one of the greatest feelings of joy comes from being led by the spirit to answer someone else's prayer. President Monson was an incredible example of following spiritual promptings, and I am continuing to see how incredible that really is.

I could continue sharing all day, but just want y'all to know that I know that this is the Lord's work and I am so happy to be a part of it. This week we have run into lots of Anti, and it reminds me of the beginning of my mission. Interestingly feels like a bit of a restart. However, it has only strengthened my testimony and faith. As Alma shares in Alma 33:14, "I would ask if you have read the scriptures? If ye have, how can ye disbelieve on the Son of God?" The truth is right in front of us, but it requires action on our part. We have to read and ask God for the truth. I know the Book of Mormon is true, because I have read it and can't keep from reading it. How could I ever disbelieve when the witness comes every time I open up the book and read from its pages?
I love y'all and hope you have a great week!
Elder Wilson

Saturday, February 10, 2018

FEBRUARY 6, 2018

Happy Holidays from the north shores of Louisville!! Not a whole lot of time to write, but I will include some highlights. It turned out to be a really great week! This week is transfer week and so things have been a bit moved around, but received word yesterday of the news. 
Turns out I will be training a new missionary here in Mandeville!! I am sooo excited! It is going to be awesome! It was a great transfer with Elder Holdaway and it flew by. Just can't wait to meet this guy and start rolling out the hotcakes right off the griddle over here. I am sincerely humble by this opportunity to "try a little harder, to be a little better." I am truly grateful for the things I have learned even just this last transfer, but am so excited to keep going and with the help of the Savior overcome the different obstacles that await. I am so grateful for the trust the Lord has extended, and can't wait to meet this elder!
Updates: So unfortunately some bad news with Alvin. We went over there to see him and ended up running into 2 undercover FBI agents looking for a black guy with dread locks. He had been praying on a baptismal date, but of course his past came back up as soon as he was close to changing everything around. I guess restitution is a step in the repentance process though! Not sure full details, but should give him some time to read the Book of Mormon too. He told us to keep working with his family and so that will be good still. His 9 year old son will hopefully be in the same trailer park with his extended family.

Miracle: This week I wanted to share a miracle that happened while studying. It has been an incredible experience for me to try to look for the tender mercies that the Lord sends us each and everyday. However, sometimes I forget that miracles can come in ALL ways. I know that when we look for them, we will see them. I was studying in Preach My Gospel about the "Light of Christ" because Alvin was having a hard time grasping the difference between it and the Holy Ghost. I continued to find interesting things about it, but nothing was fully answering the question I had. I decided to get on my knees and pray. Knowing that answers to prayers usually come after continued diligence, I kept reading. As I read the thought kept coming to my mind: "Brighter and brighter until the perfect day." I wasn't sure what it meant at first but went to the topical guide and ended up finding the scripture in D+C 50:24 in which that line is an excerpt of the scripture. It perfectly answered my sincere question. This life allows us the opportunity to gain more light and knowledge and become more like the Savior until the perfect day. I know that Heavenly Father really does answer our prayers, and that in and of itself is a miracle to me.

We were teaching a new investigator, and it was seriously one of the funniest lessons I have ever been in and that is saying something haha. We were just reading from the B.o.M in Mosiah 4 and he kept saying how he was feeling the spirit and "it was too strong." I was like so what does the good feeling make you want to do? And he replied with something totally unexpected something along the lines of: "I just feel like going to one of those baptist churches and running up to the altar screaming and praising the Lord and then get knocked over and have the priest pour all the oil on me to be blessed." I literally couldn't keep composure. It was sooo funny. And then on the way out he was like, "brothas I was feeling the holy spirit so much I need to change my clothes." hahaha it was hysterical. I love Louisiana. 

Well, that's it for this week! I love y'all and hope everyone is doing fantastic!
Elder Wilson

Monday, January 29, 2018

JANUARY 29, 2018

Big news for the Louisiana Baton Rouge Mission!!! This is going to be HUGE! I repeat HUGE! And I am quoting right now. So the Jackson Mississippi Mission is being dissolved and our mission is taking most of the area and missionaries starting on July 1. It will be crazazy!! Luckily we will still have the Varners.

This week was straight butter patch kids on rice like no doubt. I know that is hard to imagine, but just stay tuned. I hope it is more entertaining than Bob Ross, but y'all will just have to see. Missionary work this week was almost as swift as that guy moves the paint brush, and almost as full as the man's hair. I mean I have to be honest about it at least.

We had some really funny experiences this week with some interesting people too that were smiles :) I won't include them though to keep it clean and crisp, but just know I love Louisiana and the people here even more. The things I learn and see here in Louisiana will stay with me forever.... for good and for bad. Haha :D

A member of the ward that grew up with Alvin in elementary school was having the baptism of one of her sons. It was so great and such a special today. Since they went to school together she invited Alvin and his son Christian to attend as well. They absolutely loved it. We had a great lesson afterward with Alvin and he told us that the chances are 9/10 that he will be getting in the water here soon to take a soak! He didn't want to set a date, because he wants to pray about it first which is great. He is doing well. We also helped Therese move to a new apartment with the elders quorum, so she is getting back on her feet.

