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!
Love, 
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!
Love, 
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!!
Love, 
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
Love, 
Elder Wilson

JANUARY 16, 2018

Hey y'all, 

This week was definitely one for the books! I don't even know where to start. Heavenly Father has been blessing us a lot this week. We have been seeing so many doors being opened with finding former investigators and part member families too.
We have been meeting with Alvin and Therese several times and both are doing well. Alvin told us yesterday that he wants to start bringing his son Christian who is 9 to church with him. We asked him if he had prayed about the Book of Mormon, and he replied, "I keep inviting you back because of the answer I am getting." There ya have it. Way neat!

On exchanges last week I got to go with Elder Bagley and we had a blast tracting out in the cold! It isn't supposed to get cold here I thought, but regardless we bundled up, put on our slickers, and  it was awesome. We ended up tracting into this way nice couple that we were actually referred to by their neighbors, and they invited us right in. We talked with them for a little bit, and then Bill offered to give us a ride and throw our bikes in the back of his truck. We totally took him up on it and ended up teaching him about the Book of Mormon in the car, and everything :) I mean he couldn't go anywhere so it was perfect haha!

Miracle: The other day we were going through a list of 30 people that Bishop had given each companionship to verify the address and phone number for. Well, after 29 calls of disconnected numbers the very last call was to a guy named Steven. He answered the phone and tells us that they love missionaries and would love for us to come over. Well, turns out this guy hasn't been to church for many years, but  is a RM that served in Taiwan about 18 years ago. He just recently married this girl from Boston while attending Harvard residency. They have a 3 month old baby and so recently he has been thinking about how they should raise her and of course started thinking about church. His wife, Courtney, comes into the room and he starts asking her if she had heard much about Mormons. And then, subtly he asks us if the missionary lessons have changed and we said yeah. So he was like, "So Courtney would you be open to hearing the discussions the missionaries give?" She was like, "Yeah I would totally be open for that." Let's gooo!! It was way awesome and he totally set us up :) We are planning to set something up for this week!

One experience I want to share from this week was the opportunity to go back to Baton Rouge on Saturday for the baptism of Johane and her boys. I am so grateful that I was able tom get permission to attend that. Johane is the lady from Haiti that has 4 boys. Mitrel is 11, Miguel is 10, Michel is 9, and the youngest one, Ayden, is 2. The Mom, Johane, has so much faith. About 2 weeks ago she kicked her boyfriend out of the house so that she could prepare to be baptized. And you can imagine that from a Haitian lady :) The baptism was such a special and humbling experience for me that I will remember forever. I was able to be one of the witnesses to the baptisms and then I had the opportunity to confirm Mitrel and Michel members of the church and confer the gift of the Holy Ghost. I had never done that before, but Heavenly Father helped me :) The spirit was so strong with those boys it was amazing. Words cannot express the feelings that were shared. I will never forget the day Johane drove passed us and waved saying "Come, teach my family." And then week after week reading the sacred pages of the Book of Mormon with her precious boys. Tears fill my eyes as I remember one of the most heartfelt prayers given by Michel, as he shared, "Heavenly Father thank you for sending these men to share this book with us. I want to get to know you better. I promise to talk with you everyday." At times I wonder why I and many of us complicate things so much. The truth is that Heavenly Father wants to be a part of our lives, and he asks us to do simple things so that we can draw closer to him. Seeing the faith of these boys has renewed my testimony of the scripture in Mosiah 3:19 "the natural man is an enemy to God, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy spirit and becometh as a little child submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love willing to submit to all things the Lord seeth fit."  I remember the first day we brought the Book of Mormon to them and their eyes lit up. We started to leave, and the 3 boys continued to read out loud together.
 I remember the day that Mitrel came running up to us one of the days that we came saying, "Did you know there were large plates and small plates?" I smiled as he began to read about them both :) I am so grateful for my mission and the blessing it has been for me. I know that the gospel of Jesus Christ is real, and that is because the spirit has reconfirmed that to me time and time again.
I love y'all and thank you so much for your prayers and support.
Love, 
Elder Wilson

Monday, January 8, 2018

JANUARY 8, 2018

Hey Familia!! This week was really great! 

The Lord is really blessing the work here in this area. We met with Therese a few times this week and she is just loving it. It is amazing how the Lord puts people in our path at the certain times of their life that they are willing to listen and accept the gospel. She has been really turning her life around, and looking for a job right now. Sometimes Heavenly Father humbles us in our lives in order to bring further light and knowledge. I love teaching Therese, because she is so willing to learn and accepts everything we teach so easily. We asked her why she accepts everything so quickly even though she was raised Catholic for many years and she said, "I have felt so happy the last few weeks meeting with you, and so everything you share just brings more happiness." That made me smile, and boosted me so much that day. She has made such good friends with a family in the ward and so that has been great. 

We went on exchange in Picayune, Mississippi last week, and met some very interesting people to say the least. The first house we went into there were 4 kids running around with 3 big dogs, and all of which were eating raisins and tortillas off the floor. That was nerve wracking, but boy were they so humble and willing to hear the message of the restoration. It was awesome! Beats prideful religious people (not naming any specific religion ;)) any day of the week haha. And then we met this guy named Patrick who is probably one of the most ADD guys I have met so far on my mission, and that is saying a lot haha. He literally told us his whole life story before we even introduced ourselves, like most Louisianians, and then showed us his entire collection of the "word of God" which included any sort of religious book you can think of. Just imagine that. It was so funny!  Also, I gave the prayer before we left, and literally after 2 seconds into the prayer he started moving the books and saying their titles out loud. Haha I loved it!

