Monday, March 21, 2011

"Miraculous Miracle"

Dear Mother,

What an amazing past couple of weeks. I apologize for not writing because of other matters that needed to be taken care of. I am so thankful for the miracles that have taken place throughout my mission! Even now when there is 'little time remaining" the Lord continues to permit me to fulfill my purpose!

I think I have mentioned Mark Minium before. We have had a really hard time getting in touch with him, since he has been spending all his time trying to find a more suitable job. He has been working at a car rental shop near the airport. The problems with his job are:
1. He works evenings, which gives him little to no time with his son, Chris.
2. With his wife leaving him due to a drug addiction, he no longer has a second income and he can not provide with his income.
Like I said, Mark has been really busy. We occasionally would talk to him on the phone, but we had not been able to sit down and talk to him for about two weeks. All of his searching began to pay off on Wednesday (16th of March). Mark had a job evaluation with Waffle House to see if he was fit to be the store manager. On Thursday 17th of March, as Mark walked into  his work, his boss pulled him into his office and told him that he was fired. Mark was surprised by this, but he told us the first thing that came to his mind was, "I now have the 19th off. The Elders had spoken to me about some 'special baptismal service' on that day."  The second thought was, "The Lord has closed one door and is about to open another door at Waffle House." As Mark was driving home after being fired, he received a phone call from Wendy's. Mark had previously applied for a position, but they did not hire him because they did not have an opening. As he spoke to the representative from Wendy's they explained that a manager position opened up at Wendy's and they asked him to come and apply for the position. This really excited mark that things were looking up even though he had just lost his job.

Thursday night Mark called us to share the miracle that occurred with God closing one door, but then opening two other doors. We shared in his excitement and then he asked us about the "special baptismal service" that was supposed to be occurring the following day. Unknown to him, it was the baptismal date we had invited him to prepare for when we first met with him about a month ago. We asked him if we could stop by and explain everything the following day. I called up Elder Seamons, our faithful zone leaders, and explained the situation and he asked "Elder, How's your faith?" I replied I knew that God could perform a miracle. He said I need you to find me a ride from Seneca so you and I can go teach Mark. I accepted and went to bed.

Friday morning I started calling members trying to see if someone would be willing to drive me to Seneca to pick up Elder Seamons. We got in contact with Brother Grant. He said he would be willing to drive me. We went and picked up Elder Seamons and then Elder Seamons and I went to Mark's house. The Spirit was so strong as we taught Mark. Elder Seamons explained that the "special baptismal service" was for him and that he could still make it, since he has been to church twice. Mark accepted and we proceeded to teach him ALL of the lessons in one sitting. :) It reminded me of Ft. Jackson Military Post. After teaching him, Elder Seamons interviewed him and he passed his baptismal interview! After teaching him, we called up the Bishop explained everything and then called Brother Porter, our ward mission leader. They were both stunned, but they said we could proceed with the baptism! As we spoke to Mark, he explained that he would not be able to attend church this on Sunday, the 20th, since he had his second day of the job evaluation for Waffle House. He explained that if he got the job, he would have to work the following Sunday, but then after that he would be able to set his own schedule. We spoke to President McConkie and since he now has the keys to confirmation, he felt it was the less of two evils to confirm Mark a member of the church at the water side instead of having him wait another two weeks before he could receive the gift of the Holy Ghost!

Saturday, March 19th, was an exciting day as we prepared everything for the baptism. Mark arrived all dressed in his Sunday best and we had Tai Guam, an Elder of the church who is about to leave on his mission, perform the baptism. I was honored to confirm him a member of the church! It was a miraculous miracle. We started the week thinking we would not have a baptism, but the Lord provided the way that I was able to bring one more soul unto Christ on my last weekend as a full-time missionary!

