Wednesday, January 25, 2017

JANUARY 24, 2017

Hey Y'all
I hope everyone had as good of a week as I did here in New Orleans! I wasn't sure if it would be my last week, and so I made sure to make it great.  We got transfer calls this morning and it looks like I am heading out of New Orleans tomorrow bright and early. I wasn't sure what would happen this transfer, but was excited regardless. So, surprising news, President Hansen called me this morning to be a Zone Leader in a different part of the mission. I was a bit shocked since I still feel so new in the mission, but I know without a doubt that the Lord qualifies whom he calls. I learned that pretty quick as I felt like at times such an inadequate trainer :) It has been an amazing experience training Elder Hicken though, and we have become such good friends. As far as my next journey, I just have to trust in Him and He will do the rest. I won't know where at until tomorrow, but it will be quite the adventure I am sure!

This last week here in New Orleans couldn't have been any better. I guess unless we had a baptism :) but regardless it was fantastic! I am so thankful for the opportunity to start off my mission here in New Orleans. I sometimes feel like I just got here and that I am still so new. Anyways, I have learned so much and have come to really love the people here. I will be forever grateful for the friends that I have made and am excited for what the future has in store! I am glad that the MLK march has brought and will continue to bring so many referrals to the missionaries here.

I wanted to share a couple highlights of the week:
Our most promising investigator named Lily was able to make it to Church again this week! She has come two Sundays in a row and is totally on a roll! She told us afterward how much she enjoyed it and how excited she was for her baptism on Feb. 18th. We were able to teach another lesson on the priesthood and baptism with her and her sister Kristi that came to Church one Sunday. Kristi told us that she needed a little time and would pray about getting baptized with her sister Lily. We are hoping that Lily shares her testimony with Kristi and that they continue to strengthen each other!

The other experience that I want to share is with the Less active I have had the privilege of meeting here in New Orleans. Grant Hiatt has been inactive from the church for over 25 years and became so about 9 months after his mission. The first time I met him was the first week of my mission and it was to this day the hardest "anti" that I have ever experienced. It was discouraging at first and I felt pretty inadequate as a missionary. Nonetheless, I kept pushing forward and strengthening my own testimony. For whatever reason, we kept going back and seeing him every few weeks. The second time was almost as bad as the first.  But then, something changed. The challenges he was facing in life sparked the at least small amount of faith that was left. He then became more open and shared miracles from his mission. I have already shared a few experiences like the March 1980 ensign miracle, and the first time we were able to share a spiritual message with him, but this last week I again asked if we could share a spiritual message. Now this was only the 2nd time he was open to it and we shared Alma 32:21, 27 about faith. And then about "if ye can no more than desire to believe" to take action. The spirit was so strong and I had no words for a minute. Then with all the boldness and courage that I could muster I invited him to Church on Sunday.  He quickly declined and told us how it would take a lot more to get him to step foot in a church building again since it had been more than half of his life. I felt so discouraged and wondered why I even tried. Later that night though, he gave us a call and thanked us for the invitation and told us he would come! Sure enough, Sunday finally rolled around and he sat with us in the Chapel. It was a wonderful experience. I know that the Lord puts people in our path that are just waiting for the invitation to come home. This was a huge step for Grant and I am humbled to have been an instrument in God's hands to plant a seed of faith in his heart. I hope and pray he will continue to make those steps in the right direction, even if it may take a little more time. 
It has been a blessing to serve in this part of the Lord's vineyard for a time and meet such wonderful people. I am excited for what He has in store for me next!

I love y'all so much and am thankful for the prayers in my behalf. I feel them. 
Elder Wilson

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

JANUARY 17, 2017

Hey y'all Happy MLK Jr. day! As all of you can probably imagine it is a huge holiday down here in New Orleans!

