Monday, November 30, 2009

New Area: Spartanburg

Dear Family,

What a crazy week. I am serving in the Spartanburg 1st ward with Elder Redston, Elder Bowles' last companion. Speaking of Elder Bowles I saw him & Elder Taylor at the Transfer meeting. They are both training new missionaries! With Elder Taylor training, that makes me a "grandpa!" :) I am excited to be serving with Elder Redston bescause he wants to fulfill his purpose (to bring souls unto Christ) and not just fulfill his time. :) Things have been quite hectic. With the influx of incoming missionaries, the Spartanburg 1st ward now has two companionships. With four of us living together, we needed a bigger apartment, so this week we have been moving and cleaning.

Elder Redston and Elder Bowles recently found a young women named India. India is great. We taught her on on Saturday and the spirit was really strong. We committed her to be baptized and she accepted! :D India's baptism is set for the 12th of December. We also had a tender mercy from the Lord. We received a phone call from Elder Redston's and Elder Bowles' recent convert, Cynthia. Cynthia told us that her aunt noticed how her life had changed when she joined the church, and her aunt, Tracie wants to receive the blessings as well. We called up Tracie and she told us she was coming to church and she also asked us if we could come out and visit her to explain what she has to do to join our church! She came to church and she also brought her 9 year old daughter, Cheyanne. They both loved church and we are seeing them on Tuesday! The zone is doing great. We are really pushing for each companionship to baptize this transfer (next 5 weeks). I know it is an attainable goal and I can't wait to go out on exchanges with the members of the Shemlon Zone! I love the gospel and I love each of you!

Elder Cowan

Monday, November 23, 2009

Zone Leader

Dear Family,

First off, today is not preparation day. We moved our preparation day to Thursday so we will not go out and work that day. I will be able to write you a longer letter on Thursday...wait the library is going to be closed. That is why I am writing today. :) Because today is a work day and not a preparation day, I am only allowed to write during my lunch break--thirty minutes. I, unfortunately, do not have time to talk about our investigators, but I received a phone call from the zone leaders on Saturday. I am being transferred. That's how the Lord works. This past Sunday Brandon and Jeff both came to church and they were telling all of the members about their baptism date of December the 5th. They truly are excited. "Like a fire is burning," comes to mind when I look at both of them. I know I am needed elsewhere. "I'll go where you want me to go."

On Sunday I received a phone call from President McConkie. When I looked on the caller-id, I thought to myself, "with 18 new missionaries coming into the mission, there are going to be quite a few trainers." I answered the call expecting him to inform me that I was training, but boy was I wrong. President has asked me to be a Zone Leader. :O Wow. I know I don't know how it feels to be called as a stake president (like Dad), but the thought that I am going to be accountable for 20-25 teenage missionaries is frightening. I go forward in faith and pray that the Lord may be with me as I accept this new assignment. I love you all, and I wish I could share more of my experiences with you, but my lunch hour is over.

With Love,

Elder Cowan

Monday, November 16, 2009

Another fun filled busy week as a missionary!

Dear Family,

Another fun filled busy week as a missionary! I can't believe this is the fifth week I have been in Lexington! This coming Saturday we will receive a phone call from the Assistants in which we will be told if we are staying or going. I feel I will stay in the area, but after being transferred out of Simpsonville after six weeks I have no idea what will happen. There is going to be a big change in the mission this next transfer. There are five missionaries going home and there are 18 missionaries coming in from the MTC! As time goes on, it is very strange to realize that all of the missionaries that I look up to, are going home. Hopefully I can fill their shoes and be a good example to the younger missionaries.

Tuesday: Elder Andersen and I tried to visit a lead that we had met last week. She told us to come by on Tuesday at 2:00. When we arrived, she was not there, (strike one) so we decided to give her a call and leave her a message. Kaneetha called us back and she apologized for not being there and she wanted us to come by the next day at the same time. We went by on Wednesday and Kaneetha was home, but she was the only one home so we could not go in (strike two). We set another appointment for Friday and this time we decided to bring a sister from our ward to come with us. We took Sister De Rosa with us and Kaneetha was home and we had a great lesson. Sister De Rosa had to be home at a particluar time to pick up her kids and right before she had to leave, Kaneetha's boyfriend arrived, so we were able to keep teaching her after Sister De Rosa had to go home. We have an appointment with Kaneetha and Freddie this evening.

