Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween

Friends and Family, 

This week, like the previous week, has been a lot of working and knocking doors but not a lot of interested people. However, I've come to realize that the lack of other people to work with has been a blessing and opportunity from Heavenly Father to help me to focus and work on myself! 

At the very end of the week, we were able to see a miracle from all of our consistent efforts in these past two weeks. My companion and I were walking around the area, trying to contact some recent-converts and less-actives when I asked him how deep into the streets our area goes. He said that it doesn't go very deep, that we've worked most of the lower parts except for one little round-about. For whatever reason, I asked if we could walk to the other side of our area to go see if there were any houses on the round-about. 

We made our way across the entirety of our area, which isn't too big in the first place but seems a lot bigger on foot, and saw a single house on the side of the round-about. We saw a young man and a young woman outside trying to round up a lost chicken that had escaped the fence. My love for farm animals made it really easy to go up and approach them and help them chase this loose chicken around until we finally caught it. I explained who we were, and what we do as missionaries and started bearing my testimony of the importance of the message we bring. The young man responded with the fact that he struggles believing in God, however his family inside might be interested. 

He brought us into his Grandmother's house where his sister and mother and uncle and grandma were all gathered around talking with one another. Right as we walked in, the older sister started talking to us and we learned that her father was a member of the church and was baptized a couple years ago. She and her ex-husband had taken the lessons with the missionaries after her father was baptized and used to read the Book of Mormon every night. At that time, she was struggling with depression, divorce, and a difficult pregnancy. We talked to her about the Holy Ghost and pointed out the feelings that she used to feel when she met with missionaries. She looked at her mother and looked back at us and told us that back when the missionaries used to come, that was the highlight of her week. As she began to recount her experiences with missionaries she told us that she thinks that she wasn't ready for the message then, but that now might be her time. She jokingly said that God let that chicken out of the fence just so we could find her family again. She also said that she was very impressed with the LDS church, because despite the fact that her father hasn't attended church in over two years, home teachers have continued to come by and visit. 

On church on Sunday, we found the home teacher that has continued to visit this brother of the church for over two years despite not seeing any fruits from his labors. As we told him everything that had happened and that because of his efforts to magnify his calling, a family is open and welcome to the gospel. His eyes filled with tears as he looked at us and said, "When I first began home teaching that family, I felt discouraged because no matter what I did, I saw no fruits. The Elder's Quorum President promised me that if I kept diligent at it, I would see miracles." 

The spirit touched me as I related to this faithful brother and his feelings of discouragement and disappointment. God's timing is perfect. Magnifying our calling brings blessings and miracles. No matter what may be going on around us, miracles are waiting right around the bend. 

"And they went forth whithersoever they were led by the Spirit of the Lord, preaching the word of God..." (Alma 21:16)

Con Mucho Amor, 

Elder King

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Life Experience

Friends and Family, 

Serving here in Yakima is really something else. The area that Elder Wilson and I work is the most dangerous area in the mission and we see a lot of crazy things. Over the past three months that I've been here, I've seen some of the most humble living conditions and situations.

I went on exchanges with some of the Elders in our zone this week and while on exchanges, Elder Anderson and I knocked some houses and met this really sweet woman. We talked with her and got to know her and talked about the message that we share as missionaries. She told us that her husband was working but that his grandmother is a member of the church, so she was slightly familiar with the LDS church and missionaries. We asked if we could set a return visit and she told us that we could come back Sunday evening. 

Last night, Elder Wilson and I went over and knocked on the door and her husband was home and instantly let us in. We talked with him for a bit and he went and got his wife and son and brought them into the room to talk with us. I followed up with them on all of the hard trials they were going through. Their landlord is selling the house they currently live in right out from beneath their feet, they can barely afford filling up their car with gas, their house is haunted, and it's nearly impossible for them to find a new house to rent because they both have a criminal history and can't find anyone that is willing to rent to them. As we were discussing, the mother told the son to go to the room to work on a piggy bank for a little bit. As he left, she looked at her husband and they both opened up to us and explained that she was being charged with secondary robbery and they aren't sure what is going to happen to their family. They both broke down in complete tears for the fear that their family would be split apart. The wife left the room to try and recompose herself for a moment and while she was away the husband told us that it was very hard for him to have faith that things would work out fine. He said that when he went to prison the last words he said to his mother was "I just don't have faith anymore" and those exact words are what his wife said to him the day prior. 