I first wanted to share about the MLK jr. day holiday down here where we had a blast! On Sunday right after our Church all of the missionaries in the New Orleans Zone (like 40 of us) met up at a super awesome old St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church to participate in their program and reach out to them. All of us missionaries were able to sing Love one another, called to serve, I am a child of God, and a few other hymns for the large congregation. That was such an amazing experience!! President and Sister Hansen also came down and were able to share testimonies to the congregation. Pres. Hansen was pretty bold and shared the B.O.M scripture in 2nd Nephi 26:32-33 that talks about all men coming together and partaking of the goodness of God. That Christ is no respecter of persons. It was powerful. Then we were able to enjoy the what felt to be rock concert to finish off the church service :) It was legit! Then yesterday (Monday) for MLK jr. day the 40 of us missionaries we were also all able to participate in the parade march in downtown New Orleans. It was so much fun. We all lined up holding signs of Martin Luther King jr. quotes and scripture references and paraded all across the city in memory of that wonderful leader . We got to talk to so many different people while sharing short pass along card messages with them. I feel like we reached out to so many people yesterday and became an influence for the better. I also thought that we really helped to reach out to some of the members of the community while sharing our testimonies and singing with them at their Church. That was such a privilege to share that day with them. What was also really cool  was Monday afternoon while heading over to one of our appointments this little African American kid waved at us and beckoned for us to stop. He then told us that he saw us in the parade and wanted us to teach his family. His parents were busy at the time, but we made sure to set up a time to go back again. That was really awesome. I also had a nice interview with President Hansen on Sunday and received some fantastic advice especially on teaching studied up ministers and students.
Here are a couple funny sights of the week:
1) We were biking along and say this guy literally carrying a full size mattress on his head while biking down the street. You gotta do what you gotta do I guess haha :D
2) After coming out of a lesson we saw this guy totally trying to steal our bikes that were locked on a street sign and just startled him and started teaching him about Christ-like attributes. It was so funny because we started teaching him about being trustworthy and honest :) Now that would be an awesome conversion story haha. 

Here are a few other highlights of the week: 
We had many investigators attend Church this week, but specifically two of the ones that we invited from our lessons. Lily and Kristi were able to make it to Church and we sat with them and explained all of the different parts of the program. They seemed to really enjoy the meetings and classes. It was especially cool when during the lesson on priesthood in gospel principles Lily leaned over and asked if that was the same priesthood that I gave her a blessing that made her back feel better the other week. I assured her that it was and she smiled. Hopefully that deepened her testimony of the priesthood and helped her feel the spirit. We went and met with her yesterday and she continued to tell us how much she loved Church and wanted to go every week. We taught a wonderful lesson on ordinances and further on the priesthood and then committed her to baptism on February 18! 

The last experience I want to share is with the less active that we have been working with named Grant Hiatt. We went to see him and found out that his family situation isn't going too well right now. We have been trying to help him remember the spiritual experiences that he had on his mission and he continues to share mission miracles with us. We told him that we would continue to pray for him. We hadn't ever really shared spiritual messages with him from the scriptures since he would usually anti us, but this week I had the courage to ask if we could share a scripture with him. He agreed and I shared the scripture in D+C 122: 6-8 that talks about Joseph Smith going through so much persecution and hardship, but that the Lord promised that it was for his experience and for his good. The spirit was so strong and we all started to tear up as we shared this scripture together. Tears flowing down his face he thanked us for being there and never giving up on him. We have made a lot of progress with Grant and hopefully can get him to come back to Church soon! 
I could go on all day, but overall a fantastic week! I love y'all and am so grateful for you.
Elder Wilson

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

JANUARY 9, 2017

Hey y'all,  Happy Holidays!
This week was pretty great! I had quite the light bulb moment this week after talking to an investigator. We were talking to this guy and he mentioned that he goes to Church every single week. Since everyone goes to a different church around here "every week", we asked what Church he went to. He told us, "the one right der aroun dat corner." I didn't think anything of it until we were biking away, and decided to look for the Church on the corner. Well, needless to say, the only "church" that we could find on the corner was the big yellow Church's Chicken fast-food restaurant. HAHAHA I thought that was pretty hilarious! We solved the faithful church attendance mystery of the south :)

The work here is going well and we are working hard! We were able to experience some amazing miracles this week that I would like to share.
We were looking for a referral that we were given in an apartment complex, but didn't know that it was an apartment complex until we got there. The referral didn't have an apartment number in the information either, so we were a bit discouraged. We were about to bike away when we were prompted to talk to a man named John sitting on a bench outside the complex a little ways away. We ended up sharing the P.O.S lesson with him and finding out that he was waiting for a friend to come out and give her a ride to the store. We talked to him for a while and then the lady that he was waiting for came out and introduced herself as Glenda. She told us that she had been taught by missionaries in the past in New Orleans a couple years ago! She told us that she had moved across the city and the missionaries must have just lost track of her. She was excited when we assured her that we would love to start teaching her again! We met with her again later in the week and taught a wonderful Restoration lesson. We found out that she had started reading in the Book of Mormon in the index haha. Well, I guess that is a start. We are going to try and get her to come to Church this week as well. 

One of our other progressing investigators is named Kim Turner. We had taught her a few times before the Holidays, and she was loving reading in the Book of Mormon. Every week we would come back and discuss what she had read so that was awesome. This week we committed her to come to Church! Sunday rolled around and we were a bit nervous when the rides to pick up Kim kept cancelling. However, it ended up being a success and Kim was able to make it to Church for the first time! We sat with her during sacrament meeting and she seemed to absolutely love it! She enjoyed singing the hymns and listening to the powerful testimonies that were shared. I found it also amazing that there seemed to be a theme to the testimonies shared this week. Almost every person shared about their baptism and lots of converts bore powerful testimonies about the truth of the Gospel. It was a wonderful sacrament meeting and the spirit was so strong. She told us after Relief Society that she loved the sisters in the ward and that they gave her a list of all of the activities. The Relief Society President is awesome and reached out to her so much. She even told her that she would be willing to pick her up for the all of the activities! What a blessing it is to have faithful selfless members. We look forward to seeing Kim progress and kindle those friendships in the Church, because that is soo important.