Last Sunday we met Melissa while knocking doors and she told us to come back when her husband was home on Wednesday. As missionaries we get that comment quite a bit, and when we return for the appointment the husband runs us off. I didn't think much about it, but we stopped by on Tuesday and we met Melissa's husband, Jeff. Jeff grew up around members (the bishop's wife of the Gilbert ward tutored him when he was in high school). He loves all the members he has ever met, so we sat down with him and taught him the first lesson. When we finished, he told us that he had heard bits and pieces of what we believed, but he had never heard the whole thing. Jeff became very excited to read the Book of Mormon and to come to church, but he works two jobs and one of them is on the weekends. :( We set a return appointment for Friday and when we came back, Jeff was standing at the door waiting for us. :) He invited us in and he told us that since we came by on Tuesday he has just been in a happy mood. He was so excited for us to come back by and teach him. We followed up on the commitment we had extended, and he had not read but he had begun to pray. We taught him the importance of reading the scriptures and especially the Book of Mormon. We also gave him the Restoration DVD. He committed to read the Book of Mormon and to watch the DVD, and he wanted us to come by after work on Sunday. We went by yesterday and he had read the introduction, the testimonies of the three witnesses, the eight witnesses, Joseph Smith's testimony and the first chapter of the Book of Mormon. He also had watched the Restoration DVD and when it finished, his comment was, "that was it? I want to learn more!" So he decided to watch it again! We are seeing him again this evening. He is on fire. He wants to learn everything so we are going to give it to him. :D Elder Andersen and I are trying to get his wife to become more excited. She used to be married to an inactive member that was addicted to drugs. We are trying to find a good fellowshipper from the ward that she can become friends with. It's going to be difficult to try and find someone to come out with us on a Monday night but we are going to find a single person to come with us.

To start this next story, I need to give some background information. A couple of weeks ago, Elder McMurray (another missionary in my District) came to Lexington on an exchange. When we were working, we knocked half of a street. This past week Elder Andersen and I went back to that street and started working from the other end. As we came near the middle, I knew we were getting really close to where Elder McMurray and I stopped a couple of weeks before, but I was not sure. We knocked on a door and a man answered who I had talked to when I was with Elder McMurray. I was worried that he was going to get upset that we came back after he told us he was not interested, but I let Elder Andersen contact him. To my surprise, he told us that he was busy, but wanted us to come back! We went by on Wednesday and we taught Mr. and Mrs. Hall. We had a great lesson with them. They have a seven year old daughter and another child on the way. They were not able to come to church this weekend because he had to go out of town for work and she visited her mother down in Charleston. We have a return appointment with them this evening as well.

On Wednesday we were able to meet with Brandon again at the Connor's home. We had another great lesson with him, but he is having a difficult time with his girlfriend up in Union, SC. the only time he can visit her is on the weekends, so he has still not come to church. I am trying to get his girlfriend's address so I can get ahold of the missionaries in Union and together we will tag team him.

Thursday I had the opportunity to interview a baptismal candidate. I love holding interviews. It is great to see the fire in the investigators eyes and the excitement they have for the gospel. The young man I interviewed is qun (sounds like quwin) he has been meeting with the missionaries for 8 months now and he got baptized and confirmed this past Saturday and Sunday. Before the missionaries knocked on his door, he did not believe in a God, so he has come a long way, and now that he is baptized, he will continue to progress and learn. He is supposed to receive the priesthood next Sunday. I love the gospel.

The Zone Leaders asked me to train again at the Zone Development Meeting on Friday the 13th. I was asked to give a training on the power of the Holy Ghost. I was excited because that is the same topic I was asked to speak on in the Gilbert ward. The training and talk went well.

Stephanie moved to New York. The man who tried to kill her earlier in her life is getting out of prison and for her safety she left. Hopefully she will continue to learn up there. She promised she would call the missionaries once she got up there.

I love each of you and I love hearing about your lives! Keep being great examples to those around you! I am so pleased with your determination to serve the Lord! I heard a poem this week called:

When You Don't Understand Why This Happens to Me
My life is but a weaving between my God and me.
I do not choose the colors, he worketh steadily
Oft times he weaveth sorrow and I in foolish pride,
Forget he sees the upper and I the underside.
Not till the loom is silent and the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas and explain the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful in the skillful Weaver's hands
As the threads of gold and silver in the patterns he has planned.

I am so thankful for the testimony I have received of the restored gospel. I know Heavenly Father has a plan for us and as we follow his guidance we can pass through this "second act" where we pass through temptations, tribulations and trials, then we will reach "act three" where the happily ever after occurs.

Elder Cowan

Monday, November 9, 2009

Pray for Missionary Experiences

Dear Family,

I can't believe Careena is having a child! Do you know what gender it is? I can't believe Cherry and James are at BYU! I am so involved in the work that I forget every one's lives continue even when I'm not there. :) When does James turn 19? I still think of him as being in high school! Yes, the flu is bad here. Last week 7 of our investigators had the flu. This past week one family that we are teaching had their five month old twin die from the swine flu. Elder Andersen and I are trying to be as precautious as possible by using hand sanitizer multiple times throughout the day.