The wife returned and the husband asked if we could give her a priesthood blessing. I looked at them both and told them that we could, and explained a little more on the priesthood. I explained that the blessing comes directly from God, not from Elder Wilson nor I. I explained that I did not know what was going to happen to them, but I did promise that God was aware of their situation and conditions and would help their family. 

Before I gave the blessing, I flashbacked to one very fateful day over one year ago when Elder Wilson and I were out tracting in the rain in The Dalles. We were knocking these apartment complex doors and nobody had opened until the very last door. A nice gentleman had opened the door, told us that he was busy and that another day would work best. We came back the next day and the same thing happened. We went back one more time, discouraged and believing that the man would just disregard us again. We knocked, and to our surprise he opened the door and let us right in. He introduced himself as Gary and asked us if we would share our message with him. We taught the Restoration, and afterwards he told us that his wife is a member and had been in prison for the past two years and that he had been watching over his kids while she was away and he had spoken with missionaries before and wanted to be baptized. One month later, Gary was baptized. His wife is now free, and they are working towards the temple together. I'll attach a picture from his baptism.

I shared that story with them, and told them that I knew that no matter what they could keep their family together because I had seen it personally. We gave them a blessing, told them we would come back during the week to help them clean some things up, and went on our way. 

There are many, many things that I learned from that experience. I could go on for hours talking about things that I learned from that. Rather than make this email any longer, I want to share just two things that I took away. One, the atonement of Jesus Christ is for each and every single one of us. Through Him and His sacrifice, any mistake we make can be completely erased, forgiven, and forgotten. There is no depth that we can reach to where the grace of Jesus Christ cannot reach down further. Second, Heavenly Father gives us trials and tribulations to help us to grow and progress. Every thing that happens in our life, can be for our benefit. 

I'm grateful for each and every one of you, and love you all. Thank you for all of your support, thoughts, and prayers.

Con Mucho Amor, 

Elder King

Monday, October 17, 2016

Unexpected Fruits


Friends and Family, 

These past couple of weeks have been an interesting trial of patience for both Elder Wilson and I. We've been working really hard and have spent a ton of time out in the streets of Yakima, trying to find new people that need the gospel, but what seemed to be to no avail. Nobody we taught seemed to keep commitments, and every door we knocked seemed to be another stale contact. I knew that what was happening was part of the Lord's plan for our area at that time, however the rejection didn't get any easier. 

Despite seeing no fruits from our labors personally, we knew we would be blessed for being diligent and obedient. On Thursday we went over to visit Angelina, the less-active lady we found earlier in the week. We talked with her about scripture study to try and help her to have the spirit in her home. We talked about coming to church, but due to some medical conditions that she was facing she told us that the odds that she would be able to make it to church were very slim. We discussed priesthood blessings and talked told her that we would come back on Saturday to give her a blessing and talk about coming to church the following day. 

That Saturday after we gave her the blessing she thanked us over and over again and kept referring to us as her angels for coming to help her and bring the spirit back into her life. She still was unsure that she would be able to attend church, but promised us that she would do her best. 

On Sunday as we were welcoming and greeting people as they entered the building, we saw little old Angelina with her walker get out of a recent-convert's car and start heading towards the building. She had the biggest grin on her face as she saw us and scurried as quickly as she could to get into the building. We were so happy to see her, the joy was indescribale. Members came up to us throughout the day thanking us for getting her back to church, telling us that they haven't seen her come to church in over ten years. The blessings didn't stop there! We had another less-active recent convert come to church as well that hasn't been in quite some time. 

Seeing two of Heavenly Father's children return to church and partake of the sacrament that day was something special. The joy we felt seemed like Heavenly Father giving us a sneak peak to the joy we will have as we continue to labor diligently in our little part of the vineyard he has assigned us to. As I reflect on this experience, two things come to mind. We can be ministering angels to those around us. There are Amulek's out there, just waiting for their Alma's to come and help bring them back to church. Second, every effort we make in the work of the Lord never goes unnoticed by Him. Time spent serving God and others is time well spent. 