We also had several less active members come to Church this week so that was fantastic! We have still been working with the less active in our area, Grant Hiatt as well, and I think are getting so close. I will share more about him next week. 

I love being a missionary and striving my very best to bring people unto Christ! I love reading the scriptures everyday and feeling of the love that He has for each and everyone of us. It has been a blessing to serve the Lord, and I hope that we can all strive to gain a closer relationship with Him this year. Thank you so much for the love and prayers. I hope y'all have a fantastic week!
Elder Wilson

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

JANUARY 3, 2017

Happy New Year!
Hope y'all had a fantastic holiday season this year (last year :D)! This week has been pretty superb and crazy as usual! Yesterday we were unable to email since the libraries were closed, but we were able to talk and see tons of tourists here for the Sugar Bowl at the Superdome. The fans were getting pretty heated over there at the French Market, and needless to say we only had to break up a couple fights :) so no worries there. We met up with the other missionaries in the district and I got to officially welcome my trainie to Louisiana with the hottest hot sauce challenge in the domestic U.S. so that was neat! He was losing his sushi a little bit after that though bless his heart. My tongue is still burning from that haha, good gravy. We then went to the aquarium and saw some massive sharks and electric eels. That was sweet!

Well, the last couple weeks of sharing the gospel during the holiday season has been wonderful! So many more people have been receptive to hearing the messages that we share than I have ever experienced. Such a blessing. I wanted to just share a couple miracles that we had this week. 
More often than not I have found that we have been taking the same routes from appointment to appointment for months now. It dawned on me that we may have been missing out on finding those truly prepared for the gospel. Therefore, we decided to make it a goal to change up all of our usual routes and be more led by the spirit. Sure enough, the spirit led us to so many people that seemed so prepared for the messages of the gospel. We had tons of success!! 
While biking a street that we had never been on before we saw three people sitting out on their porch enjoying the holidays. As we felt prompted to go and talk with them we found out that one of them had just previously ordered a Book of Mormon online a few days before and it was being mailed to her! She told us and her friends that were there that she had been taught by missionaries in the past when she lived in Houston, but lost track of the Church.  She told us that she recently became interested again and was super excited to see us. We were able to have a fantastic restoration lesson with her and her two friends there. We gave each of them their own copy of the B.O.M and they loved it. We look forward to continuing to teach them.
I also wanted to give a quick update on Sonny D (the recent convert that was shot 9 times in Nov.). We were able to visit him a couple times during the holidays and read scriptures with him. He is doing extremely well! We showed up at his Mother's home intending on trying to start teaching her and found that he was upstairs. Now, let me attempt to describe the stair case. This house has one metal spiral stair case from the bottom floor to the top floor. Now this isn't just a regular spiral stair case either. It is probably the smallest and most confined stair case (let alone spiral stair case) that I have ever seen, and Sonny D was upstairs. I have no idea how he got up there haha. After much strenuous effort even for us, we were able to make it upstairs to see Sonny. He looked so good. He can walk around now with his small cane. The physical therapists told him 6 months, and it has been less than 2. He is a walking miracle. The power of the priesthood is amazing, and we were able to share with him scriptures from the Book of Mormon about faith, and how through faith ANYTHING is possible. We expect to see more good things from Sonny D, and hopefully his experience will bring his family closer to Christ.
Also, on Sunday I was given the opportunity to speak in sacrament meeting. I thought it went really well, and it was pretty funny because probably 75% of the congregation was visitors. Since it was New Years day I spoke on setting goals and striving to be better examples of Jesus Christ this year. I shared the story of Lot and his family found in the old testament and specifically how Lot's wife looked back at the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and was turned into a pillar of salt. It wasn't just that she looked back, but that she longed to be back and enjoy the life she had previously lived. I encouraged everyone to look toward the future with faith in Christ and a desire to be better tomorrow than we were today, and this year than we were last year. I made sure to implement a star wars quote as well, so I think that put it over the top :D. I shared the story of Alma the younger and when he was rebuked by and angel of the Lord for persecuting the Church. He experienced an "awakening." I then asked the congregation "if they felt it?" Haha it was classic. 
Well, that is all for this week folks. Thank you so much for the love, support, and prayers in my behalf this holiday season. It is a blessing to have such wonderful family and friends. I love y'all so much!
Elder Wilson