I love this work! It never ends. I know Christ can heal all wounds. Witnessing the change of Mark has been great. Here was a man who was depressed and discouraged, with no hope when his wife left him, who is now a man of honor committed to following the Savior and willing to help others receive the restored truth like he has. I know the Gospel has been restored through the prophet Joseph Smith. The Book of Mormon is the word of God. I know God loves us and answers prayers. He answered Joseph Smith's as he searched for truth. He answered mine as I sought to know of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, and He has and will continue to answer those who humbly come to him with a sincere desire to know if the Gospel has been Restored. I love you all! I will see you soon enough, until then, there is still much to be done!

Love ya!
Elder Cowan

Monday, March 7, 2011

Brief Update

 Dear Family,

This week has been great! I would love to tell you about it, but I am out of time! Pray for Melissa. She has made huge progress. We got back in touch with Zack! He wants to be baptized; he almost has quit smoking!
I am serving in a three-some. Elder Hahn has joined the ranks. This allows them to continue to work after I leave!
I love you all! The church is true. I will try and write a hand written letter!
Elder Cowan

P.S. Daniel Langley, the man I wrote about two weeks ago got baptized! The day before the baptism, I went over to speak with him, and he wanted to back out of the baptism. I reassured him that he was prepared, he had repented from his sins by giving up cigarette and crew. As I spoke to him it encouraged him, and he realized the miracle that had already occurred in his life, and that he would trust in the Lord to continue to lead him throughout his life.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Alex Stancell's Baptism

Dear Family,

What a great week! With the new transfer started, I switched planners. I always use my planner to look back at the week and review all the events that have occurred. Without the planner, I may lose some details so bare with me!

Zach has been very flaky with us. He knows what he must do, but he currently lacks the faith that he can accomplish what the Lord asks of him. He did not come to church this week; he decided to go to his uncle's church instead. (His uncle is very anti.) I texted Zach this morning and he told us that he's not sure if he wants to visit with us anymore. Whatever happens, I know he felt the spirit bare witness to his soul of the truthfulness of the restored gospel. He will remember the feelings he's felt and he will return to them when everything else fails.

Mark Minium. We met with Mark this week with Elder Seamons (Zone Leader) and Elder Taylor (Assistant). They helped us teach Mark concerning the gospel of Jesus Christ. Mark is a really good guy. He wants the best for his son. He makes sacrifices every day to make sure they have a roof over their head. We pray for him that all will work out. He currently has four job interviews this week. I just hope and pray that he gets employment with someone who will honor his request to have Sunday's off.

Friday morning Elder Fisher and I were walking down a trailer park that we had knocked before, but we felt like going anyways. We knocked down the street, with nobody answering (which is really strange for trailers). We finally walked down to the last trailer on the right. We knocked on the door and we heard some noise inside, but nobody was coming to the door. We continued to wait and then Tiesha answered the door. We asked her if she would let us in and teach her about the Restoration of the Gospel, and at first she was not super interested. The door then opened wider and Lovy was standing next to Tiesha wanting to know who was at the door. Tiesha is 29 years old with a 7 year old Son. Lovy is 23 and she is pregnant with her first child, which is due in September.

We asked them which church they go to and Lovy told us that she attends the Baptist church, while Tiesha attends the Jehovah's Witnesses. They then explained to us how different their churches were and asked, "What do you think happens to us when we die?" We began to answer when they invited us into their home. We answered their question and then Lovy said, "How can I know what the truth is? I am so sick of all the confusion, I just want God to tell me a clear cut answer." Also, "How am I supposed to know when God  is talking to me? Maybe he's been answering my questions this whole time and I just don't know how he will answer." We then went into the Joseph Smith story about Joseph's similar questions. The spirit was really strong. It's amazing how the spirit always comes when we bare testimony of the restoration. Without it, we would just be any other church created by man, but I know that God is at the head of this church, this is why the spirit comes so strongly when we bare testimony of the restoration.