I am sorry Blake was injured while he was running. Daniel Throckmorton injured his knee while he was running in a cross country race. I received your package and the memory card. I really appreciate the talks. If this is a short letter, I apologize. The computer shut down on me! :)

On to this weeks activities. Yes we are still working with Stephanie and Vonda. We are not working with Melissa Rhodes. "The seed was eaten by the flows of the air before it could take root." She decided that she is going to go to the church down the street from her instead of driving 45-55 minutes to our church. Stephanie had a bad experience with some of her previous friends. They came over to her house drunk and making a mess everywhere. The experience strengthened her testimony of the gospel and how important it is that we associate with those who have high standards. We had an appointment with Vonda on Wednesday in which we brought Brother Newburger with us. Vonda was really busy so we a had a quick lesson/follow up on the commitment we had extended to her. Vonda has not read from the Book of Mormon or the pamphlet we left her, but her children have. :) The children are excited to learn more about the gospel. We now need to have Vonda get excited.

The highlight of this week was Brandon. The first week here Elder Andersen and I ate dinner with the Conners. We promised them that there was one person they knew who was ready for the gospel and that in order to know who that one individual is, they needed to pray and ask Heavenly Father. Sister Conner took our invitation and she prayed for missionary experiences and also she prayed that the Lord would present a situation in which she could invite her former student Brandon to receive the missionary discussions. This last week we received a phone call from sister Conner and she explained that she had been praying every day since our visit, and on Tuesday night Brandon called up Sister Conner and asked if she would teach him more about religion and Jesus Christ! We taught Brandon at the Conner's house and the spirit was so strong. Brandon was crying for the majority of the lesson. He accepted a baptismal date of December the 5th. (I can't believe we are almost into December!!!) His biggest difficulty is that he has a girlfriend in North Carolina and he visits her on the weekends. I wish I had more time to explain more of what happened this week but I must go. I love my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and I am eternally indebted to him. I love each of you!

Elder Cowan

Monday, November 2, 2009

Really Cool Experience

Dear Family,
I first want to thank you for the package. I really appreciate it. It did make it here in time for Halloween. The muffins are always great. They stay moist and soft. The brownies were good as well. They seemed extra spongy different than what I remembered, but extremely delicious. Thank you again.

So I have a lot to update. On Friday the 23rd we had a District development meeting. It was great to join with the other companionship in the District and to give and receive wonderful trainings. After the DDM, the Zone Leaders came and blitzed our area for three hours. I worked with Elder Kailiponi while Elder Andersen worked with Elder Quakenbush. The exchange was great. Elder Kailiponi and I found a lady named Stephanie. Stephanie has recently come to know that Jesus Christ is her Savior. She began to go to a non-denominational church and when we taught her about the Book of Mormon, she became really excited and said, "This goes way beyond what they teach me at this other church. All they use is the Bible. You use both. That's deep." It was a great lesson. Stephanie committed to come to church. On Sunday Stephanie did not come, but a woman we met while knocking doors came. We were not able to teach her because she was the only one home, but on her door step we invited her to come to church, and she came! Her name is Najha. She is from Trinidad. She really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, she is moving out of our area so we will not be able to continue to work with her. After church we stopped by Stephanie's house to check on her and see why she did not make it. As we talked with her she explained that while she was getting ready for church the preacher on TV was preaching against the MORMONS. This scared her so she did not come, but then when we showed up after church, she was really touched to know that we truly did miss her.

On Monday we had a really cool experience. We were working on one side of town and I had the impression that we needed to see a former investigator on the other side of town. We were on the bikes so I was hesitant to ride my bike across town, but the Spirit persisted so off we went. We ended up biking for 45 minutes straight to get to this former's house. We walked up to the door and Kenny came out and we invited him to hear our message, and he was nowhere even close to being interested. I thought it was strange that Heavenly Father told me to bike across town just to have a man tell us that he was not interested. We then knocked on the door next to Kenny, and we met Vonda, and her daughter Taylor (age 12) and her son Tyrun (age 9). We taught a wonderful first lesson about the Restoration and they just ate it all up. Before we left, Vonda thanked us for coming over. She said that she was standing at the sink doing dishes, and the thought came to her that she needed to get back into church, and as she thought about it, we knocked on her door. I love being a missionary! It was such a blessing to see the Spirit direct me to her door by impressing upon my mind the need to see the former investigator. We are teaching Vonda and her family again on Wednesday.

Had interviews on Wednesday the 28th. I worked with Elder McMurry on Thursday. Saturday was Halloween. Stephanie came to church on Sunday. Sunday night we set her up on a quit smoking program. She is progressing toward her baptismal date of November the 14th. I continue to receive letters from my recent converts back in Anderson. Edna Bentley is still strong in the gospel. She just finished the Book of Mormon. Kent and Holly are doing great. I have been so blessed, and I continue to be blessed with the opportunity to watch the Spirit change peoples lives. I love you all back in AZ, but I never want to go home. It was scary when I reached my 8 month mark. I feel like I just got here. It's hard to grasp the idea that 1/3 of my mission is over. I am more determined than ever to make the most of every minute and to rely completely on the Spirit as I am a Representative of my Savior Jesus Christ. The atonement is real. I am so thankful for my opportunity to apply it in my life every week as I take of the sacrament. I pray for each of you and especially for Dad during this busy time. I love you.

Elder Cowan