Miracle: Thursday was filled with miracles. It helps that exchanges always tend to bring an extra added measure of tender mercies for some reason. Before going out Elder Bagely and I prayed specifically that at least one person would be prepared for our message today. Well, the Lord truly provided and answered our prayers. We met this lady named Ariel out street contacting and she immediately invited us in. We shared a powerful message about the Book of Mormon with her and her brother-in-law. They were so excited to try and start making it to church. We thought that was the answer, but I mean it was only like 3 in the afternoon at that point so nothing was stopping us. We tracted into this lady with 2 kids, and she kindly said to come back later when her husband was home. So we started walking down the street and met this guy named Shawn. He wasn't too interested but was way nice regardless. Well, we ended up going back to see the family and Shawn turned out to be the husband :) They invited us in and we started talking about the Bible and B.O.M and found out the wife's grandma was a member years ago and always talked about how the Book of Mormon parallels perfectly with the Bible. That was awesome! But wait there is more: 
We met this guy named Chris last week and he specifically told us, "I'm Catholic and y'all won't convert me but I will listen to you." and so he said to come back this week. Well, he invites us in and turns out he is tired of the Catholic church and starts ranting for like 20 mins haha. He then told us that he was at a cross roads in life and needed help with his family. He has a fiance and a 5 year old. We taught the Restoration lesson, and went back the next day to give him the B.O.M. He told us him and Paige (his fiance) had read the entire pamphlet and "just needs to read the book." It was way cool though, because he realized for himself that Heavenly Father really had prepared him and sent us to him. He said, "I just think it is so interesting that y'all knock on my door looking for a member of your church last week, when we have lived here for 2 years. And it isn't until just recently that I am at this cross road in my life with God and religion and Paige and I just don't know what to do, but then y'all come knocking on my door. You could've come a year ago, but you came last week." Let's GOO!! It was unreal the blessings from the Lord. He truly answered our prayers by also answering the prayers of another at the same time. Alma 26:37, "God is mindful of every people in whatsoever land they may be in." I know that is true with all my heart.

Well, love y'all have a fantastic week!!
Elder Wilson

JANUARY 24, 2018

Hey y'all, 

Hope everyone is doing great! Things here in Mandeville are going well, and the work is moving forward. This week has been crazy busy with a general authority visiting the mission, but it was super great!

First and foremost, Alvin made it to church!! With his 9 year old son Christian. And loved it! His son is a total stud too. We all sat together in the front of the chapel and all of the talks were right on point. The speakers talked about having a fresh start and gaining a new life in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Also, Alvin was killing it in Elder's Quorum when we were discussing the story of Lehi/Nephi and the plates, because he loves Nephi. He probably knows the story better than most people haha it is awesome!! He was giving me a run for my money for sure ;) After church we went to find Christian and he comes running down the hallway telling us he gave the closing prayer in Primary. He was way excited to tell us too. It was awesome! LET's GOO!!

Miracle: This week I got to go on exchanges with Elder Bagley up in Covington and we had a blast on bikes tracting in the cold! Apparently it has been setting some records for coldness down here in Louisiana the last few weeks and so that has been unreal. Regardless we made some memories and found some solid people to teach. It was also the same day that the roads shut down for the first half of the day due to "black ice" and of course no one knows what to do down here if it gets cold haha. We found this great trailer park and these 2 different people invited us in to get warm and we shared the whole message :) We then felt like we needed to hit 2 more and one ended up being a crazy Hispanic guy bless his heart and a golden family!! They invited us in and we shared the message as well, and they told us how they have been looking for a church. (thinking about a church that I will remain nameless, but we were both like no not that one haha....not again.) It was way cool. On our way back that night the sun was down and my toes were freezing buckets off haha so I felt prompted either by my toes hurting or the spirit, one of the two, to just stop and hit this house. Let's just say that might have been one of my best door approaches yet LOL :) We got inside and started talking to this way nice lady, and she even gave us some hand warmers/little cuties to stuff in our socks. It was way awesome, and definitely a close 2nd to the Peach Cobbler door approach :)

So we have been "teaching" this guy named Connor that is in the process of getting his Master's degree in Theology and so you can just imagine the conversations we have haha, but it has been great. This week we taught him all about the Book of Mormon since he thought that Joseph Smith had written his account, etc. And he agreed to read the first 5 chapters if we read these 2 pages of stuff he gave us. Well, it ended up being total anti that was completely false, but made for a fun companionship study haha. Anyways, this week he invited us over to a church function over at his place with a bunch of friends from his church coming over. What did we do? Well, after reading the story of Abinadi in Mosiah 11-17 we were totally pumped to go over there! I may or may not have been picturing myself in the scene of Abinadi and the counsel except with Connor and his church friends haha. Just kidding it really ended up being a great experience. They were asking us tons of questions about why we were out on missions, and we were able to bear our testimonies about it. It was way cool actually, and just hoping that an Alma was sitting in the room somewhere :)

Funny quotes from week: "So Bradford do you remember what enduring to the end is?"- Me
"Yeah that is not swearing right?"-Bradford. Haha. Another guy we were teaching after standing up from sitting on the couch, "Man I just felt the spirit, it almost knocked me out." Hehe.

Zone Conference was way good with Elder Costa of the seventy. He talked a lot about focusing on the present and living in the moment. Sometimes we find ourselves looking too far ahead, and forgetting to love the present that we are currently living. He also shared an inspired question, "How many times do you exercise your faith every week?" Hopefully everyday, because with faith anything is possible. Mark 9:23
Well, I will leave it at that. I love y'all, and thank you so much for your support. Stay blessed
Elder Wilson