After we taught of the restoration, we taught them about the Holy Ghost, and how we can recognize the answers God sends us. We explained the still small voice and Tiesha began to cry. She explained, "I wasn't going to let you in, but the voice in my head said 'open the door' I now know that it was the Spirit telling me to let you in." Tiesha and Lovy asked us (before we could invite them) to come to church. We told them we wanted to give them a church tour. We asked if we could do it the following day, but they were busy all day Saturday. Tiesha asked, "Can we do it later today?" I was shocked that she would want to meet with us a second time within the same day. We set up a time for that evening to give them a church tour. Tiesha and Lovy showed up 15 minutes early for the tour and we had a member with us and had a great experience. Unfortunately, Tiesha & Lovy did not attend church. We will stop by today to see what happened.

Friday night we received a phone call from Brother Porter, asking us if we were sure the baptism was taking place on Saturday. He said he was calling the members to invite them and many of them said, "They decided to post-pone the baptism for another two weeks." I was shocked by this information because nobody had told me. I tried calling Allison, but she would not answer. We drove over to her house and knocked on the door and no answer. I went to bed Friday night stressed that we may not have a baptism the following day.

Saturday morning, we receive a text asking, can we post-pone the baptism? I replied saying we had it all organized and ready for today. Allison then told us that we could go forward with the baptism and they asked if Elder Fisher would perform the baptism! :D It was such a great surprise! 5:00 Saturday evening, Elder Fisher baptized Alex Stancell.

Sunday, Mark came to church, but Alex was not there! I was sitting in the pew trying to stay calm as we sang the opening hymn, but at the end of the hymn, Allison, and Alex walked into the chapel. Alex was confirmed by her grandfather. It was a great experience.

Life is going good! I love being a missionary. We received transfer information. Elder Fisher and I are going to be in a three-some with another missionary for the next four weeks. We will be picking him up tomorrow. I don't know who it will be! We shall see!

Life is great I love being a missionary, I will always be a missionary!

Elder Cowan

Monday, February 21, 2011

I Love the Work!

Dear Family,

We are not able to write very long because of the holiday. We are doing great! I love the work! I wish it could never end! I am so excited! Alex is getting baptized this weekend. Zack came to church again this week! Zack is such a good kid! He does have a major trial to overcome before he can be baptized. He smokes tobacco and weed. :( He is willing to give it up! Pray for Zack. He will make a huge sacrifice to come unto Christ. He has to not only overcome the anti he is receiving from his role-model, but he has to overcome the physical addiction.

We are also working with a man named Mark Minium. His wife left him after 16 years of marriage. Mark came to church. We will continue to work with these individuals. Well, I need to go. I think we are overstaying our visit with the members. I love you all!

Elder Cowan

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Lord Provides!

Dear Family,

What a wonderful week. Things did not go as planned (go figure :) But just as Elder Calton stated in his homecoming talk, we must trust in the Lord and he will provide, and boy did He provide this week!

Tuesday we had a church tour set with Melissa. Melissa has been investigating the church for three and a half months. We continue to work with her for she desires to learn and grow. We had Sister Leckie come with us. We had a great lesson with her in which we shared Joseph Smith's experience with her and the spirit was really strong. I don't know what it is, but whenever we teach Melissa I always have to fight back tears. :P Melissa feels Joseph Smith is a prophet, but she will not be baptized for she "does not feel ready." We continue to love her and encourage her so that one day she can let go of the regret and hostility she has for others and allow the Savior to heal her wounded soul.

Tuesday night we were able to go with the Easley Elders to Daniel Langley's home. Daniel is the nephew of a recent convert who lives in my area. Daniel came to church with Brenda and we all assumed he lived in our area, so Elder Fisher and I stayed with him throughout the meetings, but we found out later he actually lives in the Easley Elder's area. We decided that it would be best for the first lesson to have Elder Fisher and I present since Daniel was comfortable with us, and then we would be able to transfer the teaching over to Elder Keller and Elder Geslison for the rest of the lessons.

We went over to Daniel's house and everyone was quiet, (it's a little awkward having four missionaries teaching). I just began to ask Daniel some questions about church and the thought came, "Invite him to be baptized." I thought that was a little silly, since we had not taught him much and we had just arrived at his house, but the thought came again, "Invite him to be baptized." So I did. :) Daniel accepted very quickly and continued, "I have been wondering what I needed to do to join your church." The other missionaries were shocked. First, by my invitation at the beginning of our meeting and also by his sincere desire to be baptized. It was a testimony to me of the power of the Spirit. Ultimately, we are here simply to invite. The Spirit will do the teaching. It's not by our eloquence or the way we speak, but by the "still small voice" which inviteth all to come unto Christ. Daniel has given up his chewing tobacco and cigarettes in preparation for his baptism. :) I can't wait.

Wednesday we were able to meet with James Marrow who recently was baptized. We had a great lesson with him and answered some of his concerns with the Restoration. We then met with another recent convert, Robert Williams. He came with us to teach Ken Madden. Ken really wants to come to church, but with how is radiation treatments are set up, he has no energy on Sundays. He's really close to being done with his treatments, so I feel he will be able to progress much quicker once that is all done.

Wednesday night was scheduled to be Alex Stancell's baptismal interview. We were not able to visit with her because she was sick. :( but it worked out that the zone leaders were able to visit with her the following day to complete the baptismal interview.

Thursday was the major miracle. I am running our of time! I We were walking down a street and a we said, "hello" to a young man as he biked passed us, and then he asked, "Is smoking weed a sin?" We explained that it was and we introduced ourselves. The young man's name is Zack. Zack proceeded to ask some really good questions. We introduced him to the Book of Mormon and he said, "I have that and the Doctrine of Covenants!" We were surprised, but we set up an appointment to teach him that night. We went over and he had so many questions and wanted to learn everything. We invited him to be baptized on the 5th of March. He accepted. We looked at his quad and it actually is from the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We did not have time to explain what the difference was, but we set a return appointment at the church for a church tour. Zack would not accept a ride to the church, but said we should ride bikes. We agreed.

We also received a call from Sister Hill concerning Alex. Alex's grandfather was going to perform the baptism, but at work, he spilled chemicals down his stomach and legs, which resulted in second and third degree burns. He is in no condition to baptize. We asked Alex what she wanted to do and she wanted to wait until her grandpa got better. Her baptism did not happen this weekend, but it will happen on the 26th of February! :)

On Saturday we rode with Zack to the church. What an adventure. My pedal fell off, Zack"s back wheel kept coming loose, and almost came off. I suggested we call a member, but Zack said, "I promise you that if you have faith, we will be able to make it to the church without your pedal falling off again." We also stopped at Walmart to see if they had a crank wrench. While we were there, we ran into a member and Zack introduced himself as, "I'm going to join your church!" :)  Walmart did not have the part, but we continued the journey with faith. Zack's prediction came true. We made it to the church. We had Cody Maughn waiting for us there and we gave Zack a church tour. The spirit was really strong. We explained the difference between the RLDS and the LDS churches. He decided he needed to pray and ask God for the guidance. He knelt in prayer and asked a very sincere prayer to know if he should be baptized. As we finished the prayer, he got up and he had received his answer. I love Zack. He has such a sincere desire to do what is right. Zack is 16. Zack has had a rough life, drugs, kicked out of school, but at the end of our lesson, Zack said, "I want to serve a mission after I join the church." He's the greatest!

On Sunday, Zack came to church and felt right at home! It was a great day. In priest quorum, the teacher asked, "Why would the devil come after you as a priesthood holder?" Zack answered the question. He hit it dead on. He spoke about the potential they had to change the lives of those around them. The spirit was really strong. The bishop began to cry from Zack's response to the question. He once again told all the priests that he wants to serve a mission. Before he left the priest quorum, Zack volunteered to fellowship a less-active girl at his school in attempt to get her back into the Lord's church. It just amazes me at the faith this young man has! Zack is on date for the 5th of March, but if he continues at the rate he is now. He will be baptized before February is over.

I am so thankful for the opportunity to serve a mission. I wish everyone could see my mission from my perspective. The Lord has given me everything in my life. Every experience I have is at the exact moment I need it. I have been praying for a "Mike Cowan" convert. I feel it's my debt I owe for the missionaries who taught Dad. I'm now at the tail end of my mission and this wish is coming true. I know that all blessings are proceeded by obedience. If I were not obedient before my mission, I would not be here in the South. If I were not obedient throughout my mission, I would not be having this experience right now. I love this work. It is true. I love you all!