Con Mucho Amor, 

Elder King

Temple Trip


Friends and Family, 

Our zone had our temple trip today and it was great, obviously. I don't think I've ever heard anybody come back from the temple saying, "Ahh man that was terrible, I really regret doing that!" I started fasting last night for some guidance and direction from Heavenly Father today in the temple, and it was very cool to really take the teachings in D&C 9 and apply them to my personal life. I've decided to set a goal that after my mission I will strive to attend the temple at least once a month. The members that drove us today go once a week! At least!

It's been a pretty busy past week and a half. Super weird, with Elder Wilson going home in a couple of weeks. I find myself having deja vu since he was my trainer and now I'm his final companion and I feel like we've done all of this before. We've had MLC and Zone Training Meeting and Elder Wilson and I really tried to help our zone lift their vision and their faith in the work of the Lord. There is really such a huge difference between doing things just because we are supposed to do them, and doing them with an 'eye of faith' as Alma describes. Test it out this next week. Really focus on the faith you have in your prayers and in everything you'll do. You'll see a difference, I can promise that.

A couple weeks ago after general conference while I was waiting for my companion in the bathroom, a gentleman came up to me and I started talking to him about how he liked conference. We chatted for a brief moment, and then he stopped and looked at me and said that he could really feel the spirit about me. He began talking about this single lady that he knows that lives in an apartment complex in our area. He explained that she's a member, but hasn't been to church in a very very long time. He asked if I would stop by sometime, and I promised him I would. 

Last night we were finally able to have an appointment with her where she was home and we were able to come in. We talked with her and got to know her better, and learned so much about her and how due to medical conditions she hasn't been able to attend church for a long long time. She has a friend who lives on the floor beneath her who comes to help her with household things every once in a while, and as we talked he would ask a question every once in a while. We began to catch her up on all that has happened with the branch in the past couple of years, and she became so excited to hear all about it that she just kept smiling and laughing and clapping. We had a recent convert with us for the lesson and as he talked about how his girlfriend introduced him to the church and how it changed his life, this sweet sister looked at her friend and said, "Andale! Vamos!" and invited him to come right then and there. It was really cool to see the miracles come due to one member having the faith to ask us to visit somebody, and us as missionaries having the faith that there was a reason for us being there. 

Con Mucho Amor, 

Elder King 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

My First Baby

Friends and Family, 

To begin this week's email, our story begins Monday evening. In the branch, there is this family that Elder Wilson and I are very close to. The Estrada Family. Hermana Estrada and her kids are members, but her soon to be husband, Jose, is not. He is planning to get married and baptized towards the end of this month. He is really really cool and is practically a member, he just hasn't been able to get baptized for quite some time due to some legal complexities with getting married. Hermana Estrada has been very pregnant my whole time I've been here, and Monday she asked if we could come by and give her a blessing. We stopped by towards the end of the night and talked with the family and somehow made it out of there without giving her a blessing. Later that night we both realized we had somehow forgotten to accomplish what we had originally planned on doing. We thought to ourselves, "Ahh. No worries, we'll just give her the blessing tomorrow."

The next morning at around 6:40am, we were at the gym in the church working out when the sister missionaries run in screaming their heads off about how Hermana Estrada is having her baby and how she needs a blessing. Elder Palacios, Elder Wilson, and I all had our own reactions. Elder Wilson got super excited and happy and started heading out the door almost immediately. Elder Palacios was more like, "Hold up, let me change my shoes." I was very confused and just looked around trying to figure out what was happening. Foreshadowing for what our reactions will be like when we become future fathers. 

We hurried out of the church and rushed home to put on a shirt and tie and then rushed quickly over to the hospital. We got permission to enter her room to give her a blessing and took some pictures with her to capture the moment. We kept telling her. "Smile!" and her response was "I can't!". I guess that's what having a baby will do to you. We stuck around the hospital and helped her and Hermano Estrada out with anything that they needed, and about 5 hours later the baby was born. Waiting in the hospital felt like a TV show or a movie or something. It was cool, I liked it a lot and learned a TON. 

While out tracting in this one trailer park in our area, we ran into a less-active member who attends the English Ward. He had a bunch of really cool swords on the wall and a record player and was a really cool and humble guy. We talked with him and invited him to start coming back to church, and he promised he would! We saw him at the church building yesterday. Goes to show that small and simple invitations can have a huge impact on people's lives. 