Miracle: We met with the investigator Alvin that we found tracting last week at our gold mine trailer park, and he had read the entire introduction to B.o.M, testimonies, and had tons of questions for us. It was incredible! He then told us that his fiance Desiree knew all about the church and actually mentioned it before we even knocked on the door last week, because they were talking about going back to church for their 7 kids. Alvin then told us that she worked at this Circle K gas station and so we went and visited her there. Turns out, Desiree (his fiance') is literally a member of the church and was baptized in 2008 along with one of her daughters in one of the wards in Baton Rouge. She was so excited to see us and had no idea there was a church in Mandeville/Covington area. Apparently when she moved she lost track of the church. She said she knows we were sent by God, because it was the perfect timing in their life and relationship, and she said she wants it to be a family thing for them. She was also just recently promoted to Manager of the gas station so is going to start getting Sundays off here soon to go to church as a family! Let's gooo!! I am so stoked! I know Heavenly Father really does answer prayers and this is His work. ---Alvin made it to church and loved it :) He introduced himself in Priesthood as well, and it was way cool.

I wanted to end with my gratitude and thoughts for President Thomas S. Monson. He has been the prophet since I can really remember, and has made an impact on me. I remember receiving a book about his life for Christmas a few years back and loved it. It has inspired me so much, and I love the promise in the scriptures that the spirit can bring all things back to our remembrance, because there have been times on my mission where I remember his profound counsel. He shared many experiences of following the promptings of the spirit including visiting the nearest hospital, feeling the need to visit a ward member, and many others. Although the promptings and circumstances were different one thing was the same--The Lord had prompted him to act and a miracle in his eyes or a tender mercy in another's was present. He committed to Heavenly Father that he would never miss a prompting, and that has given me such inspiration. What a man.

Well, that's it for this week. I love y'all so much and hope everyone has a great start back to school! Stay blessed. And of course low and frosty.
Love, 
Elder Wilson

JANUARY 2, 2018

Happy New Year's y'allers!! Hope everyone stayed low and frosty and had a fantastic holiday! But hey let's be honest, it couldn't have beat getting the LSU football game updates at every door we knocked on yesterday afternoon haha. Except the fact that it was a blistering 34 degrees outside.... and we were freezing our buckets off. Anyways, I almost busted out the Geaux Tigers Jesus pass along cards, but I guess those are still in the approval process in SLC :) Maybe next year! 

This week was really great! We pulled our socks up and gave it our all. We have been doing a whole ton of finding as you can imagine, since we got doubled in here but it has been awesome! The Lord truly does prepare people for us to find and teach no matter the circumstances. We were out trying to contact a less active in this trailer park and ended up meeting this guy named Alvin. He has 8 kids and has been totally seeking the truth. He was like, "You know, it's weird that y'all knocked on my door today because I be thinking about how to help these kids find Jesus since they be trippin." (paraphrased, definitely said it better than that haha) We ended up talking to him for a bit about the Restoration, gave him a pamphlet, and went back the next day. He had read the entire thing and was sooo interested in getting a Book of Mormon. We had misplaced it, and so didn't have one on us for some reason, and he was like, "Bruh, I want that book." haha so we totally went back and got it for him and had an awesome lesson with him. He was having some car troubles or he would've made it to church! Way excited to follow up with him.

Miracle: In that same trailer park we were walking down the street, and this car stops right next to us. These 2 girls roll down the window (prob around 23) and asked us what we were doing. Anyways, we shared a little bit and then they told us to come back the next day. We did, and they then told us the full story. Apparently Tashila, and her sister Kya were driving down that road listening to a song about Jesus, and both just started crying from feeling the spirit. They then saw us walking and both felt prompted to stop the car and talk to us. They had no idea why, but just felt like they needed to. We taught them the full restoration lesson, and they were all over it. Unfortuantely, (but I guess still fortunately) Tashila was moving to Lafayette the very next day so we have to hand her off to the missionaries over there, but so incredible that we met her at the perfect time. 
Update with Therese: She is doing great!! We had several lessons with her this week, and after the plan of salvation lesson we committed her to baptism. She still has a few struggles she is working passed, and so after praying we all felt like Feb. 17 was the day to set. A little bit away, but she is super excited about it. The ward has fellow-shipped her soooo well, it has been great!

Also, this week we were asked to speak in the ward on Sunday. It was actually really great to be able to introduce ourselves and try and get the ward on our side here! We both spoke about building up of the Kingdom of God here on the Earth. What better topic for missionaries to speak on than that am i right? It was such a blessing for me to be able to prepare the message, because it helped me to key in on some of the most important aspects of missionary work: befriending those around us, and doing service for them. Both of these are perfect segways into sharing the restored gospel with others. I also tried tieing it all in with faith. I love the quote from the Bible Dictionary, "True faith always moves its possessor to some kind of physical and mental action. When we have true faith, we will always strive to act. I believe that the same is true when we start losing our faith, it is because we have stopped acting on the faith that we once had. I love the gospel of Jesus Christ and know that it is true. I know that when we do act on our faith, that we find a certain happiness that we won't be able to find anywhere else. With a new year brings new experiences and new obstacles, but it also brings a new opportunity to change and improve.

I love y'all so much and am thankful for each of you in my life. I hope everyone has a blessed week and stays prayed up!
Love, 
Elder Wilson