Elder Cowan

Monday, February 7, 2011

Miracle in Greenville

Dear Family,

I have a hour session on the computer and the last 45 minutes I have spent writing President McConkie and reading all the emails I've received. :) It's all good. It will be a quick letter today.

I have some mixed feelings at the moment. This week we had a leadership training meeting in Columbia. It was Thursday and Friday. All zone leaders, district Leaders and missionary trainers attended the meeting. It was such a blessing to see all the missionaries. The sad part was that it was the last time I will see some of them. I will especially miss Elder Tran. I have become so close to him. I am so grateful for the opportunity that I had to serve with him for one transfer. Elder Tran plans on being at General Conference, so I will be able to see him again. I only have ten minutes left.

Things are going great here in Greenville. Alex Stancell will be baptized on Saturday. It has been such a blessing to be able to teach her, and also that the Lord would fulfill my selfish "birthday wish" of baptizing and confirming on my birthday. We are continuing to work with our investigators to get more of them to make this sacred covenant with our Father in Heaven.

I have less than ten minutes left, but I will try to share one miracle very quickly. Elder Fisher and I went to see a lead that the sisters had found. When we knocked on his door, he did not answer. We decided to talk to his neighbor and while we were talking to her a man walked behind us. It looked like he walked into the apartment where the lead supposedly lived. After our contact, we walked back to the door and knocked on his door. He came to the door and was shocked to see us. He said, "you will never believe this, but at the moment you knocked on my door, I was trying to call those young ladies who I had met." He continued, "I cannot be more sincere with you, you are an answer to my prayer. I have been pondering on the things the sisters shared with me and I finally decided to stop pondering and start acting. Where is your church located?" We informed in that it was in Barea and he said, "That's it, God, now I know for sure your trying to talk to me." He informed us that he has been wanting to move and the house he has been looking at was right next to our church! This miracle man's name is Ken Madden. Ken asked us if he could be re-baptized. We invited Ken to be baptized on the 27 of February and he responded with, "Will they allow me to be baptized that soon?" He is prepared. He cannot see very well, so he has had his neighbors come over to his house so they can read to him the Book of Mormon. More to come on Ken later. I love the work. The Holy Ghost is in control, all we need to do is listen and be willing to act.
Love ya!

Elder Cowan

Monday, January 31, 2011

A Great Week in Greenville

Dear Family,

On Monday, 24 January, Elder Fisher and I had four lessons scheduled in 3 hours after preparation day ended. I was excited to be able to teach and have a productive day even with the limited time afforded to us. As we went form appointment to appointment, nothing was going as planned. Nobody was home. All four of our appointments were "no-shows," but that didn't bother me one bit. I was worried about Elder Fisher, I didn't want him to get discouraged by the way things were going. I asked him how he felt the day was going and he thought it was great! I love serving with Elder Fisher. He always has a positive attitude and is willing to work all the way to the end.

As we were talking while we drove, we decided that God allowed us to miss our appointments so we would be able to meet Cheryl. We drove over to her house and as we knocked on her door, Cheryl's nephew answered the door without even knowing who it was. He recognized us as missionaries from the church so he told us to go into the back and see Cheryl (I don't think he knew Cheryl was a little hurt with the Sisters leaving). As we introduced ourselves to Cheryl, at first she was a little hesitant, but as we continued to get to know her, she realized that we are not all that bad! :) We set an appointment to stop by and see her. Later at the appointment, Cheryl told us that she was not planning to meet with us, but because of her nephew and the Lord allowing us to miss our appointments, she has begun to progress again. She is doing great with trying to quit smoking. She is amazing. Cheryl did catch the flu-bug that has been flying around like crazy out here. As soon as she gets back on her feet, she will be progressing further in the gospel. The difficult part about teaching Cheryl is that we always need to get a member to be with us for appointments since she lives alone. Don't get me wrong, I love members and their testimonies, but I think I act differently when members are a part of the lesson. I'm much too formal. I've recognized my promblem and am going to continue to be personable with or without members around. :)

Tuesday we had a fantastic day. We began with a lesson with Melissa. I don't know if I've told you about her, she is great! She was in the same boat as Cheryl. When it came to "The Elders" in her words, she felt we were going to be "stuffy." She had determined that she would meet with us once to keep her word with the Sisters, (the sisters made her promise to speak to us at least once) but after meeting with us once, she was going to stop taking lessons! We were blessed to have the spirit really strong at our first meeting and since then she has continued to progress greatly. Before we left our apartment Tuesday morning, the thought came to me to grab my talk entitled, "Why we Forgive." I decided to grab it and see what was going to come from it. During the lesson she expressed her concern that she did not feel it possible that she could ever forgive a certain individual for the actions they had made against her. I pulled out the CD and gave it to her. As she read the title of the talk, she began to weep. She said "how did you know? Both the Sisters and you always know what I need." It was a very tender moment.

Afterward we were able to teach a young man named Daequan. He was babysitting his nieces and I think was bored, so he let us into his house. He was very quiet at the beginning, but he told us we could come back by the next day.

We had Sister Leckie come with us to Cheryl's and I was a little nervous how to bring up baptism because this was the first time meeting with her. I did not want to seem pushy, but Cheryl told us at the beginning, "I have made changes in my life,and I'm continuing to try to quit smoking so I can get baptized." It was a great way to begin our lesson. :)

Later that night, we had a really cool experience occur. (Not like we didn't already have some great experiences throughout the day. :P ) Elder Fisher and I prepared a lesson for Carol (the mother--she is in her 50's) and her daughter, Charlotte (daughter in her 30's). Charlotte was taught by the Sisters a couple of times, but this was Carol's first lesson. We had discussed watching the Restoration DVD, but when we began to talk to them, I knew our lesson plan was not what they needed. Instead we read Alma 36. The spirit was really strong as we read from the Book of Mormon and taught. At one point Carol whispered to herself, "I know this story." We stopped and asked her if everything was alright or if she had a comment/question. Carol did not say anything, but I could tell she was searching, trying to remember where she had heard the story before. After we finished the lesson, we told them that next week we wanted to watch the Joseph Smith Prophet of the Restoration DVD. As I briefly outlined the Joseph Smith history, Carol stated, "He looked everywhere for the truth" then she continued to tell us the Joseph Smith story. I asked her how she knew the story, and she just stared at me "I don't know...."
"Did the Sisters teach you about Joseph Smith?"
"No they did not...I don't know how I know this, but I do."
The spirit was really strong. I'm not sure how she knows it, but she has been prepared. We are teaching Carol and Charlotte tonight.

Wednesday we had our return appointment with Daequan. We started our meeting with two clips from We watched Paris Thomas. Paris is from Georgia and I thought he would relate well with Daequan. As the movie ended, I felt prompted to watch the clip on Valentino. Valentino is Hispanic and lives in LA. I was not sure how in the world Daequan was going to relate to him, but we watched it anyways. After watching the video, Daequan let everything out. He's in a gang, he's shot at people and been shot, beat up and he's beaten others up and he's been in jail twice. It was crazy, but he told us everything about his life. He has a desire to change, but it's going to take all his effort and the Lord's help to get him out of the gang.

Thursday we had a DDM and worked in the Easley area because the missionaries there have been struggling. That evening we had a lesson with Alex, a 9 year old. She is getting baptized on the 12th of February! She came to church with her family!

Friday was a great day but I don't have time to talk about it!

Saturday was a testimony building day. We did not have as much success as I expected, but we worked throughout the Day. At 8:53 p.m. we met Twon. Twon is elect; he is prepared for the restored gospel of Jesus Christ! It was great to see the blessing of sacrifice. (We could have gone in early because we had not taken dinner that day, but we decided to work through it!)

I need to close. The Church is true. I love you all!

Elder Cowan