Conference this weekend was very enlightening. I went into the weekend with three questions in mind, and had all three answered. I'll just share some highlights that I took away from all of the talks. 

"A loving God is as close as a prayer away." -Carol F. McConkie
"Boys, be ambitious." -Kazukiko Yamashita
"Whatever the cost of repentance, it is swallowed up in the joy of forgiveness." -Linda S. Reeves
"Service is not something we endure to obtain the Celestial Kingdom, it is the very fiber of eternal life." -Carl B. Cook
"Even the darkest nights shall turn into dawn for the faithful." -Evan A. Schmutz
"The gospel is truly about the one." -K. Brett Nattress

and one final quote (not from General Conference) that I saw in a member's home this week that I really enjoyed. 

"Comparison is the thief of joy." -Theodore Roosevelt 

Con Mucho Amor, 

Elder King

UT Takes over Zone Conference

(September 19, 2016)

Friends and Family, 

This past week has been so crazy. Elder Buchanan, one of the Elders that we live with, had to go home to get surgery this past week so Friday morning we had to help him pack up and send him off. It was really sad to see him go, but I'm already so excited for his return. It'll be even better than Lord of the Rings: Return of The King. I'll be Return of Elder Buchanan. 

His trainee, Elder Palacios, is now in a tri-pan with Elder Wilson and I. It is very weird and different being in a trip-pan but super fun because when we are out tracting and street contacting we run from door to door or person to person teaching Elder Palacios everything we know about missionary work. The other night as we were out finding people some guy in a truck just pulled over and got out and asked if we were missionaries. We responded with a classic "claro que si" and he began talking to us about how he wants to learn more about God and come to church so we gave him the address right then and there. 

At Zone Conference on Thursday, I was finally able to meet Hermana Hull. She is serving down in The Dalles Zone and was at UT this past year! It was so much fun to catch up with her on all that is going on down in the Capital YSA Ward at UT and hear about the fun experiences she had there. It was also partially an answer to my prayer. I've been really thinking and trying to decide where to go back to school after the mission, UT and BYU, and she gave her everything at trying to convince me to go back at UT. It helped me realize that either way, everything will all work out! 

This weekend we get transfer calls, which as always catches me off guard. The beginning of this transfer was pretty tough but these past couple of weeks have flown by. Stay tuned for what happens next week!

Con Mucho Amor, 

Elder King

Hearts Filled with Joy

(September 26th)

Friends and Family, 

Transfer calls have come and gone and I will be staying here in Yakima for another 6 weeks with Elder Wilson! It is his final transfer in the mission, so it's super weird that I will be his last companion considering that he was my first companion. When President Lewis called to give us the news, he told us that part of the reason why they kept us together is because I'm the only person they trust to keep Elder Wilson on track for his last 6 weeks haha! 

I feel like so so so much has happened since last time I've emailed you all. Last P-Day Elder Wilson and I put on a big event for the Yakima Valley Zone where we cooked carne asada and played mini games in an Olympic style. It was so much fun. This past Saturday as we were contacting people there was a huge parade going on down Yakima Ave from people from all over Washington. I saw R2D2 and the world's largest shopping cart! Check that one off the bucket list.

Friday morning I got some really crazy news. One of my investigators from Wenatchee, Rafael, was getting baptized that evening at 6pm. I taught him and his family for the entire 6 months that I served in Wenatchee, and to hear that he was finally getting baptized was the biggest blessing. I called pretty much every person I knew in central Washington to try and find a ride, and ended up borrowing one of the High Councilman's car and having a member from the branch drive us up so that I could be there for the wedding and the baptism. It was very very special to be there, and Hermana Villa and Rafael and Emelia were very surprised and happy that I was able to be there with them.

Last night, we had two baptisms in the Englewood Branch. Gregorio was someone that Elder Wilson and I worked with briefly for the past two weeks since we were put in a tri-pan with Elder Palacios. He has a broken foot, but insisted on being baptized last night because he didn't want to miss out on any of the blessings. As we gave him the gift of the Holy Ghost he couldn't help but cry because he was so overwhelmed with joy. Before he said the closing prayer, he started singing hymns to everyone and explained that his heart was filled with so much joy and he knew of no other way to express his thanks to God other then singing. 

"The greatest battle of life is fought out within the silent chambers of the soul.” -President David O. McKay

Con Mucho Amor,